Only a few politicians – and Boris Johnson is definitely one of them – have the ability to come out of the mud with a spotless shirt. British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak (Southampton, 41), however, is one of those who considers any splash an unfair attack. The revelation that his billionaire Indian wife, Akshata Murty, who shares his residence with him at 11 Downing Street, door to door with the Prime Minister, has spent years in the UK “non-resident” tax regime has put in the pillory who at some point already took for granted that he would be Johnson’s natural substitute without having to mess up his hair. Everything is perfectly legal. The daughter of Narayana Murty, the businessman who founded the powerful information technology services company, Infosys, Akshata owns shares in the company worth around €600 million. Last year she received about 14 million in dividends. Thanks to very favorable tax laws with the new fauna of top executives and globetrotting billionaires that globalization has produced, the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer barely paid 36,000 euros in taxes to the United Kingdom. A time bomb, at a time when Sunak has received harsh criticism from the Labor opposition and from his own fellow rank-and-file members of the Conservative Party for the miserliness of his spring budget measures. With inflation soaring and citizens overwhelmed by the prices of gasoline, gas or electricity, the minister limited himself to reducing the tax applied to fuel by six cents per pound sterling, and making a minimal gesture of lowering social contributions .
With an ingenuity unbecoming of British slashing politics, Sunak gave an interview this week to the tabloid The Sun in which he tried to defend his wife: “It would not be reasonable to demand that he break ties with his country simply because he has married me. He loves his country, as I love mine. It would never occur to me to give up my British citizenship, ”argued the minister. An explanation that many experts have pointed out as naive, at best, or tricky, at worst, because it is not necessary for Murty to renounce his Indian citizenship to pay taxes in the country where, for obvious reasons, he intends to to continue residing in the future. In fact, this very Saturday he announced through a statement that, from now on, he would begin to pay taxes in the United Kingdom.
The it never rains but it pours (it never rains, but it pours) English has a more accurate translation to Spanish with “a skinny dog, everything is fleas”. And Sunak, with an enviable slenderness, has been rolling downhill for a few weeks. Few doubt that Johnson’s team has been in charge of stirring up in the related media the story of his wife’s taxes, or the general discontent over Sunak’s lack of empathy with the suffering of the population. The Prime Minister does not forget how the person in charge of the Economy distanced himself from him during the toughest moments of the partygate, the scandal over the banned parties in Downing Street during the pandemic. How she even publicly reproached him for his defensive maneuvering against the opposition (specifically accusing Labor leader Keir Starmer of failing to act against pedophile BBC star Jimmy Savile when he was Attorney General). And in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, in which Johnson has managed to reposition himself as an international statesman, the time has come to serve revenge on a cold plate. “I think he is doing a fantastic job, and that we should not drag the family of politicians into these battles,” the prime minister responded this Friday during his press conference with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to the battery of journalists who told him they were asking about Sunak. From the minister’s team, however, they had no doubt that much of the fire received was friendly fire.
Since he unveiled his budget measures, Sunak’s popularity has plummeted almost 30 points in the continuous poll maintained by the YouGov company.. clumsiness, Forgivable when a politician is on a roll, they have become fodder for the tabloids. When at the end of March he allowed himself to be photographed at a service station in Sainsbury’s, the British chain of large supermarkets, refueled a red KIA Rio worth just over 30 pounds (about 36 euros). It didn’t take long for the journalists to find out that the vehicle belonged to one of the supermarket employees, who had lent it for the photo; that its value was just over 14,000 euros, and that Sunak, who tried to fix the botched claiming that he regularly drove a Volkswagen Golf, owned a fleet of four high-end vehicles, including a Lexus and a Range Rover; and that, finally, with 30 pounds the deposit of a KIA was not filled either.
“The Chancellor of the Exchequer has raised taxes on the working class, and has kept repeating that he had no other choice,” said Labor Starmer. “Now we know that his wife used a tax scheme to reduce her taxes, and that is tremendously hypocritical. It only shows how far removed from reality the minister is ”, denounced the leader of the opposition, with a demagoguery that is strange in his style, but that responds to the need to attack the possible replacement of Johnson witheringly.
In the last few hours it has also been known that Sunak, who worked for years in California and founded an investment firm, has maintained until just a few months ago his green card (Green Card), the US residence permit that is usually obtained as a prior step to citizenship, and which represents a declaration of intent regarding staying in the country. Sunak even used the document even to travel the document until a few months ago, when he was advised to give it up, because of the poor impression it made on someone who aspired to one day take over the reins of the UK.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.