””I was just out with my younger brother and younger sister, and I think, probably pretty young, I was probably a mid-teenager, and we were out at a fast food restaurant and I was just looking after them. There were people sitting nearby, it was the first time I’d experienced it, just saying some very unpleasant things. The ‘P’ word.
“And it stung. I still remember it. It seared in my memory. You can be insulted in many different ways.”
RISHI SUNAK: THE STAR WARS FAN TURNED POLITICAL FORCE
25 OCTOBER 2022
At just 42, Rishi Sunak is the youngest prime minister in modern times – taking the record held by his old boss David Cameron, who was 43 when appointed.
His rise to the top has been fast. He only became MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire in 2015 and joined the Cabinet in 2019.
“I showed up and people were surprised,” Mr Sunak said about being selected to represent Richmond, with its overwhelming white population. But his “Yorkshire values” of hard work resonated with people and he won them over by showing an interest in what mattered to them, he said. Seven years on and he has made history as the UK’s first British Asian prime minister.
Mr Sunak joined Boris Johnson’s cabinet in 2019 as chief treasury to the secretary working with chancellor Sajid Javid, and his career rocketed from there
A self-confessed “huge Star Wars fan” with a sizeable collection of lightsabers, he tweeted a photo of himself and his “Jedi Master” Mr Javid at a screening of The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. A few months later, the apprentice became the master when he replaced Mr Javid as chancellor, and was plunged into pandemic crisis planning and budgeting.
For quite a few people, Mr Sunak appeared to be a reassuringly steady hand at the tiller as chancellor.
When he pledged to do “whatever it takes” to help people through the pandemic in the spring of 2020 – and unveiled support worth £350bn – his personal poll ratings went through the roof.
But the UK continued to be buffeted by stormy economic weather, and Mr Sunak himself had to deal with the fallout of being fined by police for breaking lockdown rules in Downing Street in June 2020.
In July, he resigned from the cabinet, saying he felt his own approach to the economy was “fundamentally too different” to that of the PM, Boris Johnson. The move was instrumental in ousting Mr Johnson, which some of the former PM’s allies will not have forgotten.
Just 16 weeks later, he has become leader himself.
His appointment as PM came on the day millions celebrated Diwali, and as a practising Hindu he has said one of his proudest career moments was lighting ceremonial diyas (oil lamps) outside 11 Downing Street while chancellor. A traditional Hindu red bracelet, meant for good luck and protection, could be seen on his wrist when he posed on the steps of 10 Downing Street for the first time as UK leader.
Rishi Sunak: The basics
Place of birth: Southampton, Hampshire
Home: London and Yorkshire
Education: Winchester College, Oxford University, Stanford University
Family: Married to businesswoman Akshata Murty with two daughters
Parliamentary constituency:Richmond (Yorkshire)
There is no denying that Mr Sunak’s wealth is a world away from that of most. Together, he and his wife Akshata Murty have an estimated worth of more than £700m – a sum which supersedes the personal wealth of King Charles III.
Critics of Mr Sunak have raised the question of whether the millionaire can grasp the scale of the cost-of-living squeeze facing struggling households.
In April, the finances of Mr Sunak and his family came under intense scrutiny, with the tax affairs of his wife – the daughter of Narayana Murthy, Indian billionaire and co-founder of IT services giant Infosys – placed in the spotlight. Headquartered in Bangalore, Infosys reported revenues of more than $11.8bn (£9bn) in 2019, $12.8bn in 2020, and $13.5bn in 2021. The company’s latest annual report shows Ms Murty owns a 0.9% stake in Infosys.
She announced in April she would start paying UK tax on this income to relieve political pressure on her husband.
Mr Sunak’s appointment as prime minister has made his own wealth and tax affairs a hot topic again. He has been tight-lipped about his personal wealth and maintains that he has never benefited from funds based in tax havens.
It remains to be seen whether he and his family will split their time between Downing Street and the £4.5m five-bedroom townhouse in South Kensington, London where they currently reside.
The Sunaks are understood to own a further three properties: a Grade II-listed manor house in the village of Kirby Sigston, near Northallerton, in his Richmond constituency, was bought for £1.5m in 2015. The couple also own a flat in South Kensington and a penthouse apartment with views of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.
Mr Sunak won the approval of 202 Tory MPs to replace Liz Truss as prime minister. Newsnight’s political editor Nick Watt says his colleagues find him “very personable”, but also someone who is “very clear and certain in what he thinks”.
For example, in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum – in which he campaigned to Leave – he was called into Downing Street and asked for his support to remain in the EU but he refused.
“He said ‘No, I think Brexit is the right thing to do’ – which is quite a thing for a newly elected MP to say to Downing Street.”
Mr Sunak told the Yorkshire Post he believed leaving the EU would make the UK “freer, fairer and more prosperous”.
He said changing immigration rules was another key reason for his Leave vote: “I believe that appropriate immigration can benefit our country. But we must have control of our borders.”
Before entering politics Mr Sunak was an analyst for the investment bank Goldman Sachs and then worked for two multibillion dollar hedge funds.
His supporters hope his eye for statistics and data will be an asset in making the right economic decisions.
Mr Sunak’s parents came to the UK from east Africa and are both of Indian origin.
