"There was no remorse, no apology, no sincerity from him"
Rishi Sunak is one of the most well-known faces in UK politics and has remained in the spotlight since his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020.
However, since the news of the Conservative Party breaking their own enforced lockdown rules during Covid-19, Sunak along with other figures have come under mass scrutiny.
Growing concerns from the public resulted in further leaks of government misconduct.
Then in July 2022, Sunak resigned as chancellor minutes after Sajid Javid quit his role as health secretary.
Both released statements about their choice, hinting that their decision was in the best interest of the public and they wanted to operate in an honest government.
Ample pressure was put on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign.
He eventually decided to resign as leader of the Conservative Party and would continue as Prime Minister until a new leader was elected.
Sunak announced his intent to run as the new party leader to replace Johnson. Javid and Home Secretary Priti Patel joined Sunak in the race but later dropped out.
British Asians across the UK were gripped at the possibility of a person of South Asian heritage getting elected as Prime Minister.
However, Sunak’s popularity has decreased immensely.
This is down to a number of factors – his deceit surrounding lockdown rules, his economic schemes and his massive wealth whilst increasing the cost of living.
So, if Rishi Sunak was to get elected as the next Prime Minister, how would the public feel? More importantly, how do they feel about him generally?
DESIblitz spoke to some British Asians around the UK to hear their thoughts.
Who is Rishi Sunak?
Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton to East African parents. His father, Yashvir was born in Kenya and his mother, Usha, was born in Tanzania.
His grandparents were born in Punjab but migrated from East Africa to the UK in the 60s.
Sunak has had an abundance of success in education. He’s studied at Winchester College and Oxford University. He later gained an MBA as a Fullbright Scholar at Stanford University.
His professional career has also thrived. He’s had stints for the likes of Goldman Sachs, The Children’s Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners.
In his own words, Rishi expressed on his website:
“My parents sacrificed a great deal so I could attend good schools.
“I have been lucky to live, study and work internationally. I met my wife, Akshata, in California where we lived for a number of years before returning home.
“We have two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka, who keep us busy and entertained.”
Akshata is the daughter of Indian billionaire, N. R. Narayana Murthy, who is the founder of Infosys.
In 2015, Rishi Sunak was first elected as a Member of Parliament, serving former Prime Minister Theresa May’s second government.
After May resigned, Sunak backed Boris Johnson’s push for Conservative leader. A successful campaign meant Sunak was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
He then took up the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer after Sajid Javid resigned in February 2020.
Sunak’s initial appointment was promising, especially in his financial response to COVID-19. He coined schemes such as furlough and Eat Out to Help Out.
Both strategies were received well by the UK public. Birmingham local Harpreet Kaur emphasised this:
“Furlough helped a lot during the lockdown. Being able to get paid and support my family whilst not going to work meant it was one less thing to worry about.
“It actually meant I could enjoy being with the kids without having to dwell too much on my budget, but I know others didn’t have it that easy.
“My son used to work in the food industry so Eat Out to Help Out was good for them.”
“To get people going out again, even if it was just for the discount, and have some normality back in his life helped him mentally.”
However, further down the line, this positivity started to dwindle. Further news about Rishi’s life came to light.
Reports exposing his personal life, wealth, outlook on the working class and political misconduct shifted the public’s opinion.
Controversy & Misconduct
The Partygate scandal opened up a lot of questions about the Conservative government and how truthful they were in imposing lockdown rules.
Photos, videos and emails were released of the government throwing parties and bashes during the same time they enforced a nationwide lockdown.
They strictly prohibited the public from going outdoors and said they would fine anyone going against this ‘law’.
However, after investigating, Sunak and others were fined for breaking their own rules.
In all of British history, he is the first Chancellor of the Exchequer to have been punished for breaking the law whilst in office.
This angered the public greatly. Ranjit Singh, a lawyer in London said:
“Rishi is a bum. He sits in his office chair along with those other frauds laughing at us.
“I knew people who couldn’t sit next to their loved ones at funerals and all the while, these people are drinking and mocking us.”
Simran Lalli*, a 28-year-old dentist agreed with Ranjit, stating:
“They were all on TV giving these strict regulations and making it seem as if we’re little children being told off.
“It was crazy thinking that they were making announcements and speeches knowing they had just thrown a party or worse, had one coming up.
“Even in the aftermath, there was no remorse, no apology, no sincerity from him or any of them.
“Rishi is one of the worst ones along with BoJo. They both talk with this wisdom as if they have all the answers and they haven’t faced any struggles whatsoever.”
We also spoke to a shopkeeper, Daljit, from Coventry who revealed:
“I would have thought someone like Rishi Sunak, coming from an Indian background would have better morals.”
“I thought he was for the people when he introduced furlough and stuff. But, turns out all Tories are liars. I was a fool for thinking differently.”
These views heightened amongst communities after a video circulated of a documentary that Sunak was a part of.
In 2001, he was interviewed for Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl, where he said:
“I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are working class… well, not working class.”
This comment sent shockwaves across the UK and went viral on social media. Many described Rishi as being “out of touch”.
Editor for Left Foot Forward, Basit Mahmood, tweeted:
“If you’re using Rishi Sunak as an example of how great a meritocracy we are as a country, showing that anybody can make it regardless of their background, remember…
“…most working-class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t go to Winchester or prep schools.”
Although, not everyone saw something wrong with his statement. Farah Mahmood*, a mum of three from Nottingham said:
“Well he won’t have those types of people around him ’cause he’s not been in that environment. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, to be honest.
“He’s from a posh place so will be around posh people. I’m from an underprivileged area so my mates aren’t going to be rich white people.”
