Rishi Sunak

Sunak in 2017
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Assumed office
13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded bySajid Javid
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byLiz Truss
Succeeded byStephen Barclay
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government
In office
9 January 2018 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byMarcus Jones
Succeeded byLuke Hall
Member of Parliament
for Richmond (Yorks)
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byWilliam Hague
Majority27,210 (47.2%)
Personal details
Born (1980-05-12) 12 May 1980 (age 40)
Southampton, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
Akshata Murthy
(m. 2005)
Children2
RelativesN. R. Narayana Murthy (father-in-law)
Sudha Murty (mother-in-law)
EducationWinchester College
Alma materLincoln College, Oxford (BA)
Stanford University (MBA)
WebsitePersonal website

Rishi Sunak (born 12 May 1980) is a British politician who has been Chancellor of the Exchequer since February 2020. A member of the Conservative Party, he was previously Chief Secretary to the Treasury from July 2019 to February 2020. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond (Yorks) in North Yorkshire since 2015.

Born in Southampton to Punjabi Hindu parents who had emigrated from East Africa, Sunak was educated at Winchester College. He subsequently read philosophy, politics and economics at Lincoln College, Oxford, and later gained an MBA from Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar. Whilst studying at Stanford, he met his future wife Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Indian billionaire businessman N. R. Narayana Murthy. After graduating, he worked for Goldman Sachs and later as a partner at the hedge fund firms The Children's Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners.

He served in Theresa May's second government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government. He voted thrice in favour of May's Brexit withdrawal agreement. After May resigned, Sunak was a supporter of Boris Johnson's campaign to become Conservative leader. After Johnson was elected and appointed prime minister, he appointed Sunak Chief Secretary to the Treasury, deputising for Chancellor Sajid Javid at HM Treasury. He replaced Javid after his resignation in February 2020. His appointment coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, and he has led the Treasury's response to the ongoing crisis. As part of this, he launched a furlough scheme for job retention and the hospitality subsidy scheme Eat Out to Help Out.

Early life and education

Sunak was born on 12 May 1980 in Southampton, Hampshire,[1][2] to Yashvir and Usha Sunak.[3] He is the eldest of three siblings.[2] His brother Sanjay is a psychologist and his sister Raakhi works as the COVID-19 United Nations engagement and strategy lead at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.[4] His father Yashvir was born in Kenya and his mother Usha was born in Tanzania. They are both Hindus.[5] His grandparents were born in Punjab, a province of British India, and emigrated from East Africa with their children to the UK in the 1960s.[6] Yashvir was a general practitioner (GP), and Usha was a pharmacist who ran a local pharmacy.[1][3][7]

Sunak attended Winchester College, an all-boys' public boarding school, where he was head boy and the editor of the school paper.[4][8] He waited tables at a curry house in Southampton during his summer holidays.[5][9] He studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lincoln College, Oxford, graduating with a First in 2001.[1][8] During his time at the university, he undertook brief work experience at Conservative Campaign Headquarters.[4] In 2006, he obtained an MBA from Stanford University, where he was a Fulbright scholar.[1][10][11]

Business career

Sunak worked as an analyst for investment bank Goldman Sachs between 2001 and 2004.[1][12] He then worked for hedge fund management firm The Children's Investment Fund Management (TCI), becoming a partner in September 2006.[13] He left in November 2009[14] to join former colleagues at new hedge fund firm Theleme Partners, which launched in October 2010 with an initial $700 million.[15][16][17] Sunak was also a director of investment firm Catamaran Ventures, owned by his father-in-law, Indian businessman N. R. Narayana Murthy.[12][18]

Political career

Member of Parliament

Sunak was selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond (Yorks) in October 2014. The seat had previously been held by William Hague, a former leader of the party, Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State, who chose to stand down at the following general election.[8] The seat is one of the safest Conservative seats in the United Kingdom and has been held by the party for over 100 years.[19] 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.[20] He was elected as MP for the constituency in the 2015 general election with a majority of 19,550 (36.2%).[21] During the 2015–2017 parliament he was a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.[22]

