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News18 » India
3-min read

A Meteor Named Rishi Sunak, Now in Great Britain's Hottest Political Seat as Its New Finance Minister

Within four weeks, Rishi Sunak will present the Budget in the critical first year of post-Brexit Britain. The country stands at the crossroads of a historical shift and it is he who will direct Britain along its new path.

Sanjay Suri | CNN-News18

Updated:February 13, 2020, 11:25 PM IST
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A Meteor Named Rishi Sunak, Now in Great Britain's Hottest Political Seat as Its New Finance Minister
Britain's Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak is seen outside Downing Street, London, Britain September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville - RC1167B35BD0

London: Granted that no home in London’s Kensington can be just simple, the home of Rishi Sunak, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, is simple enough, and in an Indian way. Emphatically Indian decorations announce this before the host and hostess could – and hostess it surely is behind that Indian look and feel. Sunak’s wife Akshata Murthy, daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, is very much more Indian than he is, as she would be. This is a marriage of Indian with British Indian.

Sunak was born in Wolverhampton in 1980; his father was a GP, and his mother a pharmacist. The parents were born in India and came to the UK with their parents. To that extent this was a story of family migration predictable enough in an Indian way in Britain. British Indians have taken to the medical profession and to pharmacy as few others have, whether migrants or natives.

The British Indian pattern followed a popular enough descent to an extent into the next generation too with Sunak. He studied philosophy, politics and economy at Oxford University, a course popular particularly with the elite and the aspiring elite. He went on to do an MBA at Stanford University in California. The inevitable next step would have to be a career in finance. Sunak worked with Goldman Sachs, with a hedge fund, and then co-founded an investment fund.

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The twist along the path was a plunge into politics. Out of the blue, out of the Conservative blue that is, Sunak was chosen to stand as the Conservative candidate in Richmond Yorkshire constituency vacated by senior Conservative leader William Hague in the 2015 election. To contest Richmond Yorkshire as a Conservative is to have won, and Sunak of course won. This must be one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. Before this Sunak was nowhere on the political scene in Britain.

He is now in the hottest political seat in the country. Within four weeks he will present the Budget in the critical first year of post-Brexit Britain. Britain stands at the crossroads of a historical shift and Sunak it is who will be directing Britain along its new path.

This is the year also when Britain will be in make-or-break negotiations with the European Union on its trade and business relations and with the terms for these. These critical agreements need to be in place by the end of the year. Britain will be watching Sunak very closely indeed.

He has some preparation for the job on hand. After a spell as parliamentary under-secretary in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government from January 2018 to July 2019, Sunak was picked in July last year by PM Boris Johnson to be chief secretary to the Treasury. This was not anticipated by anyone, and perhaps least by Sunak himself as a stepping stone to the big job.

A clue to the way he might go could lie in the reasons for the resignation of his predecessor Sajid Javid, who wanted to pick advisers that Johnson believed the government does not need advice from. As a former Deutsche Bank managing director, Javid was considering language with European institutions that the PM apparently did not want. Sunak would have been known to see more in line with Johnson’s vision before being picked for the job.

His official new home at 11 Downing Street will be next to that of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. When in his constituency, Sunak lives in Kirby Sigston, outside Northallerton. Whichever of these homes he lives in, Sunak will need to be at home now at the helm of British political leadership. It helps that he could count on advice from an illustrious father-in-law who knows a thing or two about finance and innovation.

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