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Two Indian-origin MPs join UK Ministerial Ranks

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on January 09, 2018

A strong supporter of Brexit, Rishi Sunak criticised the EU’s ‘dismal record’ of opening up new trade markets for member-states

Two Indian origin MPs joined the ranks of the Conservative government, as Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy’s son-in-law, Rishi Sunak, the Conservative Member of Parliament for the Northern English constituency of Richmond (Yorkshire), and Suella Fernandes, a Goan-origin MP for the southern constituency of Fareham, were made ministers following the latest ministerial reshuffle, conducted by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Sunak, who entered Parliament in 2015, has long been seen as a rising star party, and will become the parliamentary under secretary of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the government said on Tuesday afternoon. Ms. Fernandes, a vocal Brexit campaigner, will become a minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union.

Mr. Sunak, educated at Oxford and Stanford Universities, was widely tipped as one of the backbench MPs likely to be brought into the government in the reshuffle, which was intended to set a new tone for the new year. Mr. Sunak, who has largely kept a low profile to date, is a strong supporter of Brexit. Writing for the Conservative Home website earlier this year, he criticised the EU’s “dismal record” of opening up new trade markets for member states, arguing that outside the customs union, Britain could “regain control” over its trade policy. The son of a retired GP and a small business owner, Sunak co-founded an investment firm before moving into politics.

Ms. Fernandes, a member of the pro-Brexit Conservative organisation, European Research Group, is also a strong advocate of Brexit, telling the Commons recently that Britain’s future lay in reviving the Commonwealth and its links with markets such as India.

Rocky start

Other ministerial changes included the move by the Indian-origin MP Alok Sharma from being the Minister for Housing to the Minister for Employment.

May’s plans for the reshuffle got off to a rocky start this week, as Jeremy Hunt, the controversial Education Secretary, who dug his heels in managed to retain a position he was intended to be out of, while Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, walked out of the government after declining the job she’d been offered.

The loss of Ms. Greening – who resigned after being offered the job of the lead minister on work and pensions - was a particular blow for the government, which had been eager to highlight its stability and diversity following a difficult 2017. Many contrasted the refusal to allow Greening – a gay woman, from the north of England who had been educated under Britain’s comprehensive schooling system – to retain her position of one of the key, and most sensitive portfolios with the decision to allow Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary to stay on, after he reportedly “persuaded her” of the merits of that decision, with an expanded portfolio.

However, even before Greening’s resignation, the reshuffle caused confusion after the Conservatives mistakenly congratulated Transport Secretary Chris Grayling on becoming Party Chairman – a position that was subsequently awarded to MP Brandon Lewis. “Chris Grayling, vandal of Transport & Justice, survives, while sensible Justine Greening is sacked! Why? Grayling is linchpin of the Brexiteers holding Mrs May hostage. Nigel Farage is PM in all but name,” said Andrew Adonis, who stepped down as chair of the Prime Ministers’ National Infrastructure Commission late last year.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, held onto his position as did Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Penny Mordaunt, who took over from Priti Patel who stood down as International Development Secretary following the controversy over her Israel trip last year, also retained her position.

Published on January 09, 2018
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