Who is Rishi Sunak? UK’s new Prime Minister
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Chief Secretary to the Treasury is the first UK Prime Minister of color.
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The United Kingdom has been seeing a lot of turnover within its highest ranking officials over the past few months.
In July 2022, Boris Johnson stepped down as Prime Minister, before eventually being replaced by Liz Truss. Just days after Truss became Prime Minister, Queen Elizabeth, the British Monarch of 70 years passed away at the age of 96.
After just six weeks on the job, Truss resigned from her position as Prime Minister, paving the way for Rishi Sunak to take on the role, becoming the 57th Prime Minister in British history.
Sunak, who is a former chancellor of the exchequer for the UK, had previously run for Prime Minister, losing the election to Truss.
He secured the support of the 100 Conservative parliament members that he needed to fulfill a successful bid during his second go round.
Sunak makes history as the first person of color and first Hindu to become British prime minister, and at 42 years old, is the youngest person to take office in more than 200 years. Poetically, he secured his position as Prime Minister on Diwali, one of the most important days of the Hindu calendar.
“It is the greatest privilege of my life to be able to serve the party I love, and to be able to give back to the country I owe so much to,” Sunak said after his election.
He added that the United Kingdom is a great country that is facing profound economic challenges.
“We need stability and unity, and I will make it my utmost priority to bring our party and our country together,” noted Sunak.
Sunak was born in South England to East African-born Hindu parents who migrated to the UK during the 1960s. His father worked as a general practitioner for the National Health Service in England, while his mother owned and operated a small pharmacy in the area.
Sunak and his three younger siblings would often help out in the pharmacy, and it was that experience that helped him gain values that would later influence his political career.
He attended Winchester College and graduated from Lincoln College in Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics.
After graduating from college, Sunak began his career as an analyst for Goldman Sachs from 2001 and 2004. He would also earn a Fulbright scholarship to attend Stanford University, where he met his future wife, Narayana Murthy, and obtained his MBA.
Sunak went on to take jobs at two hedge fund companies — The Children’s Investment Fund Management (TCI), where he became a partner two years after joining; and then Thelme Partners.
The start of Sunak’s political career was when he became involved with leading Conservative think tank, Policy Exchange. In 2014, he became head of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Research Unit.
The same year, he was chosen as the Conservative Party’s candidate for the House of Common. In May 2015, he was elected by a commanding majority, later being reelected to Parliament two more times in 2017 and 2019.
In January 2018, Sunak was appointed to his first ministerial post, as undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, becoming a vocal supporter of Boris Johnson’s bid to become the new Prime Minister.
Once Johnson was elected, he appointed Sunak as chief secretary to the Treasury, serving under Chancellor Sajid Javid in July 2019.
About seven months later, tensions and a reshuffling of the cabinet led to Javid’s resignation and Sunak’s rise to the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
His tenure wasn’t without its challenges — from navigating the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to handling the UK budget, supporting and creating new jobs, tax reform, and various others.
Nonetheless, after Boris Johnson stepped down as Prime Minister, Sunak set his sights on history.
While his initial attempt fell short — losing to Liz Truss — the latter’s resignation less than two months ensued — and Sunak now finds himself as the Leader of the Conservative Party.
He has since met with King Charles, and is currently in the process of putting together his cabinet.
With all the turnover that has taken place in the UK over the past few months, Sunak has noted that among his top priorities is unification — both for his party and his country.
“I will unite our country, not with words, but with action,” he said.