‘I don’t read the news any more – it’s too personal’: Akshata Murty on life in No 10

Ms Murty has set up Lessons at 10, a weekly session with youngsters from all over the country to learn about everything from beauty to business

Matt Mathers
Saturday 11 May 2024 16:30 BST
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As the wife of Rishi Sunak, Akshata Murty has found herself in the spotlight – and not just in relation to politics
As the wife of Rishi Sunak, Akshata Murty has found herself in the spotlight – and not just in relation to politics (No 10 Downing Street/Flickr)

Akshata Murty has revealed that she no longer reads the news, as it has become “so much more personal”.

As the wife of Rishi Sunak, she has found that she and her husband are in the spotlight not just for his political decisions, but every aspect of his life.

Bemused by the interest in his Adidas Samba trainers, she told The Times: “I had no clue. Rishi has always worn Sambas. You kind of have to live your life and not let it consume you.

“I try not to [read the news] now because it is so much more personal.”

Ms Murty, 44, is the multimillionaire daughter of one of India’s richest businessmen and managed to stay out of the public eye until The Independent revealed she had been avoiding tax by claiming non-dom status while her husband was chancellor. She later agreed to pay UK tax on her overseas income.

She and her husband also came under fire over her stake in Koru Kids after Mr Sunak failed to declare her involvement in the childcare agency that benefited from the Budget in 2023.

Mr Sunak and Ms Murty in their flat in 10 Downing Street
Mr Sunak and Ms Murty in their flat in 10 Downing Street (Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street)

Her choice of fashion has also raised eyebrows in the past, including when she wore a pair of Gucci shoes costing £645 on the campaign trail in the run-up to the local elections.

In her first solo interview since the non-dom row, she described her passions since moving into Downing Street. She has set up Lessons at 10, a weekly session with youngsters from all over the country to learn about everything from beauty to business.

More than 1,000 pupils from schools across the country have taken part in the classes, learning about cooking, coding and chemistry and also taking part in drama inside one of the most famous buildings in the world.

Unlike in the US, where the president’s wife is known as the first lady, there is no official title for the wife of the prime minister. They also have no structured role under the constitution but sometimes accompany the PM on official engagements.

“My view is, in what small way can I add value, not just by supporting Rishi, but what I can do that’s worthwhile while living here?” Ms Murty said.  “Education is one area that has always been meaningful to me.”

Ms Murty canvassing in Chelsea with her husband
Ms Murty canvassing in Chelsea with her husband (Conservative Party)

Ms Murty, who divides her time with the couple’s two daughters between London and their Yorkshire constituency, said the family like to play games such as Catan and Uno, rather than watching television,

She said she tries to stay apolitical while delivering the lessons, which she said helps to keep her busy as the PM’s spouse. “Can you lie in bed all day eating chocolates? I don’t do that.”

Ms Murty went to Stanford Business School, where she met Mr Sunak, but now sees her current role as supporting her family.

“I try very hard to keep life as routine as possible,” she said. “I also look at this time in our lives as an opportunity to serve and you serve in the best way you can. That is my mindset. I am not a politician. I can’t always please everyone.

“My father told me the softest pillow is a clear conscience. Do your best and then you don’t worry. So that’s my role. To keep the show going.”

The role of the prime minister’s wife has been described as a thankless task and some of Ms Murty’s peers have found it difficult.

Samantha Cameron, the wife of ex-PM David, once decried the “harshness” of the role
Samantha Cameron, the wife of ex-PM David, once decried the “harshness” of the role (PA)

Samantha Cameron, the wife of ex-PM David, once decried the “harshness” of the role.

“You’re trying to do your best in a role you may not be expecting. I think it’s very harsh,” said Mrs Cameron. “You’ve got to find your way, do the things you enjoy and feel that you are good at, and be supportive, while also learning very quickly how to get in and out of a car without showing your knickers.”

Carrie Johnson, wife of Boris, was involved in a number of scandals during his time in Downing Street and cast by opponents of the former prime minister as a manipulative figure who led him astray.

She was said to have been embroiled in a bitter power struggle with Dominic Cummings before he was ousted from government as the prime minister’s top aide.

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