London Daily

Focus on the big picture.
Sunday, Dec 03, 2023

Rishi Sunak is no tech bro

Rishi Sunak is no tech bro

The UK prime minister is more financier than entrepreneur, say those who have worked with him.

Rishi Sunak has drunk the Silicon Valley Kool-Aid, but the British prime minister is still an investor at heart.

Since shooting to political prominence as Britain’s chief finance minister in February 2020 Sunak has been labeled Britain’s first tech-bro politician.

He is often photographed sporting hi-tech gadgets, including his £180 smart mug, and was a devotee of the Peloton bike, whose streamed workouts gained a cult following during the COVID-19 lockdown.

A stint studying at Stanford University — the elite Californian institution which counts Google co-founder Larry Page and Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings among its alumni — changed his life, he once boasted. Stanford “teaches you to think bigger,” he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast in 2021. He met his wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of the founder of Indian multinational IT company Infosys, there too.

Sunak's budgets have been packed with innovation-friendly fiscal policies from tax breaks for cloud computing to millions of pounds for Britain’s new Advanced Research and Invention Agency known as ARIA.

“We’ve not had a prime minister as personally committed to tech and innovation — it makes a huge difference and it’s something the tech ecosystem is palpably aware of and grateful for,” Dom Hallas, executive director of the lobby group the Coalition for a Digital Economy said.

But ministers and officials who worked closely with Sunak say that while his tech enthusiasm is there for all to see, he is ultimately a money-man — and his efforts to bring the Silicon Valley mindset to Whitehall have delivered mixed results.

“He is more of a financier than an entrepreneur. He worked for a hedge fund rather than founding a startup, and that’s all you need to know,” said one former minister, who worked directly with Sunak and spoke on condition of anonymity. “He’s always just looking at cost benefits.”

And with expectations high among the science and technology sectors, the prime minister's first months in office have disappointed. “Ministers talk hubristically of Britain becoming a ‘science and technology superpower’ but their woeful policies diminish this to a mere political slogan,” inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson wrote in a letter to the Times Saturday. “In the U.K., Dyson now faces rocketing corporation tax (wiping out any tax credits for research and development) ... and a crippling shortage of qualified engineers.”

Brexit balance sheet

Sunak started out as an analyst at the U.S. banking giant Goldman Sachs, and was a partner at the Californian hedge fund Theleme Partners before entering politics.

His support for Brexit in the 2016 referendum speaks to the investor mindset, one former government adviser, who now works in the tech industry, said.

Since moving into Downing Street, Sunak has been a strong champion of a new visa system for global talent

Many tech founders “took Brexit as a personal affront,” said the ex-adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In 2018 a raft of high-profile tech figures including founder Martha Lane Fox and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales signed a letter calling for a second referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

By contrast Britain's EU departure had the backing of some high profile hedge fund managers including Crispin Odey and Michael Hintze.

“There were a lot of people in the private equity world that backed Brexit, and backed it heavily financially as well,” the ex-adviser added.

Sunak, a politician rather than banker by 2016, publicly made the case for Brexit in order to regain U.K. control over immigration policy but also pointed to his professional experience as key to his decision to support Britain’s departure from the EU. His business experience convinced him U.K. businesses could thrive in new markets like the U.S., India and Brazil, he said.

Since moving into Downing Street, Sunak has been a strong champion of a new visa system for global talent, something he has long pointed to as an alternative to freedom of movement within the European Union which Britain withdrew from as part of its exit from the bloc.

“Silicon Valley is extremely envious of that, and they really want to have a very similar visa regime to one that he introduced,” the ex-adviser said.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said he wants to help innovative businesses create jobs and grow the economy. “From capitalizing on our Brexit freedoms to set our own regulations, to investing £900m in the next generation of computing technology, [the prime minister] is passionate about working with innovative businesses to unlock opportunity and progress for the whole of the U.K.,” the spokesperson added.

Understanding investment

Since entering high office Sunak has sought to bring a bit of startup culture to government. It hasn’t always paid off.

In his 2021 Twenty Minute VC interview he talked about his ambition to “create the startup Treasury mentality where we just do things a bit differently,” and introduced “hack-a-thon”-style events allowing small teams of officials from all corners of the Treasury to pitch ambitious solutions to problems.