Sunak supported the UK leaving the European Union (EU) in the June 2016 membership referendum.[23] 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 for the creation of a retail bond market for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).[24][25][26]

Sunak was re-elected as MP in the 2017 general election, with an increased majority of 23,108 (40.5%).[27] He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Local Government between January 2018 and July 2019.[22] Sunak voted for then-Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement on all three occasions and voted against a referendum on any withdrawal agreement.[28] He 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.[29][30]

He was re-elected in the 2019 general election with an increased majority of 27,210 (47.2%).[31] During the election campaign, Sunak represented the Conservatives in both the BBC's and ITV's seven-way election debates.[32][33]

Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Sunak was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 24 July 2019 and served under Chancellor Sajid Javid until February 2020.[34] He became a member of the Privy Council the next day.[35]

Chancellor of the Exchequer

Chancellorship of Rishi Sunak
13 February 2020 – present
Rishi Sunak
PartyConservative
Nominated byBoris Johnson
Appointed byElizabeth II
Seat11 Downing Street

Appointment

In the weeks leading up to Sunak's appointment as Chancellor, a number of briefings in the press had suggested that a new economic ministry led by Sunak might be established, to reduce the power and political influence of Chancellor Sajid Javid at the Treasury. Sunak was considered to be a Johnson loyalist, favoured by Dominic Cummings, and seen as the "rising star" minister who had ably represented the Prime Minister during the 2019 election debates.[36][37] By February 2020, it was reported by The Guardian that Javid would remain in his role as Chancellor and that Sunak would stay on as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in order for the Prime Minister's Chief Adviser, Cummings, to "keep an eye" on Javid.[38]

Sunak was promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer on 13 February 2020 as part of a cabinet reshuffle, after the resignation of his predecessor, Javid, on the same day.[39][40] Javid had resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer following a meeting with Prime Minister Johnson. During the meeting, Johnson had offered to keep his position on the condition that he dismiss all of his advisers at the Treasury, to be replaced with individuals selected by Cummings. Upon resigning, Javid told the Press Association that "no self-respecting minister would accept those terms".[40][41] Some political commentators saw Sunak's appointment as signalling the end of the Treasury's independence from Downing Street, with Robert Shrimsley, chief political commentator of the Financial Times, arguing that "good government often depends on senior ministers – and the Chancellor in particular – being able to fight bad ideas".[42]

COVID-19 pandemic

Sunak's first budget took place on 11 March 2020.[43] This included an announcement of £30 billion of additional spending of which £12 billion was allocated for mitigation of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.[44]

Job retention scheme

On 17 March, Sunak announced £330 billion in emergency support for businesses,[45] as well as a salary subsidy ("furlough") scheme for employees. This was the first time a British government had created such an employee retention scheme.[46][47] The scheme was announced on 20 March 2020 as providing grants to employers to pay 80% of a staff wage and employment costs each month, up to a total of £2,500 per person per month.[48] The cost has been estimated at £14 billion a month to run.[49]

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) initially ran for three months and was backdated to 1 March. Following a three-week extension of the countrywide lockdown the scheme was extended by Sunak until the end of June 2020.[50][51] At the end of May, Sunak extended the scheme until the end of October 2020. The decision to extend the job retention scheme was made to avoid or defer mass redundancies, company bankruptcies and potential unemployment levels not seen since the 1930s.[52] After a second lockdown in England was announced on 31 October 2020, a further extension was announced until 2 December 2020,[53] this was followed on 5 November 2020 by a lengthy extension until 31 March 2021.[54] A further extension until 30 April 2021 was announced by Sunak on 17 December 2020.[55] In the 2021 United Kingdom budget held on 3 March 2021, Sunak confirmed that the scheme had been extended once more until 30 September 2021.[56]

