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‘Maharaja of the Dales’ with the £2bn father-in-law: ANDREW PIERCE examines Rishi Sunak 


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Despite being repeatedly tipped as a ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ since entering the House of Commons less than five years ago, Rishi Sunak has always been better known in India than Britain.

There, he became a household name after he married Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the billionaire founder of a staggeringly successful IT company.

But now that Mr Sunak, 39, has been unexpectedly promoted to the second-most powerful political job in Britain – Chancellor of the Exchequer – his stock on these shores is about to rocket. 

And that will delight Mr Sunak, the son of Indian parents who has always been proud of his Britishness.

A staunch Brexiteer, Mr Sunak was elected the MP for Richmond in Yorkshire in May 2015, succeeding former Tory leader William Hague.

Despite being repeatedly tipped as a ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ since entering the House of Commons less than five years ago, Rishi Sunak (pictured) has always been better known in India than Britain

Since then, his self-effacing, goofy charm and sharp mind has seen him rise through the ranks at astonishing speed to become one of the key figures in Boris Johnson’s administration.

While many MPs stutter and trundle their way through their maiden speech in the Commons, Mr Sunak’s at-ease manner provided a glimmer of what was to come. ‘Wandering through an auction market, I was introduced to a farmer as the new William Hague,’ he said.

‘He looked at me, quizzically, then said: ‘Ah yes, Haguey! Good bloke. I like him. Bit pale, though. This one’s got a better tan’.’

But it is his unwavering support for Brexit during the EU referendum that will have endeared him to Boris Johnson.

He became a household name after he married Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the billionaire founder of a staggeringly successful IT company

He became a household name after he married Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the billionaire founder of a staggeringly successful IT company

Before entering politics, Mr Sunak, who is now a multi-millionaire in his own right, worked in California, India and Britain for various investment firms including Goldman Sachs

Before entering politics, Mr Sunak, who is now a multi-millionaire in his own right, worked in California, India and Britain for various investment firms including Goldman Sachs 

With their combined wealth, it comes as little surprise that, taking on the roles of Lord and Lady of the manor – locally he is dubbed the 'Maharaja of the Dales' (pictured, their magnificent Georgian manor in North Yorkshire)

With their combined wealth, it comes as little surprise that, taking on the roles of Lord and Lady of the manor – locally he is dubbed the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’ (pictured, their magnificent Georgian manor in North Yorkshire)

After analytically assessing both Remain and Leave, he deduced that ‘having the flexibility and the nimbleness to adapt’ outside of the bloc ‘would be of enormous value to us’.

In yesterday’s reshuffle, which was characterised by Boris’s promotion of loyalists, Mr Sunak was always going to prosper.

After all, it was Mr Sunak, then a junior minister in the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government – along with Robert Jenrick, 38, the current Housing Secretary and Oliver Dowden, 41, the new Culture Secretary – who ignited Boris Johnson’s leadership prospects before the start of last year’s contest with an article in The Times under the headline: ‘The Tories are in deep peril. Only Boris Johnson can save us.’

Born in Southampton to second-generation Indian Punjabi parents, Mr Sunak has spoken publicly about how his father, a GP, and his mother, who is a pharmacist, had to make sacrifices to send him to Winchester College. He is pictured with his wife, Akshata, and their children

Born in Southampton to second-generation Indian Punjabi parents, Mr Sunak has spoken publicly about how his father, a GP, and his mother, who is a pharmacist, had to make sacrifices to send him to Winchester College. He is pictured with his wife, Akshata, and their children 

The timing was crucial. It came as many Tory MPs were muttering behind closed doors that they did not feel Boris was a winner.

But Mr Sunak’s intervention showed that Boris had won over some of the brightest of the young generation of Tory MPs.

And so, when Boris proved victorious, Mr Sunak was rewarded by being dramatically promoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

‘Rishi’s job was to make sure northern voters aren’t just on loan to us, but that they stay permanently with us,’ said one source last night. ‘He’s now in the right job to carry on that work.’

Born in Southampton to second-generation Indian Punjabi parents, Mr Sunak has spoken publicly about how his father, a GP, and his mother, who is a pharmacist, had to make sacrifices to send him to Winchester College, where fees are currently £41,000 a year.

