London Diary: Snap polls sign of sure defeat?

Elections were widely expected to be held in the autumn and theoretically Sunak could carry on in office until January next year. So, why now?

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Hasan Suroor

Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call an early general election has spawned jokes about “Turkeys voting for early Christmas” considering that, barring a miracle, his Tory party—trailing more than 20 points behind Labour—is set to lose.

Polling will be held on 4 July.

Elections were widely expected to be held in the autumn and theoretically he could carry on in office until January next year. So, why now? His own party members were taken by surprise. Some openly criticised the decision.

One of the many theories floating around is that, knowing defeat is inevitable, he has already lined up a job in Silicon Valley.

‘I assume the prime minister has his next job in AI lined up for September. He can spend the summer settling into California, his daughters can start new schools in the fall,’ wrote a former Tory MP-turned-political pundit. Another wrote: ‘I can’t for the life of me imagine why he has done this’.

Tabloids are having a field day, with mocking headlines like: ‘Gone on the fourth of July’, ‘Drowning Street’, ‘Drown & out’.

Sunak claimed he was the man to ­protect Britain in “the most uncertain of times” while Labour leader and putative PM-in-waiting Keir Starmer urged people to vote Labour to “stop the chaos”. Leading pollster John Curtice said Sunak was trying to pull off an ­“enormous gamble”.

The announcement was marred by heavy rain bucketing down on Sunak as he spoke, standing outside No. 10 without an umbrella. The image of a soaked Sunak went viral as being symbolic of both his and his party’s prospects. Wet.


The Sunaks are now richer than the King 

Poor King Charles. He has just been overtaken in the wealth stakes by his own prime minister. 

Between them, Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, are estimated to be worth £651 million, a figure that propels them ahead of the King, whose personal wealth rose last year from £10 million to £610 million, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List, a reliable index of individual wealth.

The bulk of the Sunak family’s wealth derives from shares in Infosys. 

The revelation has embarrassed the Tory party amid questions whether such a wealthy man could relate to people “struggling to keep a roof over their heads”, as one commentator put it. 

However, Sunak isn’t numero uno on the Rich List. Industrialist Gopi Hinduja and his family have topped the list for the third successive year. Their estimated fortune stands at £37 billion.

Hinduja was one of the first billionaires to make London his home in 1979. He made his billions on the back of a boom fuelled by rock-bottom interest rates and a frothy stock market. 

In recent years, however, London has lost much of its pull amid skyrocketing real estate prices, increasing bureaucratic red-tape, rising taxes and a general anti-big business sentiment.

“Britain needs to wake up—we are losing wealth creators...” an angry businessman told the Times.

Is Sunak listening?


Meera Syal
Meera Syal

Red card for racists

Meera Syal, one of Britain’s best-known Asian-origin writers and actors, 

has said she avoids football matches after facing racist abuse three decades ago on her first and only visit to a game. 

It brought up feelings of “shame, fury [and] isolation” and she has not gone back to watch football since.

She acknowledged that the culture had changed but urged football fans to stamp out racism completely by “naming and shaming that toxic minority that brings the game into disrepute”.

Speaking for the first time about her experience, Syal said: “It spoiled what should have been a fun day out. And yes, I do think it put me off wanting to attend another match.”


Drunk as a Lord, literally

An Indian-origin member of the House of Lords is on the brink of a one-year ban from entering some of Parliament’s bars (yes, Westminster is dotted with watering holes reserved for MPs). Lord Kulveer Singh Ranger swore at two young women while “extremely drunk”, using four-letter words liberally.

A report by the House of Lords Conduct Committee detailed how a “visibly drunk” Ranger approached a group of people he did not know. One of the women, referred to in the report as JK, said he was “stumbling around and sort of falling a little bit”.

Kulveer Singh Ranger
Kulveer Singh Ranger

He then left, but returned less than an hour later, by which time the other complainant (referred to as LM) had joined the group. Ranger acted aggressively, shouting and swearing at the group, and “invading their personal space in a way they found threatening”, the report said.

Ranger claimed he did not remember the incident but did admit to having had “several glasses of wine” that day. He has apologised but the committee has recommended he be suspended from the House for three weeks and banned from bars controlled by the House of Lords for a year. 


And, finally, British adults have been found to use their phones more often than the Germans, French or Americans. Yet, Britons are more likely to back restrictions on phone usage for their children. Double standards, eh?

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