“Never let anyone tell you that this is a racist country. It is not. 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,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in his first address as the leader of the Conservative Party at the conference in Manchester this week.
In an impassioned speech, he recalled the moment his grandfather first joined him on a visit to the House of Commons.
He shared: “When I first became an MP, my grandfather came to Parliament to see me. As we stood in Westminster Hall, on that floor which Disraeli and Churchill had walked across so many times, my grandfather got out his mobile phone and made a quick phone call.
“I was a new MP and I wasn’t quite sure whether phones were allowed there or not. I was like, Nanaji, can this not 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’.
“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 speech followed a very personal and emotional introduction by his Indian wife, Akshata Murty, who spoke of her husband’s many admirable qualities that make him the right leader for the UK.
She said: “He has an incredible zest for life. What drew me to him most was his strength of character, his honesty, his integrity, with a firm understanding of right from wrong. It's what I'm still drawn to, even today, after 14 years of being married.
“Rishi, you know this, you know that doing the right thing for the long term even when it is hard is the right thing to do. I hope you also know how proud you make our girls [Krishna and Anoushka] and me every single day.”
Murty, the daughter of the co-founder of Indian software major Infosys, Narayana Murthy, and author Sudha Murty, joked that she had gate-crashed the gathering and expressed gratitude for the warm welcome the first family of Indian heritage at 10 Downing Street had received.
“Rishi and I are each other’s best friends; we are one team and I could not imagine being anywhere else than here today to show my support to him and to the party,” she said.
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Sunak’s conference speech was packed with a series of announcements across infrastructure, health and education, including his plans to raise the smoking age and introduce a new qualification called Advanced British Standard to replace A-Levels and T-Levels.