Proud to be first British Asian prime minister: Sunak
He makes repeated references to his family and background at the Conservative conference
Prime minister Rishi Sunak speaks during the final day of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on October 4, 2023. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
PRIME minister Rishi Sunak made repeated references to his family and his background during his first Conservative conference as the governing party’s leader in Manchester on Wednesday (4).
Introduced onto the stage by his wife Akshata Murty who praised his honesty, Sunak pointed to his cabinet colleagues to drive home the UK’s diversity.
“Never let anyone tell you that this is a racist country. It is not,” he said, underlining his party’s openness.
“My story is a British story. A story about how a family can go from arriving here with little to Downing Street in three generations.”
“What does the Conservative Party offer a family of immigrants? The chance to become energy secretary, business secretary, home secretary, foreign secretary, even the chance to become prime minister,” he said as he pointed to his frontline Cabinet members in the audience.
They included home secretary Suella Braverman and energy secretary Claire Coutinho.
Sunak also spoke of his India-born maternal grandfather Raghubir Berry, who migrated to East Africa in the early 1950s before coming to the UK.
“When I first became an MP, my grandfather came to Parliament to see me,” the prime minister said.
“As we stood in Westminster Hall, on that floor which Disraeli and Churchill had walked across so many times, my grandfather suddenly got out his mobile phone and started to make a quick call. I was a new MP and I wasn’t quite sure whether phones were allowed there or not.”
“And I said, ‘Nanaji, nanaji, can’t you just wait a moment’. He replied that he was calling the landlady he had when he had first arrived in this country. He said to me: ‘I just wanted to tell her where I was standing’.”
Nanaji means maternal grandfather in Hindi. Berry worked as a customs and excise official in the old British territory of Tanganyika in what is now known as Tanzania. Following his migration to the UK, Berry joined Inland Revenue in Leicester and earned his MBE honour in 1988.
Sunak went on: “I am proud to be the first British Asian Prime Minister, but you know what I’m even prouder that it’s just not a big deal. And just remember: it was the Conservative Party who made that happen, not the Labour Party.”
The first Hindu to become the UK’s prime minister has previously said how he takes pride in his family, heritage and upbringing.
He was born in Southampton to Indian-origin parents who migrated from East Africa.