Rishi Sunak is a British politician who has been Leader of the Conservative Party since 24 October 2022. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 to 2022 and Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2019 to 2020. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond (Yorks) since 2015.
Sunak was born in Southampton to parents of Punjabi-Indian descent who migrated to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s. He was educated at Winchester College, read philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Lincoln College, Oxford, and gained an MBA from Stanford University in California as a Fulbright Scholar. While studying at Stanford, he met his future wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of N. R. Narayana Murthy, the Indian billionaire businessman who founded Infosys. Sunak and Murty are the 222nd richest people in Britain, with a combined fortune of £730m as of 2022. After graduating, Sunak worked for Goldman Sachs and later as a partner at the hedge fund firms the Children’s Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners.
Sunak was elected to the House of Commons for Richmond in North Yorkshire at the 2015 general election, succeeding William Hague. Sunak supported Brexit in the 2016 referendum on EU membership. He was appointed to Theresa May’s second government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government in the 2018 reshuffle. He voted three times in favour of May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement. After May resigned, Sunak supported Boris Johnson’s campaign to become Conservative leader. After Johnson was elected and appointed Prime Minister, he appointed Sunak as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Sunak replaced Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer after his resignation in the February 2020 cabinet reshuffle.
As Chancellor, Sunak was prominent in the government’s financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, including the Coronavirus Job Retention and Eat Out to Help Out schemes. He resigned as chancellor on 5 July 2022, citing his economic policy differences with Johnson in his resignation letter. Sunak’s resignation, along with the resignation of Javid as Health Secretary, led to Johnson’s resignation amid a government crisis.
In July 2022, he stood in the Conservative party leadership election to replace Johnson and lost the members’ vote to Liz Truss. Following Truss’s resignation amid a government crisis, Sunak won the October 2022 Conservative Party leadership election.
- Born: May 12, 1980
- Birth place: Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, U.K.
- Spouse: Akshata Murthy (m. 2009)
- Height: 1.7 m
- Children: Krishna Sunak, Anoushka Sunak
- Party: Conservative Party
- Books: A Portrait of Modern Britain, A New ERA for Retail Bonds, The Free Ports Opportunity: How Brexit Could Boost Trade, Manufacturing and the North Rishi Sunak
- Education: Stanford Graduate School of Business (2006), Lincoln College (2001), Winchester College
Early Life and Education
Sunak was born on 12 May 1980 in Southampton to African-born Hindu parents of Punjabi Indian descent, Yashvir and Usha Sunak. He is the eldest of three siblings. His father was born and raised in the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya (present-day Kenya), while his mother was born in Tanganyika (which later became part of Tanzania). His grandfathers were born in Punjab province, British India, and migrated from East Africa with their families to the UK in the 1960s. His paternal grandfather, Ramdas Sunak, was from Gujranwala (in present-day Pakistan) and moved to Nairobi in 1935 to work as a clerk, where he was joined by his wife Suhag Rani Sunak from Delhi in 1937. His maternal grandfather, Raghubir Sain Berry MBE, worked in Tanganyika as a tax official, and had an arranged marriage with 16-year-old Tanganyika-born Sraksha, with whom he had three children, and the family moved to UK in 1966, funded by Sraksha selling her wedding jewellery. In Britain, Raghubir Berry joined the Inland Revenue, and as a collector, was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1988 Birthday Honours list. Yashvir was a general practitioner, and Usha was a pharmacist, who ran a local pharmacy.
Sunak attended Stroud School, a preparatory school in Romsey, Hampshire, and Winchester College, a boys’ independent boarding school, where he was head boy. He was a waiter at a curry house in Southampton during his summer holidays. He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Lincoln College, Oxford, graduating with a first in 2001. During his time at university, he undertook an internship at Conservative Campaign Headquarters. In 2006, he gained an MBA from Stanford University, where he was a Fulbright scholar.
Sunak worked as an analyst for the investment bank Goldman Sachs between 2001 and 2004. He then worked for hedge fund management firm the Children’s Investment Fund Management, becoming a partner in September 2006. He left in November 2009 to join former colleagues in California at a new hedge fund firm, Theleme Partners, which launched in October 2010 with $700 million under management. At both hedge funds, his boss was Patrick Degorce. He was also a director of the investment firm Catamaran Ventures, owned by his father-in-law, the Indian businessman N. R. Narayana Murthy between 2013 and 2015.