Sunak’s flagship Help to Grow: Digital scheme, which promised advice for small and medium-sized businesses on how technology could help them grow and which he championed in 2021 as something he hoped would endure for a “very long time,” closed in February because of lower-than-expected take-up of an offer to give businesses advice and vouchers to help buy new software.

Since entering high office Sunak has sought to bring a bit of startup culture to government

Alex Thomas, program director at the Institute for Government think tank, said Sunak has brought “more of a management consultancy approach to government,” and added it is “no bad thing if it means setting clear goals, building teams to deliver them and then holding them to account.”

But Thomas warned talk of a start-up mentality can become “a cliché and a way of thinking about governing without the hard (and often slow) graft.”

Sunak’s latest Whitehall innovation — the reorganization of government departments to create a new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology — has divided opinion. While some of the tech industry welcomed the move, believing it gives them a strong voice in government, one civil society lobbyist quipped that Sunak had created a “trade body” for tech in the heart of government.

One person who has worked with the department questioned whether it had the resources and capacity to deliver the wide-ranging policy agenda it has been given. It started life in February with a flurry of announcements, but will now need to turn strategy papers into action, they said.

A second former minister, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that while Sunak is “an evangelist for technology,” he looks at it primarily as a way to make government better value for money and more effective.

Meanwhile the ex-adviser quoted above said Sunak approached policymaking with a private equity mindset.

“When it comes to investing in deep tech, AI, [and] the life sciences side of things, investors do have to read a lot of academic papers. Given his work ethic, he does understand the more academic perspective behind developments in AI, though he might not be a technologist,” they said.

That was evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when Sunak was said to have read in detail the scientific papers from the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical adviser before discussions about lockdown decisions, officials familiar with government at the time said.

Taming the juggernaut

One of the prime minister's biggest tech tests yet will be his approach to artificial intelligence. Generative AI has hit the headlines this year as tools such as ChatGPT have hit the mainstream, prompting politicians to question how it might be regulated.

The prime minister has been keen to take a light-touch approach to the technology and champion the financial rewards. At a Cabinet meeting last November, Sunak highlighted the importance of artificial intelligence as an emerging field which has the power to transform our day-to-day lives, and No. 10 was keen to stress that the benefits of AI had also been discussed at a more recent Cabinet meeting last month when GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming briefed ministers on the risks posed by the technology.

In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month met the chiefs of top artificial intelligence companies including Microsoft and Alphabet's Google to warn them they must ensure their products are safe before they are deployed.

But colleagues say Sunak’s stance on Big Tech regulation has always been nuanced.

He supports the Online Safety Bill — designed to regulate digital content — which he sees not as a tech issue but “as a moral issue,” the first former minister quoted above said.

And Sunak “kept his head down” on other big tech fights, including plans for new digital competition regulation when he was chancellor, according to another former government adviser who observed the positioning of Cabinet ministers at the time.

When the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill crossed his desk as prime minister, Big Tech lost the fight over the scope of appeal mechanisms in the proposed law.

“I support the growth of digital industries, but believe we will only achieve a thriving digital economy in the U.K. with properly functioning markets,” Sunak said during last year's Tory leadership contest when he pledged his support for the bill. Last month Microsoft took aim at the U.K.'s existing competition regime as “bad for Britain” after it was blocked from buying U.S. gaming firm Activision.

Sunak might have been dazzled by the bright lights of West Coast America, but for the ex-banker now at the helm of U.K. plc he's too much of a pragmatist not to first look at the bottom line.


