Pin It
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi SunakDazed

Rishi Sunak: Everything you need to know about new UK Prime Minister

From anti-migrant policies to transphobic dog whistles, our new unelected Prime Minister is nothing to get excited about

Following on from Boris Johnson dropping out of the leadership race, Tory MPs have chosen Rishi Sunak as the new Prime Minister (you’ll note that we are not using the word “elected”!) It’s hard to feel much of anything about this news. The likeliest scenario is that he will be just as bad as Liz Truss, but go about his evil Tory ways with a higher level of competence and efficacy – in terms of our future wellbeing as a country, this hardly feels like an improvement.

To help you figure out what we can expect from Sunak’s unelected reign in power, we’ve compiled a list of four key characteristics and policy positions, from his immense personal wealth to the fact he wants to send us to political re-education programmes if we’re mean about Britain. God help us.


While some commentators have lauded Sunak’s “middle-class background”, this is a bit of a stretch: he went to an elite private school, followed by Oxford and a career in the city, which is hardly an inspiring tale of rags-to-riches. Having married the daughter of a billionaire, their combined net worth is £730 million – to put that into context, he’s twice as rich as King Charles. 

Like many members of the ultra-wealthy, Sunak has proven to be less than enthusiastic when it comes to paying tax. His wife, Akshata Murthy, was revealed last year to have non-domiciled tax status, which means that, while she lived in the UK, she was obliged to pay less tax. Sunak himself, meanwhile, held a US green card and declared himself a permanent resident of the US while he was chancellor. Murthy did eventually agree to start coughing up her fair share, but only after a significant public backlash. I’d care less about Sunak’s own grotesque wealth if he was going to usher in a programme of radical redistributive politics, or even mild social democracy, but unfortunately...


Sunak is a big fan of the free markets, and is committed to slashing public spending. While he introduced the furlough policy during lockdown, this kind of big government intervention is at odds with his political instincts, as we can see from his public record: during the pandemic, the government failed to increase statutory sick pay, which was a significant driver of COVID rates; he has almost always voted for reducing welfare benefits (including for people unable to work due to disability and illness), and once, while delivering a speech in a wealthy rural town, he boasted about “undoing” the work of funding deprived urban areas. Now that he’s in power, there’s every reason to believe he will embark on a brutal austerity programme – as living standards and public services decline in the UK, this couldn’t come at a worse time. 


During his first – failed – campaign to become Tory leader, Sunak told the story of his grandfather moving his family to England in the 60s and positioned himself as a second-generation success story. But when it comes to contemporary migration, he is less enthusiastic. He has consistently voted for stronger immigration rules and a stricter asylum system, and has said he will do “whatever it takes” to make the government’s plans to deport migrants to Rwanda successful. During the leadership election, his attempts to outdo Truss on anti-migrant rhetoric led to both politicians being criticised by Amnesty International. At one point, Sunak even suggested housing asylum seekers on floating detention centres – essentially prison cruises – instead of on-land accommodation. This would presumably be much more expensive and impractical, but at least it would be cruel.


Sunak once claimed to have “zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war”, but he’s certainly given it a good go. In a move which never quite felt convincing, his leadership campaign saw him working through a list of standard right-wing talking points. He started by taking aim at “left-wing agitators” who were trying to “take a bulldozer to our history, our traditions and our fundamental values.” Next on the agenda were trans people, and their supposed efforts to “rewrite the English language so that we can’t even use words like ‘man’, ‘woman’, or mother without being told we’re offending someone.” When asked if trans woman were women, he didn’t hesitate to answer no. His efforts to brand himself as a red-blooded, anti-woke warrior reached an absurd low when he suggested that people should be sent to Prevent (the anti-extremism initiative) for the crime of “vilifying the UK.”

There’s no doubt that Sunak is a dyed-in-the-wool, committed ideologue when it comes to free-market capitalism, but his forays into the culture war have always felt a little insincere – he just seems like he’s trying too hard. Are we really to believe that a jet-setting billionaire who styles himself like a Silicon Valley bro cares about statues and single-sex spaces? In his heart of hearts? It seems implausible that this is the kind of thing he and his friends talk about at their dinner parties. But ultimately it doesn’t matter: pretending to be a transphobe for political gain is every bit as bad as being one sincerely.