Early political career
Member of Parliament
Sunak was selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond (Yorks) in October 2014, defeating Wendy Morton. The seat was previously held by William Hague, a former leader of the party, Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. The seat is one of the safest Conservative seats in the United Kingdom and has been held by the party for over 100 years. In the same year Sunak was head of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Research Unit of centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, for which he co-wrote a report on BME communities in the UK. He was elected as MP for the constituency at the 2015 general election with a majority of 19,550 (36.2%). During the 2015–2017 parliament he was a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.
Sunak supported Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union) at the June 2016 EU membership referendum. That year, he wrote a report for the Centre for Policy Studies (a Thatcherite think tank) supporting the establishment of free ports after Brexit, and the following year wrote a report advocating the creation of a retail bond market for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Sunak was re-elected at the 2017 general election, with an increased majority of 23,108 (40.5%). He served as parliamentary under-secretary of state for local government between January 2018 and July 2019. Sunak voted for then-Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement on all three occasions, and voted against a second referendum on any withdrawal agreement.
Sunak supported Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election and co-wrote an article in The Times newspaper with fellow MPs Robert Jenrick and Oliver Dowden to advocate for Johnson during the campaign in June.
Chief secretary to the Treasury
Sunak was appointed as chief secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 24 July 2019, serving under Chancellor Sajid Javid. He became a member of the Privy Council the next day.
Sunak was re-elected in the 2019 general election with an increased majority of 27,210 (47.2%). During the election campaign, Sunak represented the Conservatives in both BBC’s and ITV’s seven-way election debates.
At the start of 2020, following his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sunak arrived in public discourse from relative obscurity. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was popular by the standards of British politics, described by one analyst as having “better ratings than any politician since the heydays of Tony Blair”. Various polls showed Sunak remained overwhelmingly popular among Conservative supporters and many other Britons throughout 2020.
In an Ipsos MORI poll in September 2020, Sunak had the highest satisfaction score of any British Chancellor since Labour’s Denis Healey in April 1978. He was widely seen as the favourite to become the next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. Sunak developed a cult media following, with jokes and gossip about his attractiveness widespread on social media and in magazines.
Public attitudes towards Sunak remained broadly positive in 2021, though his popularity declined steadily over time. By early 2022, with the cost of living becoming a growing focus of public concern, Sunak’s response, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was perceived as inadequate and he received some of his lowest approval ratings. This fall continued as the Sunak family’s financial affairs came under scrutiny.
Sunak is a Hindu, and took his oath as an MP at the House of Commons on the Bhagavad Gita. In August 2009, he married Akshata Murty, the daughter of the Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, the founder of the technology company Infosys. Murty owns a 0.91% stake—valued at about $900m (£746m) in April 2022—in Infosys, making her one of the wealthiest women in Britain. Infosys continued to operate in Russia following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which led to criticism of Sunak and his family, but in April Infosys closed its Russian office. Murty also owns shares in two of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant businesses, Wendy’s in India, Koro Kids and Digme Fitness.
Sunak and Murty met while studying at Stanford University; they have two daughters. Murty is a director of her father’s investment firm, Catamaran Ventures. They own Kirby Sigston Manor in the village of Kirby Sigston, North Yorkshire, as well as a mews house in Kensington in central London, a flat on the Old Brompton Road, London, and a penthouse apartment in Santa Monica, California. Sunak is a teetotaller. He was previously a governor of the East London Science School. Sunak has a Labrador called Nova and is a cricket and horse racing enthusiast.
Sunak’s brother Sanjay is a psychologist. His sister Raakhi is the Chief of Strategy and Planning at Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education. Sunak is close friends with The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth, whom he has known since their school days. Sunak was the best man at Forsyth’s wedding to the journalist Allegra Stratton, and they are godparents to each other’s children. In April 2022, it was reported that Sunak and Murty had moved out of 11 Downing Street to a newly refurbished luxury West London home. The Sunday Times Rich List 2022 named Sunak and Murty the 222nd wealthiest people in the UK, with an estimated combined wealth of £730 million, making Sunak the “first frontline politician to join the rich list”.