Rishi Sunak, Britain’s 1st Asian PM, Comes Under Media Blitz

Rishi Sunak, dubbed the ‘backdoor Prime Minister’, however sees no reason for the Conservative Party to return to the people for fresh mandate!

The media and the opposition Labour Party have tarred newly-appointed British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with the same brush i.e. backdoor Prime Minister. They have demanded that he seek his own mandate from the people.

It’s blatant discrimination.

The British Prime Minister isn’t elected by the people but only by the voters in his constituency. He’s appointed by the King as head of government based on his position as party leader. The mandate comes from the people for the ruling party.

When Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss became Prime Minister, on Mon 5 Sept 2022, she wasn’t tagged backdoor Conservative Party leader.

Boris Johnson, Truss’ predecessor, wasn’t tagged backdoor Prime Minister when he succeeded Theresa May on Tues 23 July 2019. Johnson only sought a fresh mandate when he failed to push through the BrExit Bill in Parliament. This is the mandate that both Truss and Sunak inherited. It’s unlikely that the Conservative Party will throw away an 161 seat edge in Parliament and seek a fresh mandate before late 2024.

Rishi Sunak Meets 2pm Deadline

It was clear by the 2pm deadline on Thurs 24 Oct 2022 that Conservative MPs wanted no runoff this time for the party leadership. Rishi Sunak received 198 nominations, well above the threshold of 100 nominations to qualify for the leadership unopposed, or participate in the runoff.

Boris Johnson was stuck at 59 nominations and House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt at 25 nominations although the media openly supported her bid. She received maximum airtime in the desperate media virtually imposing a news blackout on Rishi Sunak when not questioning his credentials. He was dismissed as a billionaire who has no feel for the common man and having a non-domiciled billionaire wife who paid no taxes.

Seventy five MPs simply abstained.

The Conservative Party has 357 MPs, the leading opposition Labour Party has 196 MPs and the Scottish National Party (SNP) has 44 MPs.

The last runoff in early Sept this year saw Liz Truss come from behind, in fact from nowhere, and beat Rishi Sunak by some 10K votes. He had been in the lead until the 200K Conservative Party members joined the race in the runoff.

Truss resigned on Mon 24 Oct 2022 after the sterling and economy headed south. She was forced to drop tax cuts for the corporate sector and the richest people. Ironically, the tax cuts were the basis on which she became Conservative Party leader. Rishi Sunak cautioned that the tax cuts were “dangerous” for the economy and the already indebted government.

Sunak has been tasked by the Conservative Party MPs “to fix the mistakes made by Truss”.

Self-inflicted Damage

Britain’s energy woes may have been self-inflicted in the wake of Putin’s decision on Thurs 24 Feb 2022 to help end the civil war in eastern Ukraine by siding with the majority Russian-speaking separatists who alleged discrimination by Kyiv. Britain could have offered to help mediate an end to the civil war. Instead, like NATO and the US, it began funneling offensive weapons to Ukraine. It was a trap set by the US Military Industrial Complex. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy allegedly sold the weapons on the blackmarket and asked for even more weapons at the expense of the country’s Treasury.

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Already, since Rishi Sunak, the British pound sterling may become less volatile in the velocity of circulation. The issue may be volatility and not the exchange rate.

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The British Prime Minister has to walk the tightrope on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Northern Ireland doesn’t want a hard border with the Irish Republic, an EU member.

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A trade deal with India, long in the works, may be clinched under Sunak’s leadership. India’s economy, at US$3.5t GDP, overtook the UK (US$3.2t) at the end of last year in the CIA World FactSheet and became the world’s 5th largest. In PPP terms, used by the IMF and World Bank, India has the world’s 3rd largest economy at US$11t. India’s multibillionaires have total combined wealth estimated at nearly US$1t based on their holdings in publicly-listed companies alone. Britain could do with FDI from this group.

