- Tuesday was a historic day for the United Kingdom, which got its first-ever non-white Prime Minister in Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Britain’s youngest Prime Minister in recent times.
- Sunak, 42, is of Indian descent and was born to parents who migrated to Britain from East Africa.
- The former investment banker and hedge fund manager will have the daunting task of trying to get the British economy back on the rails while attempting to unite the Conservative Party, which has produced three Prime Ministers in under two months.
- “Rishi Sunak becoming the first British Indian Prime Minister is an historic moment.
- This simply would not have been possible even a decade or two ago,” Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, a think tank that works in the area of identity and race, wrote on Monday when Mr. Sunak became Prime Minister-designate.
- “This will be a source of pride to many British Asians — including many who do not share Rishi Sunak’s Conservative politics,” he said.
- Sunak is married to an Indian citizen, AkshataMurty, who is the daughter of Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, and they have two daughters.
- He was chosen by his fellow Conservative MPs to lead the party and country, following former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s announcement last Thursday that she was resigning, having lost the support of her fellow MPs after a failed ‘mini budget’ that deeply rattled markets.
- “Rishi Sunak has been crowned by Tory MPs. It’s a coronation not an election,” Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party tweeted on Monday. “He has no mandate and the British people have had no say. #GeneralElectionNow.
- Standing outside No.10 Downing Street shortly after being appointed by King Charles III around noon on Tuesday, Mr. Sunak vowed to bring stability to a country beleaguered by a cost-of-living crisis and a lack of stable leadership.
Short or long stay, Brexit Britain’s challenges remain
Rishi Sunak has claimed several records this week — Britain’s first Asian Prime Minister, the youngest in two centuries, and certainly the wealthiest in living memory.
His predecessor, Liz Truss, leaves with the record of the shortest serving Prime Minister, resigning after 45 days;
- the premier with the least support of her parliamentary colleagues;
- the leader who oversaw one of the worst declines in the value of the pound;
- perhaps even the leader who almost wrecked the British economy with her ideologically driven fiscal policies.
But the story of Liz Truss’ rise and fall, and of Rishi Sunak’s rise to become Britain’s fifth Prime Minister in six years is also the story of Brexit Britain.
This is the story of a country that voted to pull up the drawbridge in exchange for honeyed promises of ‘taking back control’ of immigration and its economy. Brexit Britain’s challenges remain.
Cameron to May
- To rewind, David Cameron called for a referendum in 2016 on whether Britain should remain in the European Union (EU). In a badly-worded ballot, the electorate were offered two choices: Remain (in the EU), or Leave.
- There was no explanation about what ‘leaving’ meant, or indeed how any future relationship with Britain’s largest trading partner might be managed.
- The country voted narrowly — 52% to 48% — in favour of Leave.
- The drafting of the referendum also indicated a one-off event.
- However, the subsequent six years have shown that Brexit could never be an event — it was a process, and one with a long tail.
- Thereafter, Britain has cycled through four other Prime Ministers in an attempt to disentangle itself from all the trading, financial, legal, bureaucratic and cultural ties that bind Britain to the world’s largest single market.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB