Notes 21, 22 and 23/Rishi Sunak


”Sunak is committed to the Rwanda plan, wherein refugees arriving on the shores of Britain are deported to Rwanda to have their paperwork processed.”




31 OCTOBER 2022

Momentary romanticism over ‘being seen’ will not save us from Britain’s cost-of-living crisis, presided over by a prime minister wealthier than the king

Britain last week welcomed a new prime minister, not elected by the people. Yes, you read that right: a select few from the Conservative Party lent their backing to Rishi Sunak, constituting enough support to replace Liz Truss.

Yet, the general public’s attention was not so much on a new Tory leader who the people did not elect, but on the background of the new prime minister. This is, allegedly, a historic moment being compared to former US President Barack Obama’s win – although he won via the mandate of the people, not a select few. 

The events of the past few days should force us to ask some urgent questions. How is representational politics, based solely on sharing the same heritage as someone, a helpful measure of political consciousness? What does it mean for economically marginalised citizens to have the wealthiest MP as our prime minister? It has been duly pointed out that Sunak is richer than King Charles III, with an estimated fortune of £730m ($845m). 

Indeed, this moment will not necessarily entail any form of tangible economic change to help those in dire need during a massive and widespread cost-of-living crisis. This momentary lapse of asserting that we are in a post-colonial, post-racial world is little more than denial, exposing how racecraft is understood through acquiring higher positions of power. It shifts the focus away from political deceit, deepening inequalities and social breakdown that will take decades to rebuild. 

Sunak, in this sense, represents his class – those at the very top. Class is a variable that stratifies Britain in a multitude of ways; a form of social engineering that none of us can escape. His presence as the country’s leader is what I would call a mythic racial nightmare. 

The merging of economics with race here is an acute way of emphasising how the leader’s aesthetics mark a cosmetic change, while the same fiscal policies are retained, benefiting those in the same economic position as Sunak. Just this year, Sunak gave a speech in Tunbridge Wells where he boasted of diverting public funds from “deprived urban areas” to more affluent constituencies.

Easing white anxiety

Sunak is committed to the Rwanda plan, wherein refugees arriving on the shores of Britain are deported to Rwanda to have their paperwork processed. He has also expressed his desire to widen the definition of extremism, targeting those who “vilify Britain”. 

This is an intriguing point. A day before Sunak accepted his premiership following a meeting with the king, he articulated how he wanted to give back to the country to which he owed so much. He thus not only declared himself the leader of the country, but also asserted that he is not a danger, emphasising his utmost loyalty. Such a public admission exculpates him of being the “Other” and eases white anxiety. 

Sunak as the grateful immigrant who remains deferential to the metropole of empire is the only way to reassure the insecure, affirming the notion that Britain cannot possibly be racist. The making of the servile sahib with access to the head of the table is not an unknown tactic. 

Amid Britain’s colonisation of India, the famous “Minute on Education” speech was delivered by Thomas Macaulay in 1835. He shared his ambitions on how to advance the British empire, noting: “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern – a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

Expansion of capital

I would propose that things are no different today, albeit without the British Raj. A similar machine is at play: the expansion of capital within the upper echelons of society, with the crumbs littered among those at the bottom, the working class. 

Sunak’s ascension has been hailed as an advance for other South Asians in Britain, despite their immensely different experiences. Unlike the vast majority of South Asians in the UK, Sunak’s personal migration story is often referred to as one of the “twice migrants”. Originally from Gujranwala (in today’s Punjab in Pakistan), his family moved to Kenya before migrating to the UK in the 1960s. 

The belief that most South Asians in Britain, who are working class, will somehow feel elated at seeing someone who “looks like them” in power – that this should be sufficient to reduce their economic anxieties – amounts to a subtraction of race from economics. This is what I call abject politics: a politics incapable of critiquing state actors, because representational politics is weaponised as a distraction. 

The South Asians who had already settled in Britain before the arrival of East African Asians forged politically radical movements that fought vehemently against assimilationism and encouraged pushback against those in power.

A momentary romanticism of “being seen” will not save us from the cost-of-living crisis. Indulging this moment obscures and erases the damage that the Conservative Party has done to the country for 12 years.

Now is the time to build collectively from the ground up. It is time to smash the egregious policies passed by government actors and stop masking the violence of those in power simply because they “look like us”. 


”“By trying to dump asylum seekers in Rwanda, the UK government is shirking its international responsibility under the Refugee Convention to protect people in need of asylum,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.”




Commonwealth leaders must take a firm and clear stand against the UK’s racist and disgraceful asylum seeker deal with Rwanda, Amnesty International said today ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place in Kigali between 20 – 25 June 2022.

“By trying to dump asylum seekers in Rwanda, the UK government is shirking its international responsibility under the Refugee Convention to protect people in need of asylum,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. 