He was born in Southampton in 1980, where his father was a GP, and his mother ran her own pharmacy.
“In terms of cultural upbringing, I’d be at the temple at the weekend – I’m a Hindu – but I’d also be at [Southampton Football Club] the Saints game as well on a Saturday – you do everything, you do both.”
In the interview he said he had been fortunate not to have endured a lot of racism growing up, but that there was one incident that had stayed with him.
“I was just out with my younger brother and younger sister, and I think, probably pretty young, I was probably a mid-teenager, and we were out at a fast food restaurant and I was just looking after them. There were people sitting nearby, it was the first time I’d experienced it, just saying some very unpleasant things. The ‘P’ word.
“And it stung. I still remember it. It seared in my memory. You can be insulted in many different ways.”
However, he said he “can’t conceive of that happening today” in the UK.
He attended the exclusive private school Winchester College and worked as a waiter at a Southampton curry house during his summer holidays. He has attracted criticism from Labour for donating more than £100,000 to his former school, to fund bursaries for children who could not afford to attend it.
After finishing school he went on to Oxford to study philosophy, politics and economics, before studying for an MBA at Stanford University in California. There he met his wife, and the couple have two daughters.
During the previous leadership campaign, he often mentioned his daughters in the context of climate change. Answering a question on climate change during a BBC TV debate, Mr Sunak said he took “advice from my two young daughters, who are the experts of this in my household”.
END OF THE ARTICLE
”DOGS AND INDIANS NOT ALLOWED”
IN THE CLUB: ASSOCIATION LIFE IN COLONIAL SOUTH ASIA
Benjamin B Cohen
211 pages; Rs 695
One of the abiding mysteries of India’s horrific 200-year colonial encounter with England is the near-total absence of rancour between the peoples of the two countries. It is as if the depredations by the British never happened. The British have forgotten all about it, as they well might; and the Indians have decided to let bygones be bygones. Indeed, there is fairly large body of opinion in India that believes that the colonial experience was actually a good thing for the natives, what with all the mod-cons that the British kindly left behind – railways, ports, army, schools, hospitals, the judiciary, police and administrative apparatus and so on.
I have often sought an explanation for this and one of the best I ever heard came from a newspaper baron who said Indians and the British understand each other perfectly because both love to exclude people from social groups to which they belong. India, he said, had the caste system. The British had their own equivalent of it in England. And in India, well, they had their clubs.
These, as Benjamin Cohen points in this excellent and tidy little study with its fascinating bibliography, were designed to create islands of succour for the expatriates. Social homogeneity was the virtually sole requirement. The government types had their own clubs, and these were at the top of the totem pole. The businessmen, known deprecatingly as boxwallahs, too had their clubs, as did the Anglo-Indians and other persons of lesser social standing. The lines were clearly drawn and everyone was supposed to know his place.
They had, and still have, idiosyncratic rules. Women were not allowed until the late 19th century. Even then, they could only come as guests and not become members. They responded in the first few decades of the 20th century by forming their own clubs where no males were allowed to set foot.
You could not bring your own alcohol to the club. If you did you had to pay a fine before you could drink it. The process of becoming a member was typically designed to exclude the “wrong” types. A member had to nominate you; then another had to second you. Then all the members would vote whether or not to take you in. As in all voting there was politics and personal enmity. The means by which you voted against someone for whatever reason was the black wooden or ivory ball. You dropped it into the urn and your vote remained anonymous. White balls were used for saying yes. As the years went by the rules became more and more cumbersome.
The codes of conduct were strict and often silly. For example, a member was severely castigated and almost expelled because he sat on the bar. Mr Cohen provides a most entertaining account. Another didn’t become a member because he was foolish enough to call for a bearer while in the reading room and then, when he stepped out, whistle in the corridor outside it.
The clubs relied heavily on servants. The term extended from the club secretary to peons, masalchis and markers. There were scores of them in any decent club. They took care of everything that the members might need, including loans. In many of these clubs, although the practice was strictly forbidden, the servants used to lend money to the members. Clearly, when it came to money, the sahibs were not as picky as when it came to receiving reprimands sent by the club secretary or president. The markers were a special breed available to play tennis or billiards with a member who found himself alone on the court or at the table.
The food was and is generally awful, being fake British cooked mostly by Indians who had been taught how to make things like omelettes, cutlets and puddings. Some clubs tried to import chefs but the experiment didn’t work and the attempt was abandoned after a while.
The real problem, however, was warm alcohol. Members liked it to be cool, if not cold. But in the absence of refrigeration, the only way out was to keep the bottles covered in wet cloth covers, known for some reason as “petticoats”. Then in the mid-19th century, an American called Frederic Tudor appeared on the scene. He came to be known as the “Ice King” because he carted ice all the way from the east coast of America to India for sale to clubs and others, like the railways, which used it in tubs to cool the first class. These carriages were running till the mid-70s, minus the ice of course.
By the time the British left, there were over 500 clubs in existence. In most of them, dogs and Indians were not allowed. This practice was not very different from upper caste Indians not allowing Dalits into temples. And just as with the temples, the rule about the dogs could be relaxed but never about the Indians. It was only in the 20th century that this changed.
END OF THE ARTICLE