Ruling Elite

When Prime Minister David Cameron, unasked, held a Referendum on BrExit on Thurs 23 June 2016, it confirmed that the ruling elite wanted to exit the European Union (EU), in the wake of complaints about immigration and national sovereignty. The people were divided, 51.89 per cent voted for exit, 48.11 per cent chose the EU. The ruling elite saw the Commonwealth, India in particular, as the Way Forward. The UK wants to plug into the Indian economy for exports, investment opportunities, jobs and FDI (foreign direct investment).

BrExit created a situation where local Indian and other subcontinental MPs in the House of Commons gained considerable clout. Already, Sadiq Khan has been elected London Mayor twice. Indeed, it was David Cameron himself who predicted, in the wake of BrExit, that the UK was ready for a local Indian Prime Minister.

The Sunak family’s immediate roots are in fact in east Africa. The family fled the region for India before moving to England. Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton, England. He put in a stint with Goldman Sachs, the merchant bank, after university. He met his wife Akshata, from India, at Stanford University in the US where he pursued post-graduate studies as a Fullbright Scholar. N. R. Narayana Murthy, his multibillionaire father-in-law, founded IT giant Infosys in Bangalore, India.

Sunak was a partner at The Children’s Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners, both hedge funds.

Love-hate Relationship

For those unfamiliar, India and Britain have had a love-hate relationship, marred by the latter’s pro-Pakistan policy, since 1947. The British colonialists stole land from India to divide the great Indian Army along religious lines and create Pakistan ostensibly as an Islamic state. Pakistan, like India, subscribes to the rule of law. The breakway Bangladesh, not so long ago, removed Islam from the Constitution. It has become a secular state like India.

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It’s likely to be less than plain sailing for Sunak with India. New Delhi has taken offence at British politicians openly complaining about people from the subcontinent moving to the UK. The UK, during its decades in the EU, saw an influx of hordes of people from many European nations, especially those in the former communist east. These immigrants, unlike those from India, were not conversant in the English language.

In a contradiction in terms, lawmakers on both sides of the divide want a crackdown on immigrants from the Commonwealth. The UK, post-EU, needs the Commonwealth more than ever, although the US has promised a trade deal as well. America, based on the past, may be a unreliable partner. It violates Agreements even before the ink is dry. It’s secure in the knowledge that no court will compel compliance with an Agreement. At best, if the Agreement is valid, it can only offer compensation for breach.

In the East, the Word is good as the bond. No written Agreements are necessary. There’s dignity in the relationship unlike the confrontationist approach taken by the West.

UK-US Special Relationship

New Delhi isn’t happy with the allegedly war-mongering UK-US Special Relationship which subsidised the failed Pakistan state since 1947. The British Treasury transferred the responsibility for Pakistan to the US Treasury. President Trump saw no reason for the Special Relationship. He ended aid for the Pakistan Treasury. Prime Minister Imran Khan turned to China and visited Putin in Moscow. It was the CIA, according to media reports, that removed Khan from power recently on the grounds that Pakistan, unlike India, had no national sovereignty to make sovereign decisions.

India, which has had a long history of friendship with Russia, wants to see the civil war ended in eastern Ukraine and peace return to the country. New Delhi, like Beijing, remains convinced that Moscow’s involvement in eastern Ukraine was about ending the civil war in the region allegedly fuelled by the US-led NATO.

Sunak implied, upon being appointed Prime Minister, that aid to Ukraine would be stepped up. He sees a military solution in Ukraine.

India will not be party to illegalities like pitting one country against another.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wagged his finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin and cautioned him that “this war must stop. War was no solution in this century”.

Putin was visiting India recently to strike two-way economic deals which would help circumvent the US-led sanctions regime imposed on Russia. Russia has been denied access to the US$ under the sanctions regime and it’s US$600b forex reserves overseas seized by Washington.

Common Values

On the plus side, the UK, America and India are bound by common values based on the rule of law, the basis of the Constitution, and the English language in official and national usage.

India, based on media reports, has the largest number of English language speakers in the world despite the existence of some 22 officially recognised regional languages. Hindi, the 1st official language, has 600m people in the north and centre who list it as their mother tongue. English is the 2nd official language and spoken widely in the south. India, unlike Malaysia for example, has no national language. – NMH

About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He is not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.

The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.

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