As an Indian following the news from anywhere in the world, the one name that you may have heard multiple times in the last three weeks is surely Rishi Sunak.
Sunak, after three weeks of a major upheaval in British politics, which saw the UK say adios to Boris Johnson, is locked in a head-on battle with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. The prize? The post of prime minister of the United Kingdom.
So, will the Brits finally have a non-white PM? After all, Sunak did reach the top 2 of prime ministerial candidates, after leading every round of voting by Conservative Party MPs. But it’s not as rosy as it sounds for the former chancellor of the exchequer. He is actually being termed an underdog in the race with Truss, who has much more parliamentary and Cabinet experience than Sunak.
It is pertinent to note, however, that in contrast to the wider UK population, research indicates that more than half of fee-paying Tory members are over 60 years of age and tend to be male residents of southern England, and yes, 97 percent of them are overwhelmingly white.
While there are no extravagant differences between Truss and Sunak, in this video, we try and get to the bottom of what will make it for one and break it for the other.
But before we go on, a little more about the two probables.
A Brief Glimpse at Sunak and Truss
Rishi Sunak served as the UK's chancellor of the exchequer for over two years before resigning due to Johnson's approach being "fundamentally too different" from his. Born into an Indian family in Southampton, Sunak did his MBA from Stanford University after graduating from Oxford University.
On the other hand, Liz Truss has served as the UK foreign secretary since 2021 and minister for women and equalities since 2019. Truss also went to Oxford University and has been an MP since 2010.
She brings a lot of experience to the table, having held other multiple posts in government such as environment minister and parliamentary under-secretary of state for childcare and education.
Okay, now that we have got their introductions out of the way, let’s talk about something that both Truss and Sunak really disagree on – TAXES. It’s what you pay the government for its services and what somehow gets worse every time Parliament meets.
On one hand, the foreign secretary announced £30 billion worth of tax cuts from Day 1, has promised to cancel the planned six percent rise in corporation tax and reverse the National Insurance hike which came into force in April.
Sunak, on the other hand, has starkly warned against hasty tax cuts and even claimed that he is the best choice to defeat the Labor Party's Keir Starmer in the 2024 elections. Basically, Sunak is pledging to focus on bringing inflation under control and only cut taxes once that happens, presenting his position as "common-sense Thatcherism."
But there’s more than just taxes that might sway people. Let’s look at three other issues – immigration, Russia, and Brexit.
Immigration, Russia, and Brexit
On immigration, both are quite clear about the urgent need to control the UK's borders. Both of them are supportive of the Rwanda policy, with Truss going to the extent of saying that there should be a change in the way the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) are applied in the UK and that she "would be prepared" to withdraw from it if necessary.
Both Sunak and Truss have been banned from Russia, and both of them have approached the Kremlin with great aggression.
Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sunak called on British firms to stop investing in Russia and praised the decisions of energy companies like BP and Shell to pull out of the country.
However, Sunak's preaching has not prevented him from landing in hot soup as his wife Akshata Murthy, daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, has been accused of collecting "bloody money" in dividends from a company that has refused to exit Russia after the attack on Ukraine.
Similarly, the foreign secretary too has been vociferously supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. "We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine," Truss stated in April.
On Brexit, Truss initially supported the Remain faction during the 2016 referendum but has since transformed herself into one of the strongest Brexiteers in the government. She even wants to modify the Northern Ireland Protocol and has said that she now regrets voting to stay in the EU.
Sunak voted to leave the EU and has said that taking back control of lawmaking will give Britain a competitive economic edge. So yes, another strong Brexiteer.
But what are their odds? Despite Sunak topping every round of voting before the run-off, and despite Truss coming second among the other candidates, she is the favourite to win among the Conservative Party members, according to the latest YouGov poll.
So, will the UK finally have a non-white prime minister? Guess we’ll find out on 5 September. For more updates and analysis, stay tuned to The Quint.