The riches, the Coke, the ‘treachery’: Your fast-track guide to Rishi Sunak

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Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is the frontrunner to become our next Prime Minister.

Having launched a slick campaign video just 28 hour after Boris Johnson gave up the ghost, the 42-year-old, whose career in politics only began seven years ago, is now the bookies’ favourite for the top job.

Once dubbed ‘Dishy Rishi’, the Oxford-educated son of pharmacists promises to ‘steer our country through these headwinds’ of the current challenging economic climate and said: “Once we have gripped inflation, I will get the tax burden down. It is a question of when, not if.”

But with Johnson loyalists - who’ve hit out at ‘treacherous’ Sunak - determined to ‘stop Rishi’ in favour of Liz Truss, his hopes to run a government could be derailed.

What you need to know about the potential future PM.

What’s his background?

Sunak, the eldest of three children, was born in 1980 in Southampton to parents NHS GP Yashvir Sunak and pharmacist Usha Sunak who ran her pharmacy. They were born in Kenya and Tanzania.

His grandparents were born in India before moving to East Africa and then the UK in the 1960s.

Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Toby Melville/PA) (PA Archive)
Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Toby Melville/PA) (PA Archive)

He had a prestigious education

Like five chancellors of the exchequer before him, Sunak attended the well-regarded independent boarding school Winchester College where he went on to become head boy. “My parents sacrificed a great deal so I could attend good schools,” he says. “I was lucky to study at Winchester College, Oxford University and Stanford University. That experience changed my life.” He worked as a waiter at a curry house in Southampton during the summer holidays.

“Rishi was always expected to do something,” a former boarding school peer, Tim Johnson, told Tatler. “He was always expected to be head boy as he was clever enough, reasonable enough and well behaved enough.”

A huge cricket fan and known for being friendly, young Sunak was conservative in every sense, said Johnson: he didn’t drink, he was a practising Hindu who avoided beef and even then he was clearly “associated with the Tories”, said Johnson.

Oxford and his career before politics

Even at Oxford, where he graduated with a first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Sunak had his sights on the head of government. “His fellow students certainly said, slightly lightheartedly, that he wanted to become Conservative prime minister. But I don’t think anyone took that too seriously – it was more of a joke,” his senior PPE tutor, Michael Rosen, said.

But after Oxford, Sunak won a Fulbright scholarship to Stanford university in California. From there, he eschewed politics and instead opted for a financial career working at various investment firms, including Goldman Sachs, in California, India and Britain.

In 2010 he set up a private investment partnership, Theleme Partners, with an initial fund of £536 million and it was at this time that he started volunteering for the Conservatives a couple of days a week. The Times have said he was a “multimillionaire in his mid-twenties,” but he has never commented on his wealth.

Rishi and his wife Akshata Murty (Twitter)
Rishi and his wife Akshata Murty (Twitter)

A rapid rise in Westminster

Sunak was elected the MP for Richmond in Yorkshire in May 2015. It’s one of the country’s safest seats, having been Tory since 1906. He was reelected in 2019 with a majority of 27,210.

Between 2018 and 2019 he served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Local Government before entering the Cabinet in 2019 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

In February 2020 he became one of the youngest chancellors in history where he presided over the budget throughout the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis. As an MP and chancellor, Mr Sunak’s government salary was £151,649.

In the same year he got another prestigious title - ‘Britain’s sexiest MP’, beating Sir Keir Starmer for top spot, and earned himself the nickname ‘Dishy Rishi’.

What was his position on Brexit?

Sunak voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum. He called it his “toughest decision since becoming MP” but said it was a “once in a generation opportunity for our country to take back control of its destiny”. He said leaving the EU would make Britain “freer, fairer and more prosperous”.

Furlough and ‘Eat Out to Help Out’

Sunak made history in March 2020 by introducing furlough - a £330 billion emergency mass job retention scheme - allowing employees to claim up to 80 per cent of their wages when the pandemic prevented them from working.

He was also the creator of ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, a Government scheme to subsidise food and drink at participating restaurants, cafes and pubs at 50 per cent up to £10 per person. The scheme subsidised a total of £849 million in meals.

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

His wife is richer than the Queen

Sunak met his wife, Akshata Murty, while studying for his masters at Stanford University. She’s the daughter of an Indian billionaire, N. R. Narayana Murthy, known as ‘the Bill Gates of India’ for founding the software company, Infosys. Her 0.91 per cent stake in the company gives her an estimated £700m in shares, which leaves her richer than the Queen.

They married in her hometown of Bangalore, in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Now she runs her own fashion label, Akshata Designs, and has been profiled by Vogue India. The 42-year-old is also the director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010.

The pair have two children together and live in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, where they’re known for hosting a Champagne summer garden party every year.

