Rishi Sunak becomes the third Prime Minister of Britain in less than two months, after rival Penny Mordaunt backed out of the race on Monday.
At 42, Sunak also becomes the youngest prime minister in more than 200 years.
Rishi Sunak is set to become the first Hindu and the first prime minister of colour in the UK, two significant turning points in the development of Britain as a multicultural and multireligious country.
Despite a noticeable rise in the number of politicians of colour chosen to important cabinet positions like chancellor, home secretary, and foreign secretary, the UK has never had a black or brown prime leader before.
Sunak practises Hinduism, but rarely discussing his religion in public. Thousands of thousands of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the world celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, as he was announced as the UK's new leader. It honours fresh starts as well as the victory of right over wrong and light over darkness.
“It was one of my proudest moments that I was able to do that on the steps of Downing Street. It was one of my proudest moments of the job that I had for the last two years,” he told the Times earlier this year.
His faith “gives me strength, it gives me purpose. It’s part of who I am,” he said.
After the 2017 general election, he swore his oath to parliament upon the sacred Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita.
Grant Shapps, who became home secretary last week, downplayed the significance of Sunak becoming the UK’s first prime minister of colour.
His appointment “would be a moment for the country”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But in other ways it is unremarkable, little commented on, and that is one of the great things about the United Kingdom – that we are able to get along. I can imagine in other countries, that would be the only and the leading coverage. Here it’s an afterthought, and isn’t that great?”
“Sunak as prime minister is not necessarily a cause for celebration for all ethnic minorities. It shouldn’t be used to refute the ongoing existence of racism or obscure the fact that there are well-documented systemic racial and ethnic inequalities in housing, health and education.”
Liz Truss’s cabinet included five people of colour: James Cleverly, Nadhim Zahawi, Alok Sharma, Kemi Badenoch and Ranil Jayawardena. A further two, Kwasi Kawarteng and Suella Braverman, were sacked in recent days.
Sunak’s parents are of Indian descent. His father, Yashvir, was born in Kenya and his mother, Usha, in Tanzania. They migrated to the UK in the 1960s.
The families of a clutch of other senior Conservative MPs, including Priti Patel, Braverman, Cleverly and Kwarteng, also emigrated to the UK from east and west Africa.
Sunak will also possibly be the UK’s first teetotal prime minister since David Lloyd George, with Coca-Cola his favoured tipple. There is no clear prohibition on alcohol in Hinduism, but many Hindus choose not to drink.