Throughout history, the list of Prime Ministers in the UK has been filled with strikingly white, rich, and male entries. It all comes down to Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to make that list look a little diverse. Both finalists have appeared on TV in fiery debate sessions to gain votes and replace Boris Johnson as the Tory Leader. Although leading in the beginning, the Indian-origin MP has fallen behind his counterpart, Liz Truss. The former Chancellor of the exchequer has been termed the “underdog” as compared to the foreign secretary, who has more political experience.
Who Is Rishi Sunak?
It may seem improbable, but if Rishi Sunak wins the election, he would be the first UK PM of Indian heritage. He was born in Southampton to Yashir and Usha Sunak, who were Punjabi Hindus from the Indian diaspora in Africa. His father Yashir was a general practitioner, and his mother Usha was a pharmacist. Sunak worked in the banking sector before starting his political career in 2015 when he won an election for the Conservative Party’s seat in London. Sunak served as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2019 to 2020 and Finance Minister from 2020 to 2022.
Sunak gained popularity under the leadership of current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will pass the helm to the winner on September 5. After becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020, Sunak faced a defining challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. It shaped his profile as he made crucial decisions to continue wages, layoffs, aid for companies in peril, and restaurant vouchers. This year’s Sunday Times Weekly featured him and his wife, Akshata Murthy, in its Rich List. The former chancellor is believed to be the wealthiest person in the House of Commons, with a net worth of 730 million GBP. His wealth is credited to his career as a banker and his marriage to the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys.
Not Fit For A PM
The debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss got heated in a short time. As noted by many, the former chancellor came off as aggressive when he tried to talk over his opponent. Displeased by his behaviour, viewers called him “rude” and very “un-British” for constantly interrupting Truss. Arguing over tax cuts, he said he would rather wait while Truss wanted it as soon as she became Prime Minister.
Sunak faced heavy backlash earlier this year for significantly increasing taxes and national insurance to reduce government debt after the end of lockdown restrictions. The move cost him the public’s sympathy, who was already dealing with a record rise in the cost of living in the UK. Political critics slammed him, saying that he was damaging businesses and being unfair to the young workers, who would have to pay higher national insurance. On the other hand, Truss claimed to cut taxes, which put her higher on the list of favourites.
Controversies and Scandals
Rishi Sunak was not always low on poll ratings. It worked out well for him until the infamous partygate scandal was leaked to the public. Under the leadership of Boris Johnson, “dozens” of alcohol parties went on inside 10 Downing Street between 2020 and 2021. Such entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemics laid the groundwork for Johnson’s downfall. The scandal lead to no-confidence motion against Boris Johnson. The current PM announced his resignation on July 7 2022, which will be pending till Tories elect a new leader.
Initially, Sunak remained unscathed from the development. As criticism of Johnson grew, Sunak’s presence on social media became glittery. He was also added to the conversation of the potential successor of the current PM. However, when Johnson and his wife were fined for attending the parties, Sunak got caught. He claimed he did not know about the parties and went there only for a work meeting. He was fined anyway, which plummeted his popularity.
Moreover, his wife’s non-domicile status was also leaked to the public. It meant that she did not have to pay taxes on her overseas income. Moreover, Sunak kept the US green card in possession even after becoming the chancellor, further damaging his public image.
A Series of scandals landed the entire Johnson government in the pit, leading many MPs to resign. Sunak was the second one to leave.