AS Rishi Sunak prepared to deliver a major policy speech on Wednesday (4), the prime minister received a surprise introduction from his “best friend”: his wife Akshata Murty.
The generally media-shy Murty, 43, the daughter of an Indian software billionaire, took the stage at the annual Tory conference just before Sunak was due to speak, telling gathered party members about what drives her husband and joking about his love for romantic comedy films.
While Murty has appeared with Sunak on diplomatic trips this year, including to India and Japan, she has rarely taken centre-stage at a major event.
“The reason why I’m here is really quite simple. And it’s because Rishi and I are each other’s best friends,” she began as Sunak watched from backstage, adding that her own speech was a surprise to her husband.
“We’re one team, and I could not imagine being anywhere else than here today, with all of you to show my support to him and to the party.”
The couple are the richest ever occupants of 10 Downing Street. Murty is the daughter of Narayana Murthy, one of the founders of Indian IT giant Infosys and owned shares in the company worth roughly $600 million as of April.
Murty, during her light-hearted and personal speech, claimed her husband was unaware of her “gate-crashing” and that her decision had also surprised their daughters, Krishna and Anoushka.
“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 UK, 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.
“Rishi, you know this, you know that doing the right thing for the long term even when it is hard is the right thing to do. I hope you also know how proud you make our girls and me every single day,” concluded Murty, to sustained applause from the Tory gathering as a visibly moved Sunak stepped out onto the stage.
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.