New British prime minister makes history

Britain’s former finance minister Rishi Sunak assumed office as the country’s prime minister on Tuesday (25 October), following Liz Truss’s resignation last week after just six weeks in office.

It’s been a tumultuous period for British politics as the government struggles to stabilise the economy of the country, one of the world’s biggest. Sunak, who had been selected as leader of the governing Conservative Party on Monday, is the third prime minister this year.

Sunak has pledged to tackle Britain’s “profound economic crisis” and earn the country’s trust in an address to the nation.

“I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda,” said Sunak. “This will mean difficult decisions to come.”

While Ms Truss made history for leading the shortest government in British history, her successor, Sunak, followed up with another history of his own being the first leader of the country of non-European origin.

Sunak, a practising Hindu, is also the first non-Christian to head the UK government.

Expectedly, the emergence of the 42-year-old Indian-descent Conservative leader as prime minister is being celebrated not only in India but across the global Indian diaspora.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, an Indian academic and writer, sees Sunak’s elevation as pointing to a “notable new level of multicultural tolerance among the British electorate and the political class”.

Significantly, the new prime minister buttresses the trail-blazing career trajectory of the Indian diaspora, with its members heading many global companies. In Silicon Valley, Parag Agrawal heads Twitter, Satya Nadella heads Microsoft, Sundar Pichai heads Google, Shantanu Narayen heads Adobe, while Arvind Krishna leads IBM.

Indians have always been fascinated by the career success of the diaspora, says Salil Tripathi, a New York-based Indian author.”They take a look of pride when a Sundar Pichai runs Google, or Satya Nadella runs Microsoft. These successes overseas are seen as vindication of Indian excellence. The fact that these individuals succeeded in an alien environment is a matter of particular pride,” Tripathi says.

Sunak was born on 12 May 1980 in Southampton, Hampshire, to parents of Indian descent who migrated to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s. He was educated at Winchester College, studied philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Lincoln College, Oxford, and earned an MBA from Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar.

Sunak, who is is married with two young daughters, served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 to 2022 and Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2019 to 2020, and he has been Member of Parliament (MP) since 2015.

Sola Jolaoso

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