Britain’s Indian First Lady, Akshata Murty, made a surprise debut on the political stage on Wednesday when she stepped out to introduce “best friend” Rishi Sunak for his maiden speech as UK Prime Minister to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. Murty, during her light-hearted and personal speech, claimed her husband was unaware of her “gate-crashing” as the warm-up act to the centrepiece of the annual conference and that her decision had also surprised their daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.
The 43-year-old daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayan Murthy went on to share her pride in Sunak’s many achievements and how it was his “honesty and integrity” that had first attracted her to him when they met as students at Stanford University in their 20s.
“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,” said Murty. “Rishi and I met when we were 24 when we were both studying abroad in America. Right from the very beginning, I was struck by two things about him…his deep love for his home, the United Kingdom, and his sincere desire to ensure as many people as possible have a chance to have the opportunities he was lucky enough to have had. It completely energised him. Being with Rishi was the easiest decision of my life,” she said.
According to Murty, the one word that encapsulates her husband is “aspiration”, which drives him to work for a better future for the UK. “Sometimes when the going gets tough, I remind Rishi that he’s fighting for his values. That he’s fighting for this party’s values, knowing that it’s a hard road ahead. That success is hard one,” she said.
During the lighter moments in her speech, Murty confirmed media reports about Sunak’s preference for romcoms and described him as “fun, thoughtful and compassionate”.
“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,” she said.
During his much-anticipated address, Sunak opened with the central theme of the Tory conference to say that Murty was the “best long-term decision for a brighter future” he had made. Sunak said since he became Prime Minister in October last year the government has “done good things in that time”. He went on to highlight that the political system over the last 30 years had incentivised easy decisions short-term rather than the right ones. “It doesn’t have to be this way, I won’t be this way,” he declared.
Confirming an expected decision to axe the High Speed-2 (HS2) railway project, Sunak claimed it was the “ultimate example of the old consensus” and the economic case for the project has “massively been weakened”. “I say to those who backed the project in the first place, the facts have changed and the right thing to do when the facts change is to have the courage to change direction. And so I am ending this long-running saga. I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and in its place we will reinvest every single penny, GBP 36 billion in hundreds of new transport projects in the north and the Midlands, across the country,” he said.