By Vishnu Bisram
Will Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom survive the rest of the term of Boris Johnson (January 2025)? Early elections are likely. Can he lead his Conservative Tory party to victory with opinion polls saying the opposition Labor Party will crush the ruling Tories?
Boris Johnson led the Tories to victory with a whopping 359 seats in the 650 members Parliament. Boris Johnson was forced to resign after a sleuth of scandals including Partygate, triggering a contest for his replacement. Liz Truss defeated Rishi Sunak in a runoff vote among party members. She was forced to resign as Pm after several missteps. A majority of the party’s MPs turned to Rishi Sunak who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finances) under Johnson to lead them. Sunak’s resignation as Chancellor triggered Johnson’s downfall. Johnson blamed Sunak as political assassin for the fall of his government and vowed never to support him. Sunak now inherits Johnson’s position.
It was unimaginable that a non-Anglo Saxon could become the UK PM (although Benjamin Disraeli, of Jewish ancestry, served as PM over during the 1870s for six years). of UK. This is not dissimilar in the thought that a Black person could become President of USA. Barack Obama, of African Kenyan father and an Irish American mother, was elected President in 2008 serving the maximum two terms. And now, a British born Indian, Rishi Sunak, whose Indian parents are from Kenya, Africa, was selected by parliamentary colleagues to be the PM of UK. (Sunak’s parents were driven out of Kenya as were thousands of other Indians who held Kenyan citizenship). Both UK and USA were in dire financial straits. Whites turned to non-Whites to rescue the economy. Obama’s 8 years tenure was not rated as a major success. Will Sunak be successful?
Obama faced economic challenges and in uniting the Democratic Party and country when he ascended to office. And likewise, Sunak now faces a lot of economic and political issues, worse in today’s UK than Obama faced in the US in 2008, as well as uniting his Conservative Party and UK. Will Sunak be stabbed in the back by his predecessors who opposed him for the PM position?
As Blacks in the US felt in 2008 when Obama was elected, Indians in UK and around the globe are very pleased and cheerful to have someone looking like them as head of the British government. Indians in the diaspora are very proud of the achievement of an Indian rising to the highest political office based on diaspora reactions received from early Monday thru now and from published reports in the global press. This writer received dozens of messages praising the appointment from Indian Trinis, Guyanese, and nationals from the UK and India. In addition, many who conversed on the phone and in person at Diwali celebrations expressed pride that someone from their ethnicity has risen to the highest elected position in Britain, not dissimilar to the election of Kamala Harris as Vice President of the US; Kamala’s mother is a South Indian.
Kamala celebrated Diwali at her official VP residence. Sunak’s selection as PM on Monday was viewed and described as a Diwali gift for Hindus who celebrated Diwali on that day, October 24. He also lit deyas in front of the PM residence. Indians, South Asians, and non-Anglos in general welcome the breakthrough as they felt it would help them to seek the highest elective office in UK that was heretofore restricted to only Anglo Saxons. When Obama was elected in 2008, Indians and other non-Whites hailed it as an opening for them to become President. Similarly, when Kamala was elected as VP in 2020, it was a breakthrough for a woman and a multi-racial person (mother Indian and father of Black and White ancestry) to rise to the second highest elective position America.
Sunak was sworn in on Tuesday October 25, the day after Diwali, after he secured 194 votes out of 357 the day before (Diwali) to become Leader of the Tory Party in Parliament. Two other candidates, Penny Mordaunt and Johnson, failed to garner 100 votes in order to advance their candidacy. It is ironic that Britain, which governed India for 200 years with an iron fist and impoverished India, will now have a PM of Indian descent, hoping he would rescue it from economic troubles. That individual is the descendant of Indians who went abroad as migrant laborers. Britain sent some two million Indians abroad including to the Caribbean and Africa as indentured laborers or slaves. Several have risen to high positions. Sunak us among descendants of migrant laborers who has become PM.
It is noteworthy also that at Independence in 1947, Winston Churchill said Indians were not capable of governing themselves. UK had four PM in five years. Are prejudicial Anglos up to the job? India has been doing quite well since British left in 1947, moving from an impoverished nation with a very small economy to the fifth largest in the world, bettering England’s. India has had a stable government and a strong leader in Narendra Modi since 2014, who has handled India’s economy well. The UK has turned to an ethnic Indian to rescue her economy. Will Sunak get the support from colleagues to turn around the UK?
Indians everywhere expressed pride in his achievement, hoping it will pave the way for other Indians to rise to high office. In order for Sunak to be considered as a role model and pave the way for other non-Whites to rise to the PM position, he must succeed in turning around the British economy and uniting the country. Those are gargantuan tasks. Sunak is a brilliant economist, financial manager, and political scientist, a graduate of Oxford and Stanford. He saved the economy during the height of Covid crisis from 2020-22. Many say he can do it again.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.