UK Elections, Sunak’s Future and the California Hypothesis

Golden exile in California in his $7 million home. Is this Rishi Sunak's fate? The first prime minister of Indian origin, at 44, he is also the youngest resident of Downing Street in modern times, living with his wife and two daughters since his appointment in October 2022. The third son of Hindu immigrant professionals, who arrived in the UK from East Africa, Sunak attended the prestigious boarding school Winchester College, then went on to Oxford University and finally Stanford University, in California.

In an election campaign that was doomed from the start – according to opinion polls of dramatic proportions – for the Conservatives, there were many rumours about the Prime Minister's alleged plans to retire to California, where he has a house in Santa Monica and deep connections. The party in question has repeatedly denied these rumours, and has stressed that even if he is defeated he will “definitely” remain in the UK on the opposition benches in the House of Commons. A side of denial Sunak has never hidden his deep connection to California. Where he studied, met his wife and ran a hedge fund in Santa Monica before returning to the UK to enter politics.

His wife, Akshata Murthy, is a businesswoman and heiress to a wealthy Indian family that controls the multinational IT company Infosys. The empire was a source of embarrassment for the prime minister when it emerged – while Sunak was still a minister – that his wife had declared her “non-domiciled tax status” to the tax office, making her a UK resident with her main home overseas, thus avoiding paying millions of pounds to the British taxman. Following the scandal, Sunak’s wife said she would start paying tax on income generated outside the UK.

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She first appeared in politics in 2015.

Sunak’s political career began in 2015, when he won the Yorkshire seat of former leader William Hague. He remained a little-known figure outside the party until February 2020, when then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, following the resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid, gave him a key government role. The appointment coincides with the start of the Covid pandemic, which has seen Sunak grapple with the financial and economic fallout, and is being appreciated for the measures taken to support the British people left out of work by the lockdown.

At the time of Johnson’s resignation, overshadowed by the Partygate scandal and the government’s parties while Britons were forced to stay at home in lockdown, Liz Truss was favoured over Sunak, perhaps because of the negative effects of his wife’s tax scandal as a new leader and prime minister. But after the Conservative prime minister’s government fell after just 45 days in office, the Conservatives have this time chosen Sunak in the hope that he can right the party’s troubled path ahead of a general election.

His appointment as Prime Minister and the mistakes of his government

Sunak was appointed prime minister in October 2022, setting out five goals on which he said voters would be able to judge him: halving inflation, growing the economy, cutting debt, reducing NHS waiting lists and stopping asylum seekers crossing the Channel. Shortly before the election was called on 4 July, the prime minister had already achieved one of those goals, with inflation falling to its lowest level in three years at 2.3%.

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Sunak has tried to claim that this is a sign that his recipe for the economy is working, but his claims about falling debt are belied by figures showing it is rising, with waiting lists for public hospitals longer than they were when the prime minister began his term.

Not to mention that his controversial plan to deport people to Rwanda, which should have had a deterrent effect on those trying to enter the UK across the Channel, has not only created a huge wave of controversy and appeals, but has not been implemented in practice before the election. While Home Office figures show a record number of arrivals across the Channel in the first five months of the year, almost 10,000 people, with five deaths, including a 7-year-old girl, in April.

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