The day his family home was scaled by anti-fossil fuel protesters and covered in black banners, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was a world away — posing for photos with his family on the Santa Monica Pier.
Sunak is in California on vacation, visiting the state where he and his wife met and now own a multimillion-dollar penthouse.
He reportedly took part in a 7 a.m. Taylor Swift-themed SoulCycle spin class (a disappointment to fans who thought that the special guest at the class would be Swift herself). Some then staked the claim that Sunak is “most American prime minister that the UK has ever had.”
Here’s a rundown of Sunak’s most American ties and interests.
- Sunak went to graduate school at Stanford University in California, where he met his wife, Akshata Murty.
- After graduating, he worked for a London-based hedge fund, but was focused on the U.S. He worked on the firm’s legal fight with the CSX, the American freight rail company, according to the BBC. He later worked for a finance firm and was based in Santa Monica.
- He once cited his time in California as a reason for backing Brexit, saying, “The pace of change is just accelerating around the world - that was my experience being in California.”
- Sunak and his wife have owned their penthouse flat in Santa Monica since 2014 and visit often as a vacation spot. It’s valued at over $7 million, according to The Guardian. He had maintained his U.S. Green Card, but returned it October 2021.
- Politically, he’s aimed to increase Britain’s economic ties with Washington, viewing the U.S. as a more important ally amid competition from China, a more aggressive Russia, and rapid advancements in artificial intelligence tech.
- Culturally, Sunak is clearly a Swiftie, and has seen her in concert before, though there’s no word yet on whether he plans to go to one of the Eras Tour shows in Los Angeles this week. He told The Sunday Times in 2021 that he’s a fan of the show Emily in Paris (which, despite its name, is very American), and prefers Marvel Comics over Andrew Marvell, the English poet.
- There are some diplomatic lines he won’t cross. When asked in 2021 if Britney Spears should be freed from her conservatorship, he answered: “Probably not right for me to comment on the internal affairs of another country.”
Room for Disagreement
Other British prime ministers could also make strong cases for their American credentials.
- Winston Churchill’s mother was American. He went on to coin the phrase “special relationship” that would come to define the close ties between U.S. and U.K. In 1963, he became the first person to be granted honorary American citizenship, a merit that has since been given to just seven other people.
- Boris Johnson was born in New York, first holding dual British-American citizenship. But he renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2016 to show his loyalty to the U.K.
- Tony Blair was known for his enthusiasm toward the British political relationship with the U.S. “Blair internalized the special relationship, analysts say: He wasn’t just pro-American; he was American — at least in temperament and political style,” NPR wrote in 2007. He faced criticism for his unwavering ties to Washington, especially after he sent British forces to Iraq.