She was embroiled in a tax scandal

In April of this year Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, was thrown into the spotlight when it emerged she might be benefiting from tax reduction schemes. It was revealed that she was a non-domiciled (non-dom) UK resident, which meant she was not required by law to pay UK taxes on her overseas income. The BBC estimated this would have saved her £2.1m a year in UK tax.

“This is yet another example of the Tories thinking it is one rule for them, another for everyone else,” Labour said at the time.

“Akshata Murthy is a citizen of India, the country of her birth and parent’s home. India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously,” her spokeswoman said in her defence. “So, according to British law, Ms Murthy is treated as non-domiciled for UK tax purposes. She has always and will continue to pay UK taxes on all her UK income.”

But not wanting to be a ‘distraction’ for her husband she quickly decided to change her tax arrangements.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty in the stands during day one of the cinch Second Test match at Lord’s (PA Archive/PA Images) (PA Archive)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty in the stands during day one of the cinch Second Test match at Lord’s (PA Archive/PA Images) (PA Archive)

Rishi’s resignation

Minutes after Sajid Javid sensationally quit as Health Secretary, so did Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The double resignation came after shocking revelations that Boris Johnson had been told about sex assault claims against suspended Tamworth MP, Chris Pincher, before appointing him as deputy chief whip.

Boris has previously denied this.

“The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,” wrote Sunak in a damning resignation letter. “I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

But he won’t demonise ‘flawed’ Boris

As he officially launched his Tory leadership bid on Tuesday the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said he won’t ‘demonise’ his former boss.

“Did I disagree with him? Frequently. Is he flawed? Yes and so are the rest of us. Is it no longer working? Yes and that is why I resigned,’ he said in his speech.

“But I will have no part in a history that seeks to demonise Boris.”

But others are less than impressed with the sudden withdrawal of his support for Boris. One senior No 10 official told the Financial Times that Sunak was a “a treacherous b*stard”, while a Johnson supporter in the cabinet said: “Rishi will get everything he deserves for leading the charge in bringing down the prime minister.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (House of Commons/PA) (PA Media)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (House of Commons/PA) (PA Media)

Backers and haters

Sunak has the support of Jeremy Hunt, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Raab said: “I know that Rishi has got what it takes… to provide the leadership that we need to steer the country through tough economic times.”

Hunt said: “Rishi is one of the most decent straight people with the highest standards of integrity that I have ever met in British politics. And that’s why I would be proud to have him as my next prime minister.”

Dominic Cummings is also said to be a fan but when asked about him Sunak said  the controversial figure would have “absolutely nothing to do with any government I’m privileged to lead”.

Meanwhile others are on a mission to ‘stop Rishi’. Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg and culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced they would support foreign secretary Liz Truss. Rees-Mogg said he would refuse a position in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet.

“I couldn’t support somebody who has been so disloyal to the current leader of the party from inside cabinet.

“His behaviour towards Boris Johnson is disloyalty, which means I couldn’t possibly support him, and he wouldn’t want me in his Cabinet anyway.”

He added: “We have had a high-tax chancellor and I belong to a low-tax party and I want to see us getting back to being a low-tax party.”

Ready for Rishi (Getty Images)
Ready for Rishi (Getty Images)

What’s he promising?

Sunak has pledged  to ‘restore trust’ in the Consevative party with his leadership.

“We need a return to traditional Conservative economic values – and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales,” he said.

“I have had to make some of the most difficult choices in my life when I was chancellor, in particular how to deal with our debt and borrowing after Covid.

“I have never hidden away from those, and I certainly won’t pretend now that the choices I made, and the things I voted for, were somehow not necessary. Whilst this may be politically inconvenient, it is the truth.”

He said he wants to have a “grown-up conversation” with the party and said he would only implement tax cuts once inflation there’d been a grip on inflation. He told the Daily Telegraph that he’d run the economy “like Margaret Thatcher.”

Are you Ready for Rishi?

Since his leadership bid, titled Ready for Rishi, is in full swing, Sunak probably doesn’t have time for many of his hobbies.

These include not only watching Star Wars but also reportedly collecting replica lightsabers.

When he’s not watching films he turns to Netflix where he enjoys series such as Emily in Paris and Bridgerton, he revealed to the Radio Times.

Since he doesn’t drink alcohol his favourite drink is a Mexican Coca-Cola (made with cane sugar. He once made the gaff of telling a couple of school students that he was a “massive coke-addict” before very quickly clarifying he meant the soft drink.

To burn off all those calories he turns to a morning spin on his Peloton where his favourite trainer, Cody Rigsby, puts him through his paces to a Britney soundtrack - “no bad thing in trying to get you motivated, I guess,” he said.

He’s a fan of intermittent fasting and normally enjoys a breakfast of Greek yoghurt but on the weekends likes to let his hair down with a feast of waffles or pancakes, with bacon and berries.

Last year he became the proud owner of a red Labrador retriever puppy, named Nova.

When will a new leader be announced?

The party ruled on Monday that the leadership race will be decided on September 5.

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