Frontrunner Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Attorney General Suella Bravermanboth 42, have a lot in common as UK born Politicians of Indian descent who campaigned for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
The others who competed on the ballot for the top job in Downing Street on the ballot as the nominations closed Tuesday night also reflect that diversity in London-born former minister Kemi Badenoch, 42, of Nigerian descent and Iraqi-born Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi. , 55, who came to the UK as a refugee when he was 11 years old and his family fled Baghdad under Saddam Hussein.
Commerce Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat, both 49 and from military backgrounds, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, and former Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, 55, making the list of eight Conservative Party MPs nominated for the race.
Sunak made his pitch to become Britain’s first Prime Minister of Indian descent with a slick video that referenced the deeply personal migration story of his rural African-based Indian maternal grandmother, Sraksha, who boarded a flight from Tanzania to building a better life in the UK in the 1960s.
“This young woman came to Britain where she found a job, but it took her almost a year to save enough money for her husband and children to follow her. One of those children was my mother of 15,” says Sunak, in the video that has seen nearly 50,000 views since its release last week.
“My mother studied hard to get the qualifications to become a pharmacist. She met my father, an NHS [National Health Service] GP, and they settled in Southampton. Their story didn’t end there, but that’s where my story began,” he says in the voiceover, alongside family photos of his GP, father Yashvir and mother Usha with him as a young boy with his siblings.
The message to Tory voters is that he represents the face of modern Britain, where values of “hard work and honesty” dominate factors such as race and background.
The former Goldman Sachs banker, who studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University before earning an MBA from Stanford University in the US, may have had an easy time serving as a member of parliament for Richmond in the early years of his political career. Yorkshire, but not so in the Cabinet.
While he proved hugely popular during the Covid pandemic lockdownswhen he unleashed a series of unprecedented measures as new chancellor to save jobs and livelihoods, that honeymoon period ended earlier this year as inflation started to bite and he passed some hefty tax hikes.
As the media turned hostile amid reports of disagreements with his former boss Johnson, Sunak faced very personal attacks on the tax affairs of his Indian wife, co-founder of Infosys. Narayana Murthy‘s daughter Akshata Murty. She gave up her legal non-residential status to also pay UK tax on her Indian earnings to avoid becoming a “distraction”.
His own decision to hold onto his US green card a few months after becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer also came under the media scanner, casting doubt on his long-term plans to hold out in British politics.
But it seems the couple, who have two school-age daughters Anoushka and Krishna, have decided to give Downing Street another chance – this time at number 10, just weeks after leaving Chancellor’s base at number 11, the events in motion that ended in Johnson’s resignation.
Meanwhile, former lawyer Suella Braverman belongs to the harder Brexit wing of the Tory party that wants a clear break with Europe, including removing the UK from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In her campaign video, she also references her personal history of her Mauritian mother and her Goan-born father migrating to the UK from Kenya.
“They loved Britain. It gave them hope. It gave them security. This country gave them a chance. I think my background is really defined by my approach to politics,” said the MP for Fareham in South East England.
The mother of two’s maternity leave last year brought an overdue amendment to the law that allowed her to remain a minister while she was away to give birth. In a vote of Tory membership by the Conservative Home website, she came in fourth – just behind Sunak in third.
It would indicate that the nearly 200,000 Tories who will have the final say by mail on the choice of leader and prime minister between the last two candidates rejected by MPs are ready to embrace the historic change brought about by the leadership race. Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch are number 1 and 2 respectively in that number of Tory members.
Whatever the outcome of the race, the struggle for Tory leadership in 2022 has etched its place in the history books as one of the most representative of a diverse Britain.