“Commonwealth leaders must take a firm and clear stance to force the UK government to rescind its misguided, cruel and racist policy that shifts its responsibility towards refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda.”

“Member states need to seize the opportunity in Kigali to denounce this inhumane arrangement and pressure the UK and Rwanda to end the deal. It seriously threatens to undermine the international mechanism for the protection of asylum seekers.”


The UK and Rwanda signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 14 April 2022 that agrees a system to relocate asylum seekers who are not being considered by the UK to Rwanda.

In its submission to the Universal Periodic Review process in 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees raised concerns over Rwanda’s shortcomings in its asylum process, citing the arbitrary denial of access to asylum procedures for some people, the risk of detention and deportation of undocumented asylum seekers, the discriminatory access to asylum procedures that LGBTIQ+ individuals face, or the lack of legal representation. In a legal analysis published in June 2022, UNHCR concluded that the UK-Rwanda arrangement “does not meet the requirements necessary to be considered a lawful and / or appropriate bilateral transfer arrangement.”


”Rishi Sunak has said he will ensure the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda will work – despite his own family’s background as immigrants.”





21 JULY 2022

Rishi Sunak has said he will ensure the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda will work – despite his own family’s background as immigrants.

He said despite that history, the British Government at the time “decided” his grandparents should be allowed to move to the UK – in contrast to migrants making the treacherous small boat crossings over the Channel.

The ex-Chancellor is fighting for the Tory leadership and keys to No10 with Liz Truss – and must now court Tory members who will decide on their new winner by early September.

Speaking exclusively to LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, said he had been given opportunities by his relatives being allowed to move to Britain, and wanted others to enjoy those.

But that would not extend to migrants who have attempted to cross from France in their thousands under a Sunak premiership. The Government claims it will deter crossings by sending them to Rwanda.

“We need to make sure that we make our Rwanda policy work. Now, I voted for Brexit for many reasons but in part because it gave us the ability to control our borders,” he told LBC on Thursday.

“And I say that as someone who’s proudly from a family of immigrants.”

When Andrew suggested critics would suggest he would be the “last” person to want the Rwanda plan, given his family’s immigrant background, Mr Sunak said: “It’s actually the opposite.

“It’s because this country did something amazing for my family, and it welcomed them as immigrants.

“That’s part of the reason I’m standing and sitting here today with you – because of the opportunities this country gave my family. I want to repay that, I want to make sure that opportunity’s available for others.

“But we do need to have control of our borders.

“When my grandparents came here, they came here because the British Government had decided that it wanted them to come here.

“It is absolutely right that we continue as a country to decide who we want to come here, and I think it’s entirely reasonable that at the same time as we welcome the best and the brightest, which is what we’re now doing… we get control of our borders.

“People are seeing on their screens that boats are arriving, it shows that we haven’t got a grip of it and I think the Rwanda policy gives us the opportunity to solve that.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Andrew Marr, Rishi Sunak took a swipe at foreign secretary Liz Truss – who recent polling suggests would beat him when Tory MPs submit their final votes on the pair.

Despite trying to avoid being drawn into a “blue on blue” attack with Ms Truss, following a week of public spats between the candidates, he said “all the evidence” shows she would lose to Labour at the next election.

He defended his economic policy, which has seen him postpone any tax cuts over fears it will be inflationary, as realistic and honest, while Ms Truss has pledged to cut taxes and use £30bn to allow that.

He also said “one of the first” things he would do as prime minister is appoint an independent ethics adviser – post that has been vacant since Lord Geidt dramatically resigned in June, accusing Boris Johnson of proposing a “deliberate” breach of the ministerial code.

Mr Sunak, who reiterated he voted for Brexit – compared to his rival, who backed Remain before – said leaving the European Union allowed for financial services reform and the introduction of freeports, designated economic zones with special rules that he believes could provide thousands of jobs.

He denied ever using an offshore banking trust in a tax haven and said he has had to worry about money – despite being on the Sunday Times rich list this year – because of his upbringing at his parent’s pharmacy.

He also reacted to a question about whether his Ready for Rishi website domain had been registered in December, well in advance of a Tory leadership, amid reported criticism from No10 that he had stabbed Boris Johnson in the back, waiting to launch his own bid for Prime Minister.

He said domains are registered all the time and he spent December fighting against an Omicron-variant Covid lockdown, claiming the UK was “hours” away from a new shutdown.

Ultimately, a lockdown was avoided.






24 OCTOBER 2022

Rishi Sunak will be the first person of colour to become British prime minister. The former chancellor went to an elite fee-paying school and is the latest premier to have studied politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Oxford.

