Leader by Acclamation: Rishi Sunak Became the First British Prime-Minister of Immigrant Origin

Murad Jandali | a year ago




After his failure last September to obtain the position, Rishi Sunak recently succeeded in becoming the leader of the Tory Party following the elections held by the party on October 24, 2022, from which all candidates withdrew, paving the way for Sunak to lead the UK.

Sunak officially assumed the position of Prime Minister in Britain after King Charles III commissioned him to form the new government on October 25, 2022.

However, the new PM, the third in just three-and-a-half months, is under increasing pressure from opposition parties to call a general election before its scheduled date in January 2025 at the latest.

Sunak's rise to power represents an event in the history of the UK, as he became the first non-white PM of Asian origin to reach this position, in addition to being the youngest to hold this position during the previous 200 years, he is currently 42 years old.

On the other hand, despite being of foreign origin and the son of a family with an immigrant background, Sunak declares himself anti-refugee and vows to implement broad policies to combat refugee waves and expand the deportation procedures approved by his predecessor Johnson.

In addition to this, he had previously ignored numerous complaints by Muslim actors of Islamophobia in the country, which led many to accuse him of normalizing with that racist discourse.


Leader By Acclamation

On October 24, Tory Party leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt announced her withdrawal from the election to make way for former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak to win the party leadership and then head the British government after winning the support of 194 out of 357 MPs.

However, Western reports revealed that the withdrawal of the former Defense Minister, Benny Mordaunt, from the race, came after her failure to collect enough votes from the party's deputies, as she was reported to have obtained only 25 votes.

A day earlier, on October 23, 2022, former PM Boris Johnson announced that he had also withdrawn his candidacy for the Tory leadership, as he had intended to return to the post he left last July.

Johnson justified his withdrawal with his commitment to party unity and that his ambition to return to Downing Street simply wouldn't be the right thing to do.

This paved the way for former finance minister Rishi Sunak to win the party leadership, and thus the British PM, succeeding Liz Truss, who resigned earlier, and becoming the fifth British PM since 2016 when the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Truss resigned on October 20, 2022, after 45 days in office, acknowledging that she could not deliver a shoddy economic package to cut taxes, which she was forced to abandon after it sparked outrage within her party and turbulent financial markets for weeks.

After announcing his victory, Sunak pledged to fix the economic crisis that the country is going through, which he described as deep and also pledged to unify his party, thanking the deputies who voted for him.

Sunak added, "This government will have integrity, professionalism, and accountability at every level. I will unite our country, not with words, but with action."


Deep Divisions

Former PM Boris Johnson met his former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak on the evening of October 22, 2022, without the press getting any leaks from the meeting, which lasted for hours.

However, the official statement published by Sunak the next morning announcing his candidacy for the position indicates that no bilateral agreement has been reached between the two men on their role in the race and on the future of the party as well.

Johnson's battle with Sunak also dominated the headlines that day. The Independent newspaper wrote: Tory hopes of unity leader fade as Sunak and Johnson square up, while The Guardian wrote: Tory tribes go to war in Birmingham.

In turn, former Tory Party leader William Hague considered that Johnson would lead the party into what he described as a death spiral.

A number of party lawmakers have warned that they may resign if Johnson becomes PM, which could put the Tory party's majority at risk.

According to the Financial Times, if Johnson's comeback had taken place, it would risk further turmoil in the markets, in part because he is known to be less enthusiastic about financial discipline than his former adviser Sunak; in addition, he also faces a parliamentary inquiry into whether he lied to MPs about the Party Gate case.

In the past days, Johnson has received many blows, including the constant reminders of the scandals he caused, his breaking the law, and the public warning that his return to office will further divide and reduce the party's already few chances of winning the next general election, in addition to highlighting once again the investigation of the concessions committee into whether Johnson really intended to mislead Parliament.

In addition, figures from the right of the party and its old allies announced their public support for Sunak, such as the resigned Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker, who described Johnson's return as a disaster.

If all the data confirm that Johnson is not a consensual leader and that his return will exacerbate political and economic divisions, the same question remains about Sunak's ability to play this role in light of deep divisions and radical differences between the wings of the party.

