Rishi Sunak

Someone’s ethnicity tells a story. If you are Indian then your parents and grandparents may have lived in certain spaces within India, if you are Indian and living in Britain then there is a story about how and why your family migrated away from a country they had lived in for thousands of years to an Island just off of the European mainland. Within this story are sociological, political and cultural ideas that may condition someone’s experience of the world they inhabit. For instance, in regard to migration from India there is a relationship towards the legacy of British colonialism which defines India’s cities, education system and cricket team. Many of India’s greatest monuments, the Gateway of India and Parliament House, were built by the British. Two of India’s most famous exports, tea and cricket, were introduced by the British. India’s favourite honeymooning spot and once the headquarters of Britain’s South Asian Empire, Simla, is like a model British village with protestant churches and large estates. Therefore, Indian ethnicity implies a relationship to a certain British history that may not be the same as someone living in Britain with British ethnicity, European ethnicity, Jewish ethnicity or Australian ethnicity. 

Conservative Politician Rishi Sunak is the favourite to become the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. After devouring essays, interviews, videos, articles and even a book on Sunak I have found two features that define him within the public imagination: his ethnicity and his wealth. 

Rishi Sunak is the son of Indian migrants. A practising Hindu he grew up in Southampton and attended Winchester boarding school where he was good at Cricket and became the head boy. He then went to Oxford University and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lincoln College. Ignoring student politics he was mainly concerned with making money, joining the Oxford University Investment Club and working to achieve an internship at Goldman Sachs. After the Goldman Sachs internship Sunak joined a hedge fund in London, then going to Stanford Business school where he met his now wife Akshata Murty. Akshata is the daughter of India’s 6th richest man and the founder of technology company Infosys. They got married in 2009 in Bangalore where Winchester classmate and Spectator journalist James Forsyth was his best man. The wedding was covered in the Indian media with a series of Indian celebrities attending. The couple spent most of their time in America before 2013 when Sunak decided to enter politics writing for the Thatcherite think tank Policy Exchange. Sunak’s entrance into the political world was a report on the consequences of ethnicity within the United Kingdom. His report called A Portrait of Modern Britain described the different social science trends of ethnic minorities within the United Kingdom. He gained great publicity from the report and gave a personal brief to Theresa May. He wrote subsequent articles on how the Conservative party could increase their popularity amongst minority ethnic voters that traditionally supported Labour. In 2015 he won an election in Richmond Yorkshire. This Conservative Party stronghold was previously the seat of former Conservative Party leader William Hague. After the European Union failed to make concessions on immigration, Sunak campaigned to leave the European Union in 2015 describing it as the most difficult decision he had to make as a Member of Parliament. Sunak impressed his colleagues with his intelligence, work rate and charisma. Theresa May selected Sunak to become a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Local Government. When Theresa May resigned from the Tory Party Sunak co-wrote an article supporting Boris Johnson’s leadership bid. In 2019 Boris Johnson made Rishi Sunak the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sunak’s defining challenge as the Chancellor of the Exchequer was dealing with the Coronavirus. During the Coronavirus, Sunak had the enviable job of giving the public free money. Like some over-excited Talk Show Host Sunak would often be seen making speeches on how he was going to give millions of pounds to the public to help deal with the Coronavirus. During the Coronavirus Sunak attended an illegal Birthday Party for Boris Johnson at Number 10 Downing Street. Rather weirdly none of the hundreds of Conservative party aids felt that it was inappropriate that the people that had conceptualised and then implemented the laws were breaking them. The revelation of these events was exposed in 2021, with videos coming out of James Forsyth’s wife, Alegra Stratton, Johnson’s communications advisor during the Coronavirus making jokes about how large the parties had been. In 2022 Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were fined for their attendance at these parties, eventually leading to a vote of no confidence within the Prime Minister and then his resignation in July 2022. 