Elected for the first time to parliament in 2015, Rishi Sunak will become the UK’s youngest prime minister in more than 200 years, it was declared on Monday, tasked with steering the country through an economic crisis and mounting anger among some voters.

It is a remarkable return for Sunak, who lost a leadership bid to Liz Truss less than two months ago when he was accused by some in the Conservative Party of bringing down their hero, Boris Johnson.

One of the wealthiest politicians in Westminster, he enters Downing Street facing a need to stem a fiscal crisis, as well as tackling a cost-of-living crunch, a winter of strikes and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

His backers say the former chancellor of the exchequer is a safe pair of hands who can restore Britain’s credibility with investors who sold the country’s bonds and sterling after Truss’s mini-budget offered tax cuts with little on how to fund them.

But the former Goldman Sachs analyst and hedge fund partner also faces challenges within the governing Conservative Party, where some lawmakers blame him for his role in ousting Johnson and are concerned he has not got what it takes to win elections.

The opposition Labour Party is likely to paint him as a member of the uber-rich elite, out of touch with the pressures faced by millions as Britain slides towards a recession, dragged down by the surging cost of food and energy.

Some fear he cannot reunite a party that is deeply divided and getting used to quickly dispensing with leaders they do not like.

“He couldn’t beat Liz Truss last month; he’s not turned into an election winner less than two months later,” one senior Conservative lawmaker said on condition of anonymity after supporting Johnson in his failed bid to run again.

Sunak replaces Truss, who said she would resign four days ago but who defeated him on 5 September with 57 percent of the vote from Conservative members.

Then, the former chancellor repeatedly described his predecessor’s ideas as “fairytale” economics that would spook the markets.

He was proved right, but after a fast-track leadership race, some Conservatives say they doubt his commitment to a Margaret Thatcher-style small state vision to spur growth after he put Britain on course for the highest tax burden since the 1950s with emergency pandemic spending on saving jobs and welfare.

When declaring his candidacy, Sunak, 42, said he had a track record that showed he could “fix our economy, unite out party and deliver for our country”.

“There will be integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level of the government I lead and I will work day in and day out to get the job done,” he said in veiled criticism of Johnson, forced out over a scandal-ridden premiership.

First Indian-heritage prime minister

Born in Southampton in 1980 to Hindu parents of Punjabi Indian descent, Sunak repeatedly during the last leadership campaign spoke of helping his mum, who ran a pharmacy, with the books, doing payroll and accounts.

He had a privileged education – he went to an elite fee-paying school and is the latest prime minister to have studied politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Oxford, following David Cameron and his predecessor, Truss.

During the last leadership campaign, he supported the creation of more selective grammar schools after new ones were banned by the opposition Labour Party, but repeatedly said “a world class education” should be a birthright.

He will also be the first person of colour to become Britain’s prime minister.

Ravi Kumar, 38, a Conservative Party member working at a finance company in the central English city of Nottingham, described the appointment as a “watershed moment”.

“I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and I could not even imagine a non-white prime minister in my lifetime… So to see a British Indian leader is phenomenal,” he told Reuters.

But Sunak’s marriage to the daughter of an Indian billionaire has raised concerns in the party that he is too far removed from the concerns of everyday voters, some of whom are being forced by spiralling inflation to decide whether to spend their money on food or heating.

It didn’t help that in April Sunak’s wife was forced to confirm reports that her non-domiciled status meant she did not pay tax on all her international earnings, something she agreed to end.

“Rishi never had a overdraft so he is used to having a Treasury [finance ministry] account and a current account,” said one Conservative insider who had backed Johnson.

“Rishi has good PR but an inability to be brave and be the Brexit Chancellor the UK needs,” the insider said on condition of anonymity.

Sunak’s supporters say he is just the man who is needed to steady the ship financially after Truss’s so-called mini-budget roiled financial markets, raising government borrowing and increasing mortgages and fears pensions funds could go bust.

“We need someone who can provide stability and proven economic competence in these challenging times, and Rishi Sunak is that person,” said Grant Shapps, brought in as Britain’s home secretary after Truss sacked his predecessor.

Shapps was just one of several ministers to back Sunak after Johnson pulled out late on Sunday, surprising and even angering his own supporters. Johnson has not made public who he backed.

Covid champion

Sunak rose swiftly up the ranks of the Conservative Party, becoming, in 2020, one of the youngest chancellors.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Britain, Sunak dropped the Conservatives’ small-state instincts to borrow massively and stave off the risk of an economic depression.

That made him one of the most popular politicians in the country, as he was praised for helping businesses and workers.

In one photograph that captured the sense of unity behind his rescue plans, Sunak posed outside his Downing Street office flanked by the heads of Britain’s biggest trade union group and a leading employers’ group.