While some Tories view Sunak as a divisive figure due to his role in Johnson's ouster, his resignation last July exacerbated the country's leadership crisis, and some on the Tory right detest his record of raising taxes.

It is noteworthy that the only undeniable fact is that the Tory Party is experiencing unprecedented divisions amid accusations that its representatives place personal interests much higher than the public interest and that its chance of winning the next elections, no matter when, will be almost impossible.


Who Is Rishi Sunak?

Born in 1980 in Southampton on the south coast of England, Rishi Sunak is the eldest of three children of an Indian family.

Sunak was educated at the Winchester Boarding School and from there to the universities of Oxford in Britain and Stanford in the United States, where he studied politics and economics.

Sunak then married Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Narayana Murthy, an Indian billionaire and co-founder of IT services giant Infosys, and they have two daughters.

As for his career, he succeeded in holding several positions in major financial companies such as Goldman Sachs and established his own investment company.

Since 2015 he has served as a Tory MP for the constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire and has become a minister in Theresa May's government.

He was among the supporters of Brexit, as he voted 3 times for the British exit from the European Union during the May era.

Two days before the official start of the Tory leadership campaign in June 2019, Sunak, with Oliver Dowden and Robert Jenrick, co-authored an article titled The Tories are in deep peril. Only Boris Johnson can save us; following Johnson's victory, the three men were rewarded with high-ranking government positions, and Sunak became the first secretary of the Treasury at the age of only 39 years.

During his tenure as Minister of Finance, Sunak gained great popularity by allocating a huge budget for subsidies to citizens during the Corona pandemic period.

However, he was one of the first to resign from Boris Johnson's government after a scandal erupted in its president covering information about sexual abuse by a Tory MP.


Super-Rich Politician

Sunak is the first high-ranking politician to enter the ranking of the richest people in the UK, and his fortune and that of his wife is estimated at $830 million.

In April 2020, the funds of Sunak and his wife came under intense scrutiny, and also highlighted the wealth of his wife in her home country India, which did not cost her any taxes in the UK because she kept herself a non-resident status that exempts the owner from paying taxes for what they earn outside British territory, which sparked widespread criticism after it was recently revealed in several media outlets.

However, Akshata Murthy later announced that she would start paying taxes to the UK on her overseas earnings to ease political pressure on her husband.

The Labour Party also asked several questions about Sunak's finances, including whether Sunak benefited from the use of tax havens.

The Independent also reported that Sunak is listed as taking advantage of investment trusts registered in the Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands in 2020 to help manage his wife's tax and business affairs.

Sunak was also criticized for lack of transparency after he admitted that he had a permanent resident card in the United States (Green Card), valid until last year.


Right Electoral Program

This time, Rishi Sunak could not argue with his electoral program and wave his promises to the party members to attract their votes in his favor, especially since his victory became decided after the withdrawal of all his competitors.

However, that program and those promises are not unknown to most Tories, as only two months have passed since the political battle that raged between the new leader and his predecessor, Liz Truss.

For a party that considers the issue of immigrants a major issue in its politics, Sunak's orientation did not deviate from that line.

During his previous campaign, Sunak stressed more than once his determination to work to curb the country's reception of refugees and immigrants and tighten reception procedures in exchange for expanding the deportation law to Rwanda enacted by his predecessor, Boris Johnson.

Sunak promised at the time that he would do whatever was necessary for the success of the scheme to deport the refugees to Rwanda and granted Parliament the power to decide who would be receiving refugees on the territory of the kingdom.

He said: "Our immigration system is broken, and we have to be honest about that. Whether you believe that migration should be high or low, we can all agree that it should be legal and controlled."

In another context, Sunak pledged that he would refocus the anti-terror plan on Islamists and add the adjective distorting the kingdom to the concept of extremism, stressing the redoubling of efforts to confront Islamic extremism, without referring to the escalation of the danger of far-right terrorism in his declaration.

After winning the leadership of the Tory Party and the British government, Sunak is the second politician of immigrant origins from the areas of the extension of the empire that the sun did not set previously to the capital of fog and its ruler in the Victorian era and before when Britain was ruling the world.

The first victory for a politician of immigrant origin was achieved by the politician of Pakistani origin, Sadiq Khan, after he was elected mayor of London, but with the nomination of the Labour Party, the main political opponent of the Tories.