Who is Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak?

Rishi Sunak
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Rishi Sunak: The basics

Age: 44

Education: Winchester College, Oxford University, Stanford University

Family: Married to businesswoman Akshata Murty with two daughters

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)

Who is he?

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is the UK's first British-Indian prime minister. He is the youngest occupant of No 10 in modern times, living there with his wife and two daughters.

The eldest of three children, he grew up in Southampton and went to one of the country's most expensive boarding schools, Winchester College. He studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University before an MBA at Stanford University in California.

There, he met his wife Akshata Murty, heiress to the multibillion Infosys fortune. He managed multibillion-dollar hedge funds at investment bank Goldman Sachs - before becoming MP for Richmond, Yorkshire in 2015.

What was his route to power?

He became chief secretary to the Treasury in 2019. When then-chancellor Sajid Javid quit in 2020, Mr Sunak was appointed in his place by PM Boris Johnson.

His appointment coincided with the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. He launched the furlough support scheme and Eat Out to Help Out - designed to support the struggling hospitality sector but criticised for its impact on a major spike in Covid 19 cases that autumn.

His involvement in the Partygate scandal tarnished his reputation and later saw him fined by police.

His wife was revealed as a non-dom - a UK resident whose permanent home, or domicile, for tax purposes is outside the UK - and was believed to have saved millions by avoiding paying British taxes on her overseas income.

After details of her status emerged, she said she would start paying UK tax on her earnings generated outside the UK

Mr Sunak joined a tidal wave of resignations in July 2022 that ousted Mr Johnson, replacing him with Liz Truss. After 45 days of turmoil, Ms Truss was also forced out as PM Conservative MPs chose Mr Sunak in the hope he could steady the Tory ship ahead of a general election.

What are his key pledges?

Last year, Mr Sunak set out five promises he said voters could judge him on:

  • Halving inflation

  • Growing the economy

  • Reducing debt

  • Cutting NHS waiting times

  • Stopping small boat crossings

Immediately before his decision to call a July general election, inflation dropped to its lowest level in three years at 2.3%.

Mr Sunak claimed this was a clear sign that his plans for the economy were working, with the UK emerging from recession in the spring.

However the statistics regulator has criticised the prime minister for saying debt was falling when it was actually rising, according to the latest figures available.

The overall number of patients waiting for treatment on the NHS is higher than when Mr Sunak came to office and junior doctors have announced another strike running through the campaign period.

Mr Sunak's flagship plan for deportations to Rwanda, intended to deter small boats crossings but dismissed by opponents as a hugely expensive gimmick, has stalled and he has admitted no flights will take off before the election.

The Home Office released figures showing a record number of small boat crossings had been made in the first five months of this year, with nearly 10,000 people making the journey and five people, including a seven-year-old girl, dying in April.

In this campaign, the Conservatives have pledged to introduce mandatory national service for a year for all 18-year-olds. They have promised to raise the tax-free pension allowance and to fund apprenticeships.

What state are the Conservatives in?

Mr Sunak has tried to unify a Conservative Party in disarray, with limited success, particularly in terms of mollifying those who attack his team for taking taxes to their highest level for 70 years.

The party has been consistently trailing 20 points behind Labour in the opinion polls since November.

He's been hit by a string of embarrassing defections to Labour and Reform UK since March.

On top of that, dozens of Conservative MPs are stepping down ahead of this election.

He has seen his near 70-seat majority eroded in a series of by-election defeats.

Most observers, including most Tory MPs, thought Mr Sunak would not call the election until this autumn, so his decision to hold it now has left some scratching their heads.

BBC News will have a profile on each of the major party leaders running in the 2024 UK general election.