Rishi Sunak says 'Hindu faith and duty' guide him as PM, and insists he is patriotic despite Nigel Farage's attacks

16 June 2024, 07:15

Rishi Sunak said his faith guides him
Rishi Sunak said his faith guides him. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Rishi Sunak has opened up on how his Hindu faith helps guide his actions as Prime Minister.

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Mr Sunak, Britain's first non-white Prime Minister, is also the first in two decades to talk openly about his faith. He is said to keep a Hindu shrine in Number 10, as well as a statue of the god Ganesh on his desk.

Speaking from the sideline of the G7 summit, he said his religion was "something I was raised with," adding that it "gives me the strength" to deal with political problems. "I get fulfilment from just doing what I believe is right," he added.

Describing his approach to high office, Mr Sunak said: "Work as hard as you can, do what you believe is right, and try, and what will be will be."

The Prime Minister came in for criticism last week for a much-discussed incident in which he left D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations early to take part in a TV interview.

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Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

He was criticised by Conservatives as well as members of opposition parties, such as Keir Starmer and Reform UK leader Nigel Farage, who said this showed Mr Sunak was "not a patriotic leader".

Mr Farage's comments have also been criticised as a "dog whistle" by some, including the Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

And Mr Sunak insisted that he was patriotic, telling the Times: "My grandparents emigrated to the UK and then two generations later I’m sitting here talking to you as prime minister.

"I actually don’t think my story is possible in pretty much any other country in the world and what it shows is, in our country, if you work hard, if you integrate, if you subscribe and adhere to British values, then you can achieve anything.

Rishi Sunak and his family during a visit to the Vedic Society Hindu Temple, on November 12, 2023 in Southampton,
Rishi Sunak and his family during a visit to the Vedic Society Hindu Temple, on November 12, 2023 in Southampton,. Picture: Getty

“So that’s what patriotism means to me: it’s having pride in our incredible country for everything that it’s done for me and my family.”

He also brushed off a claim by Mr Farage that he could one day lead a merged centre-right party that brought together the Conservatives and Reform.

"Nigel Farage is not in the Conservative Party today and a vote for anyone who’s not a Conservative candidate is a vote that makes it more likely that Keir Starmer will be in No 10.

"So if you’re someone who thinks controlling migration is important, stopping the boats is important, cutting taxes is important, getting to net zero in a sensible, proportionate way is important, protecting pensions is important - we’re the only party that’s going to deliver that for you."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty receive gifts as they join Diwali celebrations at the Vedic Society Hindu Temple in Southampton
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty receive gifts as they join Diwali celebrations at the Vedic Society Hindu Temple in Southampton. Picture: Alamy

Reform have been rising in some polls against the Conservatives, and even overtook them in one, although this result was not replicated elsewhere.

Mr Sunak said that voting for Reform was tantamount to voting for Labour, a line of argument that has often been advanced by Conservative ministers over this campaign.

"The only poll that matters is the one on July 4," the Prime Minister said. "But if that poll was to be replicated on polling day, that would mean handing Keir Starmer a completely blank cheque, which would mean everyone’s taxes going up.

"Your home, your work, your car, your pension, you name it, taxes are going up." Labour have said they will seek to raise £8.6 billion in tax mostly by closing non-dom loopholes, charging private schools more tax and by levying a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. But they have also denied plans to raise other taxes.

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The Conservatives have often been criticised by opposition parties for their record in government over the past 14 years, including Mr Sunak's predecessor Liz Truss' disastrous mini-budget.

But he said: "I’m ultimately responsible for what I’m doing and no one else is. It rests on my shoulders.”

Mr Sunak added: “Look, we have had a tough time. That’s not someone’s fault that we had a pandemic and then a war in Ukraine, and that is a big source of the frustration and insecurity that people feel and all the damage that it’s done to our living standards over the past few years.

“It’s nobody’s fault. That is just the reality of the situation. But I really think that after a lot of hard work and resilience from everybody, we’ve got through the worst of that and we’ve turned a corner. The economy is growing faster than all our major competitors.

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"Inflation is back to normal, wages are rising, energy bills are falling, so people can, I hope, start to feel more confident about the future.”

Mr Sunak also insisted he was proud of Brexit, saying it had been a success, and that Sir Keir would seek to reverse it if he became Prime Minister.

Sunak criticised Keir Starmer
Sunak criticised Keir Starmer. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak also said he was concerned that Labour would not match the Conservatives' pledge to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030. Labour said in its manifesto that it would "set out the path to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence".

Some onlookers have suggested that if Mr Sunak loses Downing Street he will look to get a job in the US, but he promised to stay on in the House of Commons for the next five years if he wins re-election in his Richmond and Northallerton constituency.

Mr Sunak said: "I love being an MP. I love my constituents."

See here for a full list of candidates in Richmond and Northallerton.

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