Following changes to the scheme at the end of May, the director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said that being asked to pay wages when businesses had not been trading was an added pressure. While the Federation of Small Businesses were surprised that the Chancellor had announced a tapering of the scheme when ending it.[57] Northern Ireland's economy minister Diane Dodds said that changes to the scheme could be very difficult for some sectors uncertain about when they can reopen, particularly in the hospitality and retail sector, whilst finance minister Conor Murphy said that it was too early in the economic recovery.[58] By 15 August 80,433 firms had returned £215,756,121 that had been claimed under the scheme. Other companies had claimed smaller amounts of grant cash on the next instalment to compensate for any over payment. HMRC officials believed that £3.5 billion may have been paid out in error or to fraudsters.[59]

Eat Out to Help Out

In July, he unveiled a plan for a further £30 billion of spending which included a stamp duty holiday, a cut to VAT for the hospitality sector, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and a job retention bonus for employers.[60][61] Eat Out to Help Out was announced to support and create jobs in the hospitality industry. The government subsidised food and soft drinks at participating cafes, pubs and restaurants at 50%, up to £10 per person. The offer was available from 3 to 31 August on Monday to Wednesday each week.[62] In total, the scheme subsidised £849 million in meals.[63] Some consider the scheme to be a success in boosting the hospitality industry,[64] however others disagree.[65] In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study at the University of Warwick found that the scheme contributed to a rise in COVID-19 infections of between 8% and 17%.[66]

As the pandemic generated a financial impact, Chancellor Sunak's measures received criticism as some workers were unable to qualify for the Treasury's income support measures. The acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, said that people were being unfairly "hung out to dry", with "their dream jobs turning into nightmares" after hundreds of MPs contacted the Chancellor.[67] The Institute for Employment Studies estimated that 100,000 people could not be eligible for any type of government help as they started a new job to too late to be included on the job retention scheme. While UKHospitality informed the Treasury Select Committee that between 350,000 and 500,000 workers in its sector were not eligible.[68][69]

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.[70]

On 26 September, Chancellor Sunak was said to have opposed a second lockdown with the threat of his resignation, due to what he saw as the dire economic impacts it would have and the responsibility he would have to suffer for that.[71][72]

In his 2021 budget, he announced that the deficit had risen to £355 billion in the fiscal year 2020/2021, the highest in peacetime.[73] The budget included an increase in the rate of corporation tax from 19% to 25% in 2023, a five-year freeze in the tax-free personal allowance and the higher rate income tax threshold, and the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September.[74] Sunak was the first Chancellor to raise the corporation tax rate since Healey in 1974.[73]

Personal life

Sunak married Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire and co-founder of Infosys, N. R. Narayana Murthy, in August 2009.[8] They met while studying at Stanford University and have two daughters.[8][10] Akshata is a director at her father's investment firm Catamaran Ventures and manages her own fashion label.[75]

Sunak was reported to have not declared much of his wife and family's financial interests on the register of ministers' interests, including a combined £1.7 billion shareholding in Infosys. Sunak is required under the ministerial code to declare interests that are "relevant" to his responsibilities and "which might be thought to give rise to a conflict" with his public duties.[76] He has been referred to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[77]

Sunak and his wife live in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, and also own a house in Kensington and a flat in Santa Monica, California.[4] He is a Hindu,[6] and has taken his oath at the House of Commons on the Bhagavad Gita since 2017.[78][79] Sunak is a teetotaller.[2][6] He was previously a governor of the East London Science School.[20]

He is close friends with The Spectator's political editor James Forsyth whom he has known since their schooldays at Winchester College. Sunak was best man at his wedding to journalist Allegra Stratton, and they are godparents to each other's children.[4]

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Hague
Member of Parliament
for Richmond (Yorks)

2015–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Liz Truss
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
2019–2020
Succeeded by
Stephen Barclay
Preceded by
Sajid Javid
Chancellor of the Exchequer
2020–present
Incumbent
Second Lord of the Treasury
2020–present