Rishi Sunak is set to become the next UK prime minister, the first of Indian origin, after rival Penny Mordaunt withdrew her candidature.
“Rishi has my full support,” Mordaunt said on Twitter on Monday.
Earlier, Boris Johnson, whose ouster was triggered by Sunak’s resignation as chancellor, backed out of scripting a return.
Sunak has listed his top priority to “fix our economy, unite our party and deliver for our country”. The Tories needed him to salvage its reputation after scandal-ridden term of Johnson during the pandemic, followed by Liz Truss’ short tenure marked by turmoil in the markets and the economy.
Sunak was born to Yashvir and Usha Sunak in 1980 in Southampton. His grandparents had moved from Punjab to Kenya and Tanzania when India was still a British colony. In the 1960s, Rishi Sunak’s parents emigrated to the United Kingdom, where his father joined the National Health Service as a general practitioner and mother owned a pharmacy.
The eldest of their three children, Rishi Sunak studied at Winchester College, Oxford University and Stanford University. It was while pursing his MBA at Stanford that he met his future wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of Infosys Ltd.’s co-founder NR Narayana Murthy.
He started as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and later returned to the UK to join the Children’s Investment Fund in 2006 and hedge fund Theleme Partners in 2009. That year, he married Murty, who inherits her wealth from her Infosys shareholding—1.07% as of September.
By 2010, he was working for the Conservative Party and won his first election from Richmond (Yorks) in 2015. Re-elected in 2017 and 2019, he was also named the chief secretary to the treasury. In February 2020, he became the chancellor of the exchequer.
He remained in charge of British finances till July 2022, when he resigned—sealing the fate of Johnson as prime minister—and joined the race to become his successor. He was then the first person of Indian origin and the second South Asian to seek the leadership of the governing party in Britain.
In his first bid to the Britain’s premiership, Sunak weathered criticism over the non-domicile status of his wife. Though legal under the British law, Murty later relinquished her non-domicile status to pay taxes on income from Infosys shares.
Sunak was also the only contender who backed fiscal restraint when his rivals promised to cut taxes as Britons—after having endured hardships during Covid-19 lockdowns—face record inflation.
And he had the support of the majority of Tory MPs in multiple rounds of voting before the race narrowed down between him and Truss. But Conservative Party members chose Truss, who had promised slash taxes, even for the wealthy.
The markets were unforgiving though. As Truss implemented her economic agenda, the pound tumbled and U.K. economy went into a turmoil, prompting the central bank to resume bond buying. Truss first sacked Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor, then withdraw all tax cuts. She latest just 45 days at the helm in the shortest run for a British prime minister, hurting the Tories.
It appeared everything Sunak had warned about had come true. And that also offered him an opportunity to renew his bid. And when Johnson withdrew, he emerged a clear frontrunner.
With Mordant falling short, it’s a stunning turnaround for Sunak as he now does not have to seek the approval of 175,000 grassroots Tory party members—said to be mostly white, male and wealthy.