Rishi Sunak has become the first frontline politician to be ranked among the nation’s wealthiest people – only days after the chancellor warned consumers that “the next few months will be tough” as the cost of living squeeze intensifies.
Becoming the first frontline politician to be named in the annual ranking since its inception in 1989 is likely to increase pressure on Sunak to do more to help households struggling with inflation, which hit 9% in April, its highest level in 40 years, and soaring energy bills.
At a Confederation of British Industry dinner on Wednesday night, Sunak said: “There is no measure any government could take, no law we could pass, that can make these global forces disappear overnight. The next few months will be tough. But where we can act, we will.”
Sunak and Murty’s entry into the Sunday Times rich list follows the revelation last month that Murty had claimed non-dom status to legally not pay tax on annual dividends she receives from a £690m stake in the Indian IT company Infosys, founded by her billionaire father.
After mounting public outrage, Murty bowed to pressure to pay UK taxes, saying she realised many people felt her tax arrangements were not “compatible with my husband’s job as chancellor”.
The couple own a property portfolio of four homes worth an estimated £15m – including a £5m LA penthouse overlooking the beach where Baywatch was filmed.
Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, said it was “fantastic” news that Sunak had joined the rich list, and dismissed suggestions that his vast wealth meant he was out of touch with people’s day-to-day struggles to make ends meet.
“He’s a fantastic example of someone who’s been successful in business, who’s coming to make a big impact in public service,” Raab told Times Radio. “I think we want more of those people. I think it’s fantastic that you’ve got someone of British-Indian origin, showing all people in our country that you can get to the top of politics.
“And frankly, I think if I understood correctly, the Sunday Times rich list was a reflection of not just him but his wife. His wife is an incredibly successful entrepreneur in her own right.”
The UK now has a record 177 billionaires, up six on 2021. Their combined wealth is up 9.4% to a record £653bn.
George Dibbs, the head of the Centre for Economic Justice at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said the coronavirus pandemic had allowed the already extremely wealthy to grow their fortunes will the savings of the poorest were wiped out.
“As we enter a once-in-a-generation cost of living crisis, the Sunday Times rich list shows us again that vast wealth often begets more wealth. That has proved particularly true during the pandemic, when the wealthiest accumulated more wealth than poorer people who saved nothing,” he said. “Now there are more billionaires in the UK than ever before and the collective wealth of the richest has grown again.”
Dibbs called on Sunak to act fast to introduce taxes “redistributing the wealth gains of the richest to pay for higher social security benefits for those who most need them”.
Julia Davies, a founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, a group of super-rich people calling for the introduction of a wealth tax, said the list showed an “obscene concentration of wealth while millions struggle with simply living”.
“The fact that our chancellor now joins the ranks of the richest people in the UK – while he and the government refuse to consider taxing wealth over work – is a shocking insight into our political system. We have repeatedly asked the chancellor to raise taxes on us, the wealthiest people in society. His appearance on the rich list makes it very clear why he’s not listening.
“As the Bank of England warns of apocalyptic food price rises, 2 million people are skipping meals, and a third of people can’t afford the essentials. Meanwhile, the rich, as always, are sitting pretty. This disparity has to be fixed. It is political and economic negligence that our politicians are not focused on dealing with the extreme wealth gap at a time of national economic emergency.”
Sri and Gopi Hinduja were named the UK’s richest people, with an estimated £28.5bn fortune – the largest recorded in the 34 years of the rich list.
The brothers who run a property-to-industrial conglomerate from London saw their wealth swell by £11.5bn over the past year to put them at the top of the annual wealth ranking ahead of the inventor Sir James Dyson, who is in second place with £23bn.