Farah’s friend, Nabeela Khan*, had a different take:
“His attitude is very snotty in that video. It’s like he just remembers what he said and backtracked as if to think ‘ha working class friends’.
“Now, he’s trying to be everyone’s friend? He’s a politician, he’ll make it out like he’s for the people and going to areas with his high-class security and doing community work.
“It’s all for publicity and a show.”
It seems as if British Asians are more disappointed in how Sunak has conducted himself within the government.
Whilst some acknowledge his background and policies, others focus on where his focus lies as a British South Asian himself.
This is especially important towards the confidence some British people will have towards Sunak if was elected as Prime Minister.
In a 2022 DESIblitz poll, we asked “Do you think Rishi Sunak would be a good PM?”. The results speak for themselves.
7% voted for “yes”, 16% voted for “potentially” but 67% of voters chose “no”.
One of the biggest elements of Sunak’s personal life that surfaced is his wealth.
His wife, Akshata, has a 0.91% stake in her father’s company, Infosys, valued at around £690 million. As of April 2022, it makes her one of the richest women in Britain.
The company also operates in Russia and remained in business during the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Again, drawing backlash, although it decided to close its offices there in April 2022.
The businesswoman also has shares in restaurant Wendy’s in India, Digme Fitness, Koro Kids and two of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants.
The public was appalled that Sunak was surrounded by this type of wealth whilst making policies that would increase the cost of living for the majority of the UK.
The tension heightened when it was reported that he and his wife moved to a newly-refurbished luxury West London home as thousands were suffering from bills, petrol prices and food shortages.
The Sunday Times Rich List 2022 revealed Sunak and Murty were 222nd among the wealthiest people in the UK.
A combined fortune of £730 million makes him the first “frontline politician to join the rich list”.
However, the UK was struggling to deal with a 9% inflation, its highest level in 40 years. In light of this, Jagdeep Bogal said:
“It amazes me that they have properties across the world and can afford luxury apartments but we’re budgeting for petrol.
“We had to cut back on food shopping and I’ve had to try and figure out how to pay for my kids’ school fees.
“Then they’re trying to say they’re making these laws for us but it’s for them. They don’t even get taxed properly.”
Jagdeep’s comments were backed up by Julia Davies, a founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK.
The organisation is a group of super-rich people calling for a wealth tax. Davies has come out declaring:
“The fact that our [ex] chancellor now joins the ranks of the richest people in the UK – while he and the government refuse to consider taxing wealth over work – is a shocking insight into our political system.
“We have repeatedly asked the chancellor to raise taxes on us, the wealthiest people in society.
“His appearance on the rich list makes it very clear why he’s not listening.”
Poonam Patel*, a 31-year-old from London has agreed, saying:
“Why hasn’t Rishi introduced any increase in tax for the rich?
“Why are we, the ones who are already battling having to find new ways of coping?”
“He just doesn’t get it. He should know from his background how hard it is, especially as an ethnic minority. But then again, with all that money, how would he understand?”
Likewise, Arun Rai*, a 40-year-old doctor from Yorkshire gave us his insight:
“I have a well-paid job and I’m lucky enough to have savings that I can rely on. But for the first time, I’ve had to dip into them to afford normal things.
“What about those on benefits, or working multiple jobs or doing overtime to try and survive?
“Rishi will go out, do his photo ops, do some half-hearted speech in the best interest of the public and now he’s running for PM – it’s a shambles.
“He runs away when things get tough and when there’s an opportunity to make money, he’s right back in the mix.”
Labourer, Navjot Jassi* from Swansea chimed in with his views:
“I wasn’t even mad about Rishi’s wealth until this whole cost of the living issue came up. I knew politicians lied and were making their money, but this showed me how bad it actually is.
“Like, they’re stealing from us, not paying a dime and still torturing us more.
“I live paycheck to paycheck and can barely support my daughter. I’ve had sleepless nights and I wake up to him buying a new house.
“He and the rest of the Tories don’t have an ounce of experience coming from where I come from.”
However, others have a contrasting view. In our DESIblitz poll, we also begged the question – “does Rishi Sunak’s wealth bother you?”.
Surprisingly, it was neck and neck with 51% voting for “yes” and 49% voting for “no”. Gagan Cheema*, a 26-year-old from Brighton gave some insight into this:
“Rishi’s money doesn’t actually bother me. If anything I’m kind of glad a brown person is doing so well.
“What does bother me is his inability to provide the same opportunities for us.
“He says he wants to and that’s what he’s working towards, but I can’t see that.
“By all means, he has children and a family to feed and you have to see it from that angle.”
Ash Mukbar*, a stocktaker from Luton, shares a similar stance:
“If I was him, I’d be spending the money I had on fancy things as well. We all would in his position I reckon.
“People are gonna hate no matter what he does. I wanna be that rich too. To be honest, though, I wouldn’t jeopardise the lives of others to get there.
“That’s what I feel like he is doing but then again, I can’t knock the guy.”
It seems that British Asians are split between their viewpoints on Rishi Sunak’s wealth.
Although the overriding consensus is how his wealth directly conflicts with the motives he has to provide a better living for the public.
The lack of tax on the wealthy, his multiple properties, and the rise in the cost of living show inconsistencies in his motives.
The general view towards Sunak from British Asians is quite negative in nature. Although, there are undertones of a belief that he could be a potentially good politician.
However, the scandals he has been a part of as well as his involvement in a political party drenched in wrongdoings can’t go unnoticed.
Only time will tell if the public opinion will shift in his favour. But, it seems that is a big mountain to climb.