Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took center stage at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, reflecting on his family’s immigrant journey and the opportunities provided by the United Kingdom to families like his own.
Introduced by his wife Akshata Murty, Sunak began his address by emphasizing the UK’s diversity and inclusivity. He dispelled notions of racism within the country, asserting that “Never let anyone tell you that this is a racist country. It is not,” underlining his party’s commitment to openness and equality.
Sunak, the first British Asian Prime Minister, went on to share his personal story, describing it as a “British story.” He highlighted how his family, in just three generations, went from arriving in the UK with little to occupying the prestigious Downing Street. He proudly pointed to his cabinet colleagues as examples of the opportunities the Conservative Party offers immigrant families, including key figures such as home secretary Suella Braverman and energy secretary Claire Coutinho.
During his speech, Sunak paid a touching tribute to his India-born maternal grandfather, Raghubir Berry, who emigrated to East Africa in the early 1950s before ultimately settling in the UK. Recounting a poignant moment from his early days as an MP, Sunak shared an anecdote about his grandfather’s visit to the Parliament. He 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.”
Amidst laughter from the audience, Sunak continued, “I wasn’t quite sure whether phones were allowed there or not, so I told him to wait. 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,” he added, referring to his maternal grandfather in Hindi, played a significant role in Sunak’s family history. Berry worked as a customs and excise official in the British territory of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) before migrating to the UK, where he joined the Inland Revenue in Leicester and earned an MBE honor in 1988.
Sunak concluded his address with a sense of pride, stating, “I am proud to be the first British Asian Prime Minister, but you know what I’m even prouder of? That it’s just not a big deal. And just remember: it was the Conservative Party who made that happen, not the Labour Party.”
Rishi Sunak’s speech resonated with attendees as he celebrated his family, heritage, and upbringing, embodying the spirit of opportunity and diversity that the United Kingdom represents. Born in Southampton to Indian-origin parents who migrated from East Africa, Sunak’s journey serves as a testament to the possibilities that await those who arrive in the UK in search of a better life.