But that consensus disappeared as Britain emerged from the crisis saddled with an extra 400 billion pounds of debt and then fell into a cost-of-living crisis that led to even more demands on the public purse.

Polls earlier this year showed his stock had fallen with the public, who were worried about the cost of living crisis and angered that he had raised payroll taxes while his wife had avoided British levies.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is expected to seize on the appointment of a new wealthy prime minister by Conservative lawmakers rather than by the country as a reason why Britain should face a national election before it is due in two years.

“My focus is on the millions of people who are struggling to pay their bills, now have additional anxieties about their mortgage. I know what it feels like,” Starmer said on Sunday.

“They could have a stable Labour government.”








Citizens in India have watched Rishi Sunak’s ascension to prime minister of Britain with a sense of admiration and triumph, hailing the rise of a person of Indian descent and a Hindu to the top job in a major Western country.

Although Sunak, whose parents migrated from East Africa to Britain in the 1960s, has never lived in India, his heritage has made Indians proud.

Sunak’s grandparents hailed from Punjab state before the Indian subcontinent was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan, after British colonial rule ended in 1947. They had moved to East Africa in the 1930s. Sunak is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of Indian technology billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy, who founded one of India’s most successful software companies.

Many Indians and the media, which gave prominent coverage to his elevation as prime minister, emphasized not just his Indian roots but also his faith; Sunak is a Hindu, the majority religion in India, and has spoken about its importance to him.

When news broke this week that Sunak was destined to be Britain’s new leader, Indians were celebrating the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali. For many, like Mumbai resident Nikhil Shirodkar, the development added to the celebratory mood.

“It is indeed a very special moment that a person of Indian origin and a practicing Hindu is heading a government in Britain,” said Shirodkar, who heard the news as he got ready to perform Diwali rituals. “I would have never thought it possible that the country has accepted a member of an ethnic minority as prime minister. It is really amazing,” he said, calling it a testament to multiculturalism.

Similar sentiments echoed on social media while mainstream media ran triumphant headlines like the one in the Times of India newspaper that said “Rishi Sunak, a ‘proud Hindu,’ is new UK PM.”

Since Sunak first bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party in July, television networks and newspapers have carried stories about how in 2019 he had taken his oath as a member of Parliament on the Bhagavad Gita, a revered Hindu text; performed a cow worship, a Hindu ritual in August; and lit lamps at his Downing Street residence on Diwali two years ago when he was chancellor.

Inevitably, India’s colonial legacy also became a talking point, with many calling it ironic that Britain, which ruled India for 200 years, would now be led by a man who traced his descent to its former colony.

However, historians pointed out that Sunak’s rise to the top job was not really a case of history coming full circle as many would like to believe.

“At some point of time as historians we were expecting that a person of Indian origin would become prime minister of a country like Britain or Canada,” said Archana Ojha, professor of history at Delhi University. “That conclusion is derived from a study of future demographics. While there may not be a big increase in the number of Indians in these countries, they are a rich and influential community and hence poised to play a very important role in politics there.”

But she pointed out that Sunak has also benefited from being at the right place at the right time; his ascension came after two prime ministers quit in the face of political scandal and economic crisis.

“He became prime minister when no one else in the party was well-placed to take the role. If his tenure goes well, it will be a triumph for him and others of ethnic descent,” Ojha said. “But if he fails, that will also reflect a failure of the policy of multiculturalism.”

From Indian heads of technology giants such as Google’s Sundar Pichai to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, India has long cheered the achievements of people of Indian origin and the Indian diaspora.

But even as they were gladdened by the latest and possibly the most significant such success, some opposition politicians questioned whether the same could happen in India, which critics say is sliding into majoritarianism under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

P. Chidambaram, a veteran leader of the opposition Congress Party, tweeted, “First Kamala Harris, now Rishi Sunak. The people of the U.S. and the U.K have embraced the non-majority citizens of their countries and elected them to high office in government. I think there is a lesson to be learned by India and the parties that practice majoritarianism.”

Sunak’s rise is expected to have little direct impact on political ties between Britain and India, which have been on the upswing in recent years. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited India in April this year.

The challenge in the coming months, however, will be to seal an ambitious free-trade deal that India and Britain had hoped to wrap up by October, but which missed the deadline because of the recent political turbulence in the country. While some hope that those talks will get momentum if Sunak can restore stability, others warn that Britain’s economic woes will make it hard to pursue the pact, which aims to double bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2030.

“Trade deals happen when the going is good because they are about give and take,” said Biswajit Dhar, trade analyst and professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“The British economy is in doldrums and the first priority for Sunak will be to clear the economic mess,” he said. “Also, India usually comes up with huge demands in the services sector, and with the high unemployment rates that Britain is seeing, I doubt if they can accommodate those at this juncture.”


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