While he is fiercely proud of his Indian and Hindu heritage, he regards Britain as his home.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid arriving in Downing Street, London, today

Rishi Sunak, Chief Secretary to the Treasury arrives in Westminster today

Rishi Sunak (right) was promoted from Chief Secretary to the Treasury to Chancellor after Mr Javid (left) resigned today

‘British Indian’ is what I tick on the census,’ he has said.

‘I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian. My wife is Indian. I am open about being a Hindu.’

After taking a first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, he travelled on a Fulbright scholarship to Stanford University in California where met his future wife Akshata, whose father N R Narayana Murthy – worth around £2billion – co-founded Infosys, an IT company today valued at around £33.3billion.

The couple, who now have two daughters, married in 2009 in her home city of Bangalore in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests.

Before entering politics, Mr Sunak, who is now a multi-millionaire in his own right, worked in California, India and Britain for various investment firms including Goldman Sachs. He later set up his own business, Theleme Partners, in 2010 with an initial fund of £536million.

The couple, who now have two daughters, married in 2009 in her home city of Bangalore in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests

The couple, who now have two daughters, married in 2009 in her home city of Bangalore in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests 

While building the hedge fund he spent a couple of days doing voluntary work for the Conservatives – which was when he decided he would like to go into politics full-time. He walked the selection race in Richmond, one of the safest Tory seats in the country. His majority last time was 27,000.

Mr Sunak's father-in-law N.R. Narayana Murthy with David Cameron in 2010

Mr Sunak’s father-in-law N.R. Narayana Murthy with David Cameron in 2010 

Meanwhile his wife, whose shareholding in the family firm is estimated at £185million, runs her own fashion label Akshata Designs and is also a director of a venture capital firm founded by her father in 2010.

With their combined wealth, it comes as little surprise that, taking on the roles of Lord and Lady of the manor – locally he is dubbed the ‘Maharaja of the Dales’ – the summer garden party they throw for local villagers at their magnificent Georgian £1.5million manor house in Northallerton is by far the most glamorous invitation in the Yorkshire social calendar.

Uniformed staff serve champagne and canapes as guests mingle alongside the ornamental lake with its boathouse, private wooded island and paddocks set in 12 acres. But whether Mr Sunak will have had time to revel in his palatial home in recent months is unlikely, as Mr Johnson has grown increasingly dependent on him.

An assured media performer, Mr Sunak was one of only a handful of ministers who were trusted by 10 Downing Street to take to the airwaves during the recent election. He also stood in for Boris during some of the campaign’s seven-way TV debates.

But while he rarely slips up on policy, in truth Mr Sunak is not a brilliant orator, with one critic in the Labour-supporting Guardian branding him ‘cheesy and wooden’.

When grilled in a recent podcast by BBC presenter Nick Robinson about his professed love for Star Wars, Mr Sunak – who is also a devoted supporter of Southampton football club – batted off every question with ease

When grilled in a recent podcast by BBC presenter Nick Robinson about his professed love for Star Wars, Mr Sunak – who is also a devoted supporter of Southampton football club – batted off every question with ease 

But he radiates self-confidence and is never caught short when interviewers ask him about a hinterland beyond politics. 

When grilled in a recent podcast by BBC presenter Nick Robinson about his professed love for Star Wars, Mr Sunak – who is also a devoted supporter of Southampton football club – batted off every question with ease.

He also admitted that he’s a Coca-Cola addict and has ‘seven fillings to show for it’.

Whether his amicable demeanour will be enough for him to thrive in one of Britain’s Great Offices of State is yet to be seen.

Indeed, his first big test will be next month’s Budget. I suspect, however, that he will be more than a match for the Labour barbs.

Being labelled a ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ is often an unwelcome attribute for those who know that the heir apparent often does not get to wear the crown.

But in Mr Sunak’s case, his surprising rise through the ranks doesn’t look like it’s stopping.

An assured media performer, Mr Sunak was one of only a handful of ministers who were trusted by 10 Downing Street to take to the airwaves during the recent election

An assured media performer, Mr Sunak was one of only a handful of ministers who were trusted by 10 Downing Street to take to the airwaves during the recent election 

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