THE UK has a new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, a 39-year-old father of two daughters who is the first man of Hindu origin to hold one of the Great Offices of State.

He was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday in the wake of the (enforced) resignation of Sajid Javid, leaving Sunak less than four weeks to prepare the Budget which is due on Wednesday, March 11, but which may now be postponed in the wake of the Cabinet reshuffle.


Hardly a household name, Sunak’s political rise has been meteoric. He won his Richmond seat – formerly held by William Hague, below – in May 2015 and has increased his majority in the two subsequent elections to make Richmond one of the safest Tory seats in the UK.

He got his first step into Government just two years later, serving as a parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from June 2017 until his first ministerial appointment.

That was as parliamentary under secretary of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government from January 9, 2018. Before yesterday’s promotion he was previously chief secretary to the Treasury from July 24, 2019.

According to his official biography, Sunak went to Winchester College and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University. He was also a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University in the USA where he studied for his MBA. At Stanford he met his future wife, a fellow student, Akshata Murthy, whose father N.R. Narayana Murthy is a billionaire who is said to be India’s sixth-wealthiest man thanks to his ownership of multinational business technology giant Infosys. Akshata herself is a multi-millionaire owner of design company.


His alma mater Winchester is one of the most prestigious and expensive – £40,000 a year – public (private) schools in England. Its alumni are known as Old Wykehamists after the school’s founder William of Wykeham.

Among those Old Wykehamists are several bishops, six Victoria Cross winners, at least two former chancellors – Labour’s Hugh Gaitskell and the Conservatives’ Geoffrey Howe – as well as the Scot who won the Battle of Britain, Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding, the 1st Baron Dowding. Labour’s current chief spin doctor Seumas Milne, and the late George Younger, former Secretary of State for Scotland, were also at Winchester, as was Tim Brooke-Taylor of Goodies fame, the newsreader Reginal Bosanquet and Basil Fawlty – well, he wears an Old Wykehamist tie in Fawlty Towers.

Sunak has at least had experience of life outside politics. The Southampton-born son of an Indian GP who immigrated from East Africa, according to his biog “Sunak spent his professional career before politics in business and finance, working internationally. He co-founded an investment firm working with companies in multiple geographies. He then used that experience to help small and entrepreneurial British companies grow.”


That is what makes his appointment so interesting. A confirmed Brexiteer, he was very friendly with his boss at the Treasury, Sajid Javid, and it was made clear to him that the price of becoming chancellor would be an amalgamation of the Treasury and No. 10 special advisors’ offices, presumably under the control of Dominic Cummings. Yet still he took the job so he is a toady, but a wimp? The question is does he know something we don’t about Boris’s future, because there’s no doubt Sunak is a very ambitious man.


Unless he personally finds a cure for coronavirus in the next few days, Sunak is in for a pounding before and after the Budget. There are just too many vested interests competing over a limited wallet even if austerity is over. His future career rests on the deals he will do before the Budget.

He has made his views on Scottish independence known as he is for “strengthening our Union, and levelling up and uniting our country”.

If he does succeed Johnson in No. 10, he could yet be the Prime Minister who presides over the end of the Union.