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Sat, 24 October 2020

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Who is Rishi Sunak, the billionaire banker unexpectedly moving in to 11 Downing Street?

Who is Rishi Sunak, the billionaire banker unexpectedly moving in to 11 Downing Street?
4 min read

Rishi Sunak has long been tipped for political greatness - but his appointment as Chancellor still represents a startling rise to the top table for the 39-year-old former banker.


Tensions had been simmering between Number 10 and 11 Downing Street ever since Sajid Javid was handed the top job at the Treasury by Boris Johnson last summer.

Rumours swirled that the Prime Minister’s team were bypassing him and going directly to his number two Mr Sunak, with Mr Javid disparagingly labelled “CHINO” – “Chancellor in name only”.

Javid is also known to have clashed repeatedly with Dominic Cummings, most notably over the sacking of two of his advisers by the Prime Minister's top aide.

But despite all that, he had still been expected to hang onto his job in the reshuffle, especially given he was due to deliver his first Budget in just three weeks' time.

All seemed well when Javid entered Number 10 on Thursday morning, the first member of the Cabinet to do so, with the expectation he would be re-confirmed as Chancellor after a brief meeting with the PM.

But when he failed to re-appear, speculation began to mount that all was not well.

After an hour, it emerged that he had been presented with an ultimatum: in order to hang onto his job, all of his special advisers - known as SpAds - would have to be replaced by Number 10 appointees.

Javid said he would quit if the PM went ahead with the changes. Johnson refused to back down, and the Chancellor was gone.

Luckily for Downing Street they had a ready-made replacement in Mr Sunak, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The MP for Richmond was first elected in 2015, taking over the Yorkshire seat from former Tory leader William, now Lord, Hague.

Married to the daughter of one of India’s richest men, he has been dubbed the “Maharaja of the Dales”, and is thought to be the richest person in the House of Commons.

Born in Southampton in 1980 to GP father Yashvir and pharmacist mother Usha, the eldest of three siblings went to the prestigious Winchester College boarding school, where he was head boy.

He went on study at Oxford, getting a first from Lincoln College in PPE – the university course favoured by ambitious future politicians, before getting an MBA from as a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University in California.

Sunak started his career with investment bank Goldman Sachs before moving to the hedge fund sector, eventually setting up his up his own firm Theleme Partners in 2010 with an initial fund of $700million.

A married father-of-two, he met his wife Akshata at Stanford, and the pair were married in her home city of Bangalore in 2009 in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Her father is N.R. Narayana Murthy, a self-made billionaire who is a household name in India after making his fortune by creating consulting giant Infosys.

Sunak was selected as a Conservative candidate in 2014 and won election the following year, making his name as a member of the Environment, Food and Fural Affairs Select Committee.

He campaigned for Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum, and was handed his first ministerial role in the local government department by Theresa May two years later.

But it was last year that saw his stock really begin to rise, after he became a prominent backer of Mr Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign, and was rewarded with the role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Quickly gaining a reputation as Mr Johnson’s “favourite minister”, while several high-profile Cabinet members were hidden away during the election campaign Mr Sunak was repeatedly despatched to do the daily broadcast round.

He even stood in for the PM on stage for two of the televised debates, impressing Westminster watchers with assured performances, leading to rumours he would be promoted if the Conservatives won a big majority.

In the end it was thought he would be kept in place, ostensibly as Number 10’s man in Number 11, and would have to wait his turn to become a full Cabinet minister.

But the dramatic resignation of his boss has seen him elevated to one of the ‘great offices of state’ after less than five years in the Commons - and with just three weeks to prepare for his first Budget speech.

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