Meet Rishi Sunak, Britain’s New Prime Minister


Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Rishi Sunak official portrait, 2022

FINN WALL, Staff Writer

Early Monday morning, the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom declared its new leader as party elections ended. Only the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, remained with his name put forward, making history by becoming Britain’s first prime minister of color.

After the resignation of Liz Truss last Thursday, the leadership of the Conservative Party was up for grabs as the party opened an election for its new top leadership position. A number of candidates were rumored to run, or intended on running, including Sunak, as well as Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, former PM Boris Johnson, and a handful of others.

However, by the morning of the Monday deadline, only two candidates had put their names forward: Mordaunt and Sunak. As the party prepared for the inter-party votes, Mordaunt shocked the nation by withdrawing her candidacy, leaving only Sunak in the race. And thus, as the only one left, Britain’s new Prime Minister was decided.

It’s safe to say that Sunak has a lot on his plate coming into office. Despite only being in office for 44 days, Liz Truss and her menagerie of mini-budgets and tax cuts caused inflation to skyrocket, and mortgages to become increasingly impossible to pay back. Amidst the ongoing cost of living and energy supply crises, Sunak now has to set the economy straight and round up a demoralized and divided Conservative Party that is plummeting in public opinion polls.

So who is Rishi Sunak? Born and raised in Southampton to parents of Indian descent who had moved to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s, Sunak attended Lincoln College (a constituent college of Oxford), studying politics and economies, and went on to earn a Master’s in Business Administration from Stanford University.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 2015 at the age of 35, finding early footing with his vocal support for Brexit. He quickly rose in the ranks of the government, being promoted to Under-Secretary of State for Local Government under Theresa May, and then Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Boris Johnson when May resigned. Later, in 2020, Sunak became Chancellor of the Exchequer after Sajid Javid resigned.

As Chancellor, Sunak spearheaded much of the government’s economic response to the pandemic. How helpful these policies were is debated, as the U.K. economy still tanked during 2020 and 2021, but there was undoubtedly a solid attempt that was most likely held back by Boris Johnson. 

Sunak resigned from this position in July 2022 amid widespread resignations from Johnson’s government, which were followed by Johnson’s resignation later that same month. Sunak stood in the following Conservative Party election to replace Johnson, but lost to Liz Truss. 

And we all know how that went. 

Now Sunak sits at the top of the country. Based on his history with economics, both in college and in government, there seems to be hope within the country that Sunak will introduce new ideas and economic plans that can reroute the crumbling economy and get the British pound back on its feet. His young age also sparks the potential that he could jolt the U.K. economy back to life with modern reformist ideas the country so desperately needs.

But all that is yet to be seen. Many are skeptical about Sunak’s ability to lead the country through the chaos it is in right now, and his and his wife’s immense personal wealth also worries many citizens that he is out of touch with the issues facing everyday civilians in Britain.

Here in the States, many are hopeful that one of our biggest trading partners and political allies will finally get its economy back under control. It’s well known that Biden wasn’t a big supporter of Boris Johnson, so seeing him lose reelection will most likely improve relations between the countries. And to see an economist in charge of the U.K. is exciting for American politicians who don’t have to worry about an imminent collapse of their closest European ally.

Whether or not Sunak will save the U.K. from its current crisis is anyone’s guess. But at the very least, Sunak seems to be pointing the country in the right direction after Truss.

“I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of the government’s agenda,” said Sunak, during his first speech to the public last Monday. “This will mean difficult decisions to come. But you saw me during Covid doing everything I could to protect people and businesses with schemes like furlough. There are always limits, more so than ever, but I promise you this- I will bring that same compassion to the challenges we face today.”