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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is betting that calmer economic conditions will help him win re-election.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is betting that calmer economic conditions will help him win re-election.


LONDON (AP) British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has presented himself as thorough and evidence-based. This is why his bet to call a July 4 UK general election is such a surprise.

These personal traits were supposed to be attributes that would endear him to British voters after the chaos of his two predecessors in the top job, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

But if the opinion polls before the elections prove him right, he has not changed the situation much, if at all. The main opposition Labor Party is widely seen as ahead of the Conservatives, who have been in power since 2010.

Sunak became prime minister in October 2022, when he replaced his predecessor Truss and presented himself as a steady pair of hands after Truss shook financial markets with a botched plan of unfunded tax cuts.

Sunak had warned Conservative Party members that his economic plan was reckless and would cause havoc. He was right.

In replacing her after an uncontested leadership battle, Sunak became Britain's first leader of color, the first Hindu to become prime minister and, at 42, the youngest leader in more than 200 years.

Sunak, now 44, has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top of the Tory ranks. He came out of nowhere four years ago to become Treasury chief on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a matter of weeks, he had to unveil the largest program of economic support that a Chancellor of the Exchequer had ever had to implement outside of war.

Gentle, confident and comfortable with advances in modern technology, he was nicknamed Dishy Rishi and quickly became one of the most trusted and popular faces in the Johnson government. This is largely thanks to its Job Retention Scheme, which paid up to 80% of the wages of those unable to work during the COVID-19 lockdown, arguably saving lives million jobs.

Sunak notably highlighted his record during the pandemic, before which he was barely known outside Parliament, in his speech. speech to the nation on Wednesday by announcing the date of the general elections.

As I stand here as Prime Minister, I can't help but think that my first real introduction to you was just over four years ago, Sunak said in the pouring rain outside No 10 Downing Street .

As I did then, I will always do everything in my power to provide you with the strongest protection possible, that is my promise, he added.

During his 20 months in office, Sunak struggled to contain bitter divisions within his Conservative Party. One camp wants him to be much tougher on immigration and bolder in cutting taxes, while another is urging him to move more to the center of politics, the space where Britain's elections historically are won.

This tension has been particularly visible in his controversial plan to send migrants arriving in small boats across the English Channel to Rwanda rather than being allowed to seek asylum in Britain. The most right-wing elements of his party have argued the policy is doomed to failure and urged Sunak to block all avenues of legal challenge.

Despite a toxic legacy of reduced living standards and overburdened public services, he presented himself as a leader who could restore calm and stability to the economy and revive the party's fortunes.

A year and a half later, inflation has returned to near-normal levels, wages are rising, and mortgage rates are expected to begin to fall. A general election is due to take place before January 2025, but Sunak's decision to call an early election is widely seen as a gamble that he will be rewarded for steering the British economy into calmer waters.

Time will tell if that gamble pays off, but early reactions to his rainy speech Wednesday weren't promising. Thursday papers carried headlines like Drowned and Out and Sunak became an amusing figure on social media.

It doesn't look good for a prime minister to look completely soggy and wet like Rishi Sunak did, said Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London.

Sunak was born in 1980 in Southampton, on the south coast of England, to parents of Indian origin who were both born in East Africa. His father was a family doctor and his mother ran a pharmacy, where he often helped with the accounting.

He described how his parents saved to send him to Winchester College, one of the most expensive and exclusive boarding schools in Britain, then went to Oxford University to study politics, philosophy and the economy, the degree of choice for future prime ministers.

He then earned an MBA at Stanford University, which proved to be a launching pad for his later career as a hedge fund manager at Goldman Sachs in the United States. There he met his wife, Akshata Murty, the daughter of the billionaire founder of Indian technology giant Infosys. . They have two daughters.

The couple are the richest residents of 10 Downing Street, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2024, with an estimated fortune of 651 million pounds ($815 million). They are even richer than King Charles III, a level of wealth that Labor leader Keir Starmer says makes Sunak out of touch with the realities and daily struggles of working people.

With his fortune secure, Sunak was elected to Parliament for the Conservative seat of Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015. During the UK's Brexit referendum in 2016, he supported leaving the European Union. When leave was won unexpectedly, Sunak's career took off. He held several junior ministerial positions before being appointed chancellor in February 2020.

Although he is instinctively a low-tax, small-state politician who idolizes former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has spent more than 400 billion pounds ($500 billion) trying to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic.

Looking back, it seems less of a gamble than the one he embarked on today.


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