London: Rishi Sunak, the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, on Friday formally launched his bid to succeed Boris Johnson as the new Conservative Party leader and future Prime Minister with a promise to lead the UK in the “right direction”, becoming the highest-profile Tory Member of Parliament yet to throw his hat in the ring for the leadership race. The 42-year-old British Indian minister resigned from the UK Cabinet earlier this week, setting off events in motion that ultimately led to Johnson’s resignation.
His #Ready4Rishi campaign kicked off with a message on Twitter, accompanied by a video made up of images of his Indian-origin grandparents and parents who migrated to the UK via East Africa.
“I’m standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister. Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country,” said Sunak. “Someone has to grip this moment and make the right decisions,” he said in the video.
I’m standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and your Prime Minister.
Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country. #Ready4Rishi
“Do we confront this moment with honesty, seriousness and determination or do we tell ourselves comforting fairy tales that might make us feel better in the moment but will leave our children worse off tomorrow,” he questioned.
The MP for Richmond in Yorkshire since 2015 goes on to promise to lead the country in the right direction based on “non-negotiable values” of “patriotism, fairness and hard work”.
“Family is everything to me and my family gave me opportunities they could only dream of. But it was Britain, our country, that gave them and millions like them the chance for a better future,” he said.
“I got into politics because I want everyone in this country to have those same opportunities, to be able to give their children a better future. Our country faces huge challenges, the most serious for a generation and the decisions we make today will decide whether the next generation of British people will also have a chance of a better future,” he added.
Referring to his most recent role as finance minister, Sunak points out how he ran the “toughest department” in the UK government through the toughest times when faced with the nightmare of COVID.
“We’ve had enough of division. Politics at its best is a unifying endeavour and I have spent my career bringing people together because that is the only way to succeed,” he said, adding that he would set out more about his vision in the coming days and weeks.
Sunak, son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, has long been seen as an heir apparent to Johnson at 10 Downing Street and is believed to have garnered the support of a significant chunk of the Tory party to launch his candidacy.
“We need to make sure that’s not the end of the British Indian story. There’s lots more we can achieve. There’s lots more we can do. And I’m really excited about the future,” he told reporters last week, when asked if he could go on to be the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the UK.
“I’m incredibly proud of where I come from. It will always be an enormous part of who I am. And it brings me joy to live, and belong, in a country where, for all our faults, for all our challenges, someone like me can become Chancellor. Our task now is to make sure that’s not the end of the British Indian story, but the beginning,” he noted in a speech at the UK-India Awards ceremony last week.
Sunak, who was born and grew up in the coastal English town of Southampton, has referred to Britain as a “rewarding Karma Bhoomi” as he reflected upon the sacrifices made by his National Health Service (NHS) general practitioner (GP) father Yashvir and pharmacist mother Usha.
The Oxford and Stanford University alumni entered politics just before the Brexit referendum in 2016 and moved into junior roles in the UK’s Treasury department before being promoted to the top job of Chancellor in February 2020, just weeks before the UK was forced into its first pandemic lockdown.
He proved hugely popular as he brought in several grants and job-saving schemes, but that popularity began taking a hit in recent months as the cost-of-living crisis hit and he was unapologetic about the need to raise certain taxes to cope with the tough economic times.
Earlier in the day, Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the powerful House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, declared his intention to contest soon after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps indicated he will also be vying for the top job. Indian-origin Suella Braverman is also in the race.