Born on May 12, 1980, in Southampton, England, Rishi Sunak's journey to becoming the leader of the Conservative Party and subsequently the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is a remarkable tale of dedication and ambition. His family's roots extend to India, with his grandparents emigrating from Punjab to East Africa. His parents were born in Tanzania and Kenya, where their families migrated in the 1960s to Southampton. His father, a general practitioner, and his mother, a pharmacist, instilled in him the values of hard work, entrepreneurship, and fiscal responsibility. As the eldest of three children, Sunak even took on bookkeeping duties for the family pharmacy. His estimated net worth is USD 810 million.
Sunak's parents' sacrifices and determination allowed him to attend Winchester College, an exclusive private school known for producing several chancellors of the Exchequer. He excelled, becoming the "head boy" and serving as the editor of the school's newspaper. During summer vacations, he worked as a waiter at a local Indian restaurant. Subsequently, Sunak pursued a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at Lincoln College, Oxford, a degree shared by many future British prime ministers. He also became the president of the Oxford Trading & Investment Society and interned at the Conservative Party's headquarters.
After graduating from Oxford in 2001, Sunak embarked on a career in finance, joining Goldman Sachs as an analyst. He later pursued an MBA at Stanford University, where he met his future wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys. Returning to the UK in 2006, Sunak worked for hedge funds, including The Children's Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners. He married Murthy in 2009, and their union resulted in the accumulation of considerable wealth.
Sunak's foray into politics began in 2010 when he joined the Conservative Party. He also became associated with Policy Exchange, a prominent Conservative think tank, and took the helm of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Research Unit in 2014. During this time, Sunak co-authored a pamphlet, "A Portrait of Modern Britain," which was published by Policy Exchange.
In 2014, Sunak was selected as the Conservative Party's candidate for the Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire, a traditionally safe Conservative seat. His landslide victory in May 2015 marked his entry into the House of Commons. A staunch Euroskeptic, Sunak campaigned in favour of "leave" during the Brexit referendum, emphasising the potential for a "freer, fairer, and more prosperous" United Kingdom.
From 2015 to 2017, he served on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee and as a parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. In January 2018, he assumed his first ministerial role as undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government.
Sunak's meteoric rise within the Conservative Party continued when he was appointed chief secretary to the Treasury in July 2019. However, the turning point in his political career came in February 2020 when Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid resigned. Sunak, at the age of 39, assumed the role of Chancellor, becoming the fourth youngest person to ever hold the position.
His term as Chancellor coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Sunak swiftly implemented a comprehensive economic support program, allocating around £330 billion to assist businesses and workers. His policies included job retention schemes and subsidies aimed at mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic.
Sunak's "Eat Out to Help Out" initiative, designed to bolster the hospitality sector through government-subsidized meals, was perceived as a success by some but was also linked to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Nonetheless, during the pandemic, he emerged as a poised and polished politician, earning the moniker "Dishy Rishi" and being named "Britain's sexiest MP" in 2020.
His reputation faced challenges, particularly when it was revealed that his wife had employed a tax status to avoid British taxes on her overseas income, potentially saving her millions in taxes. Sunak's decision to hold on to a U.S. green card until late 2021 raised questions about his commitment to the UK. Furthermore, he was fined for attending a lockdown-defying birthday party at the prime minister's office in 2020.
In the wake of a scandal-ridden era for the Conservative Party, Sunak resigned from the cabinet in July 2022, contributing to mounting pressure that eventually led to the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A subsequent leadership contest saw Sunak as a frontrunner, but he ultimately lost to Liz Truss.
Truss's brief tenure was marked by controversial tax cuts and rising economic concerns, leading to a loss of confidence in her leadership. She resigned in October 2022, triggering another leadership contest. This time, Rishi Sunak secured nominations from more than half of Conservative MPs, effectively becoming the sole candidate. His journey from the son of immigrants to Chancellor of the Exchequer and ultimately to the Prime Minister's office reflects his remarkable ascent in British politics. With Sunak at the helm, the UK faces a future shaped by his vision and leadership.