Just as Sunak entered the world of Conservative Politics through an investigation of the subject of race within the United Kingdom, Sunak’s race seems to be the defining feature within the public imagination. Most of Sunak’s interviews feature statements about his ethnicity talking about his Hinduism, his love of Bollywood and the Indian cricket team. While it may seem crass or ignorant to mention ethnicity when talking about a Member of Parliament, the fact of the matter is that ethnicity matters and demands a serious discussion which is very often silenced by intellectual weaklings and moral cowards. In America, the morally odious Donald Trump is the Republican’s choice of candidate primarily because of his ethnicity. Ethnic difference conditions one’s experience of the United Kingdom. Race is a subject that has defined power relations for hundreds of years. In Britain, ethnically British people asserted superiority based on the colour of their skin and defended these ideas with weapons. Ethnic minorities are conditioned by institutional, cultural, symbolic and bio-political violence. Ethnically British people may have had the experience of being subject to physical or psychological violence as a result of an ethnic minority, who in part will be behaving as a response to the conditioning created through their ethnicity. 

Indian media has given great coverage towards Sunak’s bid to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 32% of Sunak’s 25 most popular YouTube videos are from Indian media organisations. Many of these Indian video titles and comments explicitly frame his leadership campaign in terms of Indian nationalism and British colonialism. A video called ‘Indian-Origin Rishi Sunak Going To Be UK’s PM. Why is India everywhere? Pakistan reaction on India’ has 142 thousand views. The Hindu Times video ‘Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman: The Indian-origin favourites amid race for UK PM’ post has 188 thousand views. The top comments demonstrate explicit Indian nationalism: ‘We Indians are Indians where ever we go… congratulations all Indians’ and ‘Golden Time for Indian people’. Grossly there’s evidence of racism towards Briton’s. The top comment on Rishi Sunak’s tenth most popular video reads ‘A son from the same India Britain ruled for 200 years is now going to rule over these white people. I’m proud of you Rishi Sunak.’. Therefore Sunak’s ethnicity is of supreme importance to British and Indian media. For Britons, it may be represented as something novel, whereas for Indian it is a sign of national achievement and even revenge over the white Britons that once dominated India. These media framings suggest that by way of his ethnicity Sunak isn’t British. This is significant because it suggests that Sunak’s selection to become the British Prime Minister would be of greater significance to Indian communicative power than British communicative power making Britain look weak. If the Conservative Party, a foundational organisation of British Protestantism, elected an ethnically Indian Hindu as its leader what would be the consequential interpretation of British ethnicity? If it is already encouraging Indian’s to assert racial superiority over Britains what might be the consequences from Ethnic Minorities living in Britain that have been subject to lifelong levels of symbolic, cultural and political conditioning on account of their ethnicity? 

One gets the sense amongst some of Sunak’s supporters within the Conservative party that they will be given some of Sunak’s fortune through virtue of pledging support to him. Sunak would become Britain’s richest Prime Minister. Sunak and his wife are worth £730 million according to the Sunday Times. The majority of this wealth seems to come from Sunak’s wife Akshay Murty, through shares in her fathers company Infosys. This is hugely significant because it means that the thing that makes Sunak most attractive is the fact that he’s married to an Indian woman with shares in an Indian company. This should be of great concern to the British public because it suggests that not only is Sunak’s ethnicity encouraging violence towards Britons, but the majority of his families financial power lies within an Indian company. Rishi Sunak’s connections with India are far more than just the story of his ethnicity, in fact the greatest factor of his public appeal seems to lie within his networks and connection towards India. India is governed by an authoritarian right wing Hindu Nationalist party called the BJP. The BJP failed to vote against the UN resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When one thinks about Britain’s greatest problems within the coming century, the crises in British spirituality, the climate crises, the relationship between British citizens and technology monopolies, the war in Ukraine and the emergence of China, none of these problems seem to be helped by Sunak’s responsibility towards his Indian connections and may in fact be worsened if Sunak felt compromised by his relationship towards his wife’s extraordinarily rich family. At a time of war with Russia when great sacrifices are being made by countries throughout NATO, Sunak’s father-in-laws company is still operating within Russia. This is hugely significant to Britain’s relationship to our allies fighting the War in Ukraine. And this gets at a broader problem with Sunak. He fails to demonstrate intellectual character. The most explicit idea I’ve found out from his biography is that he loves money. 

Sunak is definitely a well connected star of the Conservative party however I think it would be harmful to himself, to the Conservative party and to the United Kingdom if he were to become the Prime Minister. 

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