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Despite Losing Elections, How PM Rishi Sunak Became UK's Youngest PM, Learn in #ClassesWithNews18

By: Sukanya Nandy


Last Updated: October 31, 2022, 14:28 IST

New Delhi, India

Indian-origin Rishi Sunak is the current PM of UK (Image: Instagram/@rishisunakmp)

Indian-origin Rishi Sunak is the current PM of UK (Image: Instagram/@rishisunakmp)

After Truss' resignation, former PM Boris Johnson decided to compete. He was joined by Penny Mordaunt. However, things fell in favour for Sunak as both Johnson and Mordaunt withdrew from the contest

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After succeeding Truss, who served as Prime Minister for just 49 days, Sunak, 42, has become the youngest prime minister of the United Kingdom in more than 200 years. Born in Southampton, England, Sunak’s father was a doctor and his mother ran a pharmacy. Sunak is the son of first-generation immigrants.

Sunak has displayed one of the fastest growth in recent politics, Sunak was the runner-up in the first prime ministerial elections against Liz Truss when the later defeated him. When Liz Truss ran for PM this summer, her first weeks in office were quite turbulent. In just six weeks, Truss’ libertarian economic policies have precipitated a financial crisis, an emergency central bank intervention, multiple U-turns, and the firing of her treasury chief.

Born in riches

He went to Winchester College, which is one of Britain’s most elite schools, where he was head boy. Thereafter, he graduated from Oxford, went to Stanford where he was granted a Fulbright Scholarship, and earned an MBA degree. He began his career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs before entering the Parliament in 2015.

He is married to the daughter of billionaire Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys. Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, have two daughters Anoushka and Krishna.

Sunak and family (Image: Instagram)

Entry to politics

In 2014, Sunak joined politics and was soon selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond (Yorks). In 2015, he was elected conservative MP. In 2017, he was re-elected as the MP for Richmond (Yorks). He served as a parliamentary private secretary at the department for business, energy, and industrial strategy.

In 2018, he was appointed parliamentary under secretary of state (minister for local government). In 2019, he was re-elected as the MP for Richmond (Yorks) and appointed chief secretary to the treasury. In 2020, he was appointed chancellor of the exchequer/ finance minister.

Sunak won a lot of praise for rapidly introducing ‘furlough’ support schemes worth billions of pounds to preserve jobs and businesses during 18 months of Covid lockdowns.

Fun fact: Rishi Sunak reportedly is a self-described “coke addict”. ‘Coke’ here being the Mexican version of Coca-Cola, which is made from cane sugar.

Boris Johnson

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson served as PM of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party from 2019 to 2022. He previously served as foreign secretary from 2016 to 2018 and as mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. He has been an MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015, and for Henley from 2001 to 2008. After Truss’ resignation, Johnson was back in the race to PM, however, he failed to secure needed votes from MPs and eventually quit the race.

Race to 10 Downing Street

In the first elections this year, Sunak had tough competition from several candidates. It included Nadhim Zahawi, Liz Truss, former defence minister Penny Mordaunt, ex-health minister Jeremy Hunt, Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Tom Tugendha, lawmaker Kemi Badenoch and home secretary Priti Patel.

Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat, Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt. (from top left to right)

Initially, Sunak was leading the race, being the top contender in the first five rounds. Later on, Sunak and Truss were the top two contenders for the race to 10 Downing Street, defeating others. Johnson was, however, backing Liz Truss to be the next UK prime minister Truss defeated Sunak with 57 per cent vote, only to resign after 44 days, the shortest-ever term served by a PM in UK. Sunak was blamed for the downfall of Johnson.

Sunak had vowed to tackle soaring inflation before joining his Conservative Party rivals in promising tax cuts. After quitting as finance minister in July before the PM race, he said, “We need a return to traditional Conservative economic values - and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales."

Who is Liz Truss

Liz Truss, 46, attended the Roundhay Secondary School in Leeds and then pursued politics and economics at Oxford University. Before entering politics, she worked as an accountant for Shell and Cable and Wireless. In 2010, she was elected from the South West Norfolk constituency.  She then went on to become the deputy director of the right-of-centre Reform think tank.

She was the junior education minister from 2012 to 2014, environment minister from 2014-16, Lord Chancellor from 2016-17, chief secretary to the treasury from 2017-19, international trade minister from 2019-21. She has been the foreign secretary since 2021. She is married to accountant Hugh O’Leary since 2000. They have two daughters.

During the Conservative leadership election campaign in July, this year, Truss described herself as a disruptor who would challenge economic “orthodoxy," promising to cut taxes and cut red tape in order to boost Britain’s sluggish economy. Her opponent, Sunak, argued that immediate tax cuts would be reckless in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

At that time, out of the 172,000 Conservative Party members, most preferred Truss’ vision. On September 5, she was elected leader of the ruling party with 57 per cent of the vote. The next day, Queen Elizabeth II appointed her as PM, in one of the monarch’s final acts before her death on September 8.

Truss’ first days in office were overshadowed by the queen’s state funeral. Then, on September 23, Treasury Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled the economic plan he and Truss had devised. It included 45 billion pounds ($50 billion) in tax cuts, including a reduction in income tax for the highest earners, but no assessment of how the government would pay for them. In the days leading up to her resignation, Truss conceded that she had made mistakes in going “too far and too fast” with her economic reforms.

Sunak back in the race

After Truss’ resignation, former PM Boris Johnson decided to compete. He was joined by Penny Mordaunt. However, things fell in favor of Sunak as both Johnson and Mordaunt withdrew from the contest. Sunak soon won the contest to replace Truss.

Mordaunt had failed to get 100 votes from Conservative Party lawmakers, which is necessary to enter the PM race. This time, Sunak was backed by over 190 MPs. Under the rules of the Tory leadership race, a candidate must have a minimum of 100 members of Parliament backing them to shortlist them for the post.

Sunak has become UK’s third prime minister in seven weeks, and the youngest in two centuries. He is the first Hindu person to achieve this feat.

 What’s Next

Now that Sunak has acquired the top position in Britain, he has to not only look over the economic crisis but also pull his party together. On his first day as PM, Sunak delayed a crunch budget and renewed demands for an early general election as he began trying to rebuild the Conservatives’ poll standing. Sunak’s government said it needed more time to present the full budget — deferring a Treasury statement due next Monday to November 17.

Sunak’s newly formed cabinet now includes Dominic Raab as deputy prime minister, Jeremy Hunt as chancellor, Suella Braverman as home secretary, James Cleverly as foreign secretary, Ben Wallace, defence secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, minister without portfolio, Grant Shapps, business secretary, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the Commons, Kemi Badenoch, international trade secretary, among others.

To learn about other topics taught in school, explained by News18, here is a list of other Classes With News18: Queries Related to Chapters on Elections | Sex Versus Gender | Cryptocurrencies | Economy & Banks | How to Become President of India | Post Independence Struggle | How India Adopted Its Flag | Formation of States & United India | Tipu Sultan | Indian Teachers Day Different from Rest of the World |Queen Elizabeth & Colonialism |

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first published:October 31, 2022, 14:28 IST
last updated:October 31, 2022, 14:28 IST
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