Britain’s prime ministerial candidate, Rishi Sunak, has shared that there was “clearly something” when he met his now wife, Akshata Murty – the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy – at a university in the US. In an interview with ‘The Sunday Times’, the former Chancellor opened up about his family life as he reflected on one of the secrets behind his marriage being the fact that the couple are very different people.
“I’m incredibly tidy, she’s very messy. I’m much more organised, she is more spontaneous,” Sunak said. “She is not going to love me for saying this, but I’ll be honest with you, she is not big on the whole tidying thing. She is a total nightmare, clothes everywhere… and shoes… oh God shoes,” he said.
The couple, who met while he was studying for an MBA at Stanford University, got married in a two-day ceremony in Bangalore in 2006. Sunak, who was born in Southampton to Indian-origin parents, admits switching his class schedule around at Stanford “to be in a particular class” to sit next to Murty.
“I didn’t really need to take it but I did it anyway so we could sit next to each other,” he said.
The couple have two daughters, Krishna, 11, and Anoushka, 9, and Sunak attended both births and loved helping with the childcare.He recalls: “I was very lucky because when they were born, I ran my own business with others but I was completely in control of my time and so I was very much around. I always say my parenting sweet spot is zero to three and I was really lucky that when they were that age I had the time to just be there a lot and do a lot. I loved every second of it.
Every time I’m on the campaign trail and I see a little baby or something, my arm goes out.” Sunak’s family moved out of the flat above No. 10 Downing Street – the official residence used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer – in April in the wake of a controversy over Murty’s legal non-domicile tax status, which she later relinquished to pay taxes on her income from Infosys shares also in the UK to avoid the issue becoming a “distraction” for her husband. Now, as a contender for the top job, the former finance minister told the newspaper that the family would return to Downing Street should he be elected as Conservative Party leader and the next Prime Minister to succeed Boris Johnson on September 5.
“The decision was nothing to do with what had happened. It was everything to do with the fact that our eldest daughter was in her last term of primary school and was meant to be able to walk to school by herself every day,” he said.
With reference to claims on the campaign trail to win over Conservative Party members’ votes in the leadership race to beat Foreign Secretary Liz Truss that the couple are too wealthy to understand the concerns of many voters, Sunak is emphatic: “I do think in this country we judge people by their character and their actions, not by what’s in their bank account. I am fortunate today but I didn’t grow up like this. I worked really hard for what I’ve got, my family worked hard and that’s why I want to do this job.”
He is equally stoic about opinion polls which are giving his rival, Liz Truss, a runaway lead in the race to Downing Street and says the plan is to “love bomb” the Tory membership, like he did when he was selected to run for Richmond in North Yorkshire as the Tory member of Parliament in 2015.
“I am probably the underdog in this thing… but it does not feel like the polls when I’m out and about. I’m out all the time, I’m talking to people, it feels different on the ground… clearly, I’ve got work to do but I’m up for that and I’m throwing everything I’ve got at it,” he told ‘The Sunday Times’.
On one of the key issues in the campaign of the cost of living crisis due to soaring inflation, Sunak admitted people are nervous about what the future holds for the economy after forecasts of a recession from the Bank of England and want to see “positive realism” to counter the threat of a downturn.
“I’ve got what it takes to help get the country through a challenging period and make sure we emerge stronger and together on the other side. I’ve done that already and I can do that again and people can trust me to do that,” he declared.