In January 2018, recently re-elected as a Member of Parliament, Rishi Sunak was appointed Parliamentary Undersecretary for Local Government, one of the least important posts in British governments. Today, less than two years later, Sunak, is Minister of Economy, is the most popular Conservative politician in the UK – also more than his boss Boris Johnson – and his name is so well known that it ended up on the posters of the largest pub chain in the country. For some time, he has been spoken of as the future leader of the Conservative party and as a modern politician radically different from Johnson; its opposite.
Rishi Sunak is 40 years old, married and has two children. He was born in Southampton; his father and mother are of Indian descent, but were born in Kenya and Tanzania respectively and moved to the UK in the 1960s.
Sunak studied at Oxford, then at Stanford and for several years after graduating he worked in finance: as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and then in various hedge funds. These jobs had already enriched him, but in 2009 his economic conditions improved further after his marriage to Akshata Murthy, who owns a fashion company, runs an investment fund and is the daughter of the sixth richest man in India.
In 2015, Sunak ran for the first time and was elected Member of Parliament in a constituency in the north of England. He has been part of the Conservative party since he was a boy and is considered very competent and brilliant. When Boris Johnson chose him as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer (the Minister of Economy) last February, however, he did so hoping to replace the then Minister Sajid Javid with someone more malleable. Sunak was after all a very young and inexperienced politician, in some ways an unknown: like many other government ministers, he seemed to have been chosen mainly for his ability to remain in Johnson’s shadow. After his appointment, the Financial Times wrote that up to that point Sunak had made a career “without a trace“, Both in politics and in finance, and that no one really knew what minister he would be.
His tenure as minister, however, began as no one could have imagined: in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis like never before. And from the months of the lockdown onwards, Sunak was able to work with great efficiency, approving extraordinary measures never seen before and managing to make everything work. While his government was being criticized for extremely chaotic handling of the epidemic – Johnson himself underestimated the risks of the coronavirus, before falling ill himself – Sunak has also been praised overseas for the way he handled economic aid for workers. and commercial activities, managing to ensure that they were received by almost all those who needed them and in a short time.
– Read also: “How not to respond to a pandemic”
“Rishi Sunak, legend: the man who promoted fiscal equality between bars and supermarkets” (the latter had always had a lower VAT)
It was pointed out that Sunak’s work was probably facilitated by the fact that his ministry is historically one of the most efficient in the government; but almost everyone recognizes Sunak at least as being able to manage a very complex machine, even coming up with some ideas.
One of the initiatives introduced by his ministry to help the restaurant sector recover was 50 percent discounts at the restaurants they chose to join (and which were later reimbursed by the government).
The project was called “Eat Out to Help“(” Eat out to help “), but it was commonly renamed” Rishi Dishes “,” Rishi’s Dishes “. A VAT reduction that allowed for discounts on the price of beer in bars was advertised by JD Wetherspoon – Britain’s largest pub chain – with posters talking about “Sunak’s Specials”, “Sunak Offer”, and praising the minister.
L’Economist and the Times, who have covered Sunak’s unexpected popularity in recent weeks, wrote that things could soon change as his ministry faces the large debt that the extraordinary economic measures have generated. “It’s easy to be popular when you give people money,” wrote theEconomist “It’s more complicated to be when you have to take them off.” The workers’ income aid plan introduced during the lockdown has recently been replaced with a much less generous system and it is likely that Sunak will be forced to raise taxes in the future. “He has shown a lot of competence,” leading Conservative politician Andrew Mitchell said of him, but “the real test for an economy minister is making ends meet.”
Sunak’s popularity, the newspapers write, has not only grown among voters, but also within the Conservative party, where his competence and his way of doing things are highly appreciated. Sunak is considered the opposite of Johnson in form and substance. The prime minister is a politician known for his over the top ways, for being very chaotic and for the little interest he seems to show in the details and technicalities of politics. Sunak is an affable and kind man, very quiet, and an organized politician, who thoroughly studies the issues he deals with and can talk about them with great precision.
Sunak at a press conference in late September (John Sibley-WPA Pool / Getty Images)
Many Conservative politicians like Sunak for how he is opposing some of Johnson’s plans to manage the epidemic – in recent weeks, for example, he has opposed the possibility of a new lockdown -, others have appreciated his pragmatism in managing the epidemic. Brexit negotiations, of which he was one of the supporters. Privately, he wrote the Times, Sunak was among the ministers who are pushing Johnson to find a compromise with the European Union to limit the damage to the economy. Where Johnson, even within the party, has always sought to be a polarizing figure, Sunak presented himself as a unifier.
At the moment no one in the party is thinking about a change of leadership: Johnson has recently won the elections and still has the support of many MPs. Sunak himself, on a few occasions, has tried to dismiss the talk about his political future, publicly praising Johnson. The latter, the newspapers write, is not particularly happy with the popularity of his minister, who, however, as the Times, in the midst of an economic crisis and a few months after his appointment is in fact “impossible to fire”.