As the UK’s first British Indian Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has categorically dismissed the idea of leading a racist country and believes that his own South Asian heritage should carry some weight behind that contention.
“I absolutely don’t believe that Britain is a racist country. And I’d hope that as our nation’s first British Asian Prime Minister when I say that it carries some weight,” he told reporters on a tour which included interacting with British troops deployed in Europe this week (pictured).
“You know, I’m really proud of our country, its culture, its resilience, its beauty. And actually, it’s an enormous privilege to champion Britain and indeed, its institutions like the monarchy when I’m out and about on the world stage as I am here today,” he said.
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Born in Southampton to Yashvir and Usha, Sunak has spoken at length about his family roots in Punjab and his Indian grandmother’s migration to England to build a new life. As a devout Hindu who has brought Diwali celebrations to the doorsteps of Downing Street, he has also spoken of the inspiration he draws from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’.
His latest intervention on the issue of racism came in reaction to an ongoing row over television personality and columnist Jeremy Clarkson writing in ‘The Sun’ about loathing Meghan Markle "on a cellular level", in the wake of the controversial ‘Harry and Meghan’ documentary being aired on Netflix recently. Clarkson's column against the mixed-race Duchess of Sussex received over 17,500 complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), becoming the most complained about article ever.
“For everyone in public life, language matters,” said Sunak, with reference to the row.
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Meanwhile, more than 60 cross-party British MPs have written to the editor of ‘The Sun’, Victoria Newton, to demand action be taken against Clarkson. In a letter, they said Meghan Markle had received credible threats to her life and that columns such as Clarkson’s contributed to an “unacceptable climate of hatred and violence”. The letter, coordinated by the Conservative Party Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee in the House of Commons, Caroline Nokes, was signed by fellow Tory MPs as well as Opposition MPs from Labour, Lib Dem, Green and SNP.
“We cannot allow this type of behaviour to go unchecked any longer. We welcome the Sun’s retraction of the article and we now demand action is taken against Mr Clarkson and an unreserved apology to Ms Markle immediately,” they write.