Related Articles

London Daily
Trump’s lawyers say he did not take an oath ‘to support the Constitution’
You Are So Beautiful
Henry Kissinger, the influential American diplomat, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and former Secretary of State, passed away at 100 at his Connecticut home.
Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr. Parnpreeb Commends ICRC's Role in Hostage Release
An old French tune (by Georges Brassens) Pomplamoose ft. John Schroeder
Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the crypto exchange FTX who was convicted of fraud earlier this month, is adjusting to his new life in the detention center where he awaits sentencing.
Sattahip Motor Show 20
Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the crypto exchange FTX who was convicted of fraud earlier this month, is adjusting to his new life in the detention center where he awaits sentencing.
SONATE AU CLAIR DE LUNE - Moonlight sonata
The political network founded by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch has endorsed Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential nominating contest
A kiss to build a dream on
Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's longtime investing partner, dies at 99
Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Robert De Niro told an awards ceremony a speech he was reading had been edited without his knowledge, removing critical comments about Donald Trump
Mean Blues
Standard Chartered is in the early stages of a search for its next chair as the bank prepares for the departure of Jose Vinals, who’s entering his eighth year in the role
La Chansonnette
Eurostar to Suspend Amsterdam to London Service for 6 Months
Pattaya Addicts
California is not considered a racist place. Or so it seems.
Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream
Sam Altman's return to OpenAI marks a significant turn of events for Microsoft and its relationship with the AI giant.
Dream a little dream of me
Radical immigrants set on fire police cars and loot shops in Dublin.
Unchained Melody sung like you've NEVER heard!
The BBC Caught Again with Questionable Journalistic Standards, as Ugly Facts Undermine Its Attractive Yet Flawed Arguments
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
This video reveals that Target's Black Friday promotions are entirely fake, with no actual discounts. The prices before and after are identical!
Édith Piaf - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Sofie)
Israel's Spokesperson Mark Regev's Response to Comparisons Between Palestinian Teenage Terrorists and Young Innocent Victims of Hamas Captivity
Rondo Alla Turca
Here is a video showing the moment of the release of the captives by the terrorist organization Hamas and their transfer to the Red Cross on their way back to the State of Israel.
Kiss of fire
Here is a video showing the moment of the release of the captives by the terrorist organization Hamas and their transfer to the Red Cross on their way back to the State of Israel.
Tom Jones - I´ll Never Fall In Love Again 1967, 1989, 2001
Bill Gates Envisions a Possible 3-Day Work Week with AI
Israel Cachao López - Guajira Clásica
Viktor Orban's Provocative Assertions and Their Significance in Europe
Edward Maya - Stereo Love (feat. Vika Jigulina) (Extended Mix)
Orban's Blunt Challenge to Brussels: Embracing National Sovereignty in Migration Policy
Strauss - Radetzky March - Karajan
OpenAI Staff Rebellion: 500 Employees Demand Board Resignation in Dramatic Standoff
La vie en rose
OpenAI Staff Rebellion: 500 Employees Demand Board Resignation in Dramatic Standoff
The Temptations - My Girl (Smokey Robinson Tribute) 2006 Kennedy Cent
Over 200 Convicted in Italy's 'Ndrangheta Mafia Trial
Orlando Cachaito Lopez Redencion
In a scandalous revelation at the COVID-19 inquiry, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is under fire for an alleged remark that suggests a chilling indifference to human life during the pandemic
Abu Dhabi-Backed Fund Poised to Assume Control of UK's Telegraph Media Group
RADETZKY MARCH-2008-Wien, New Year Concert
Sam Altman and Greg Brockman Join Microsoft Amidst OpenAI Developments
Only you (And you alone)
Reporters Without Borders Unveils News Platform to Counter Russian Propaganda
Strangers In The Night
Singer Shakira will pay a fine of eight million euros after being accused of evading taxes worth 14.5 million euros during the years 2012-2014.
Charles Aznavour - La Boheme
Hungary's Orbán Asserts Ukraine Is Far from EU Membership
Summer time
Racial Bias in AI Leads to Wrongful Arrest Due to False Recognition
Sting and Stevie Wonder - Fragile (from Sting's 60th birthday concert)
Orban Stresses Hungary's Need to Reform the EU Rather Than Exiting It
Aux Champs Elysees
Biden Advocates for Palestinian Authority to Govern Gaza and West Bank
Stand By Me - Ben E. King (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Brigitte Macron Opens Up About Her Marriage to Younger President Emmanuel Macron
La Mer (Beyond the Sea) – Avalon Jazz Band
Apple and Disney Halt Ads on X Following Elon Musk's Antisemitic Post, US Reacts
Finland Shuts Four Crossing Points on Russia Border
Nathalie Song by Enzo Petrachi Stjepan Hauser Cello
Viktor Orbán Welcomes Cameron's Political Return
Shape of My Heart - Sting (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
The UK’s Supreme Court, in a move that surprised no one who respects international law and human rights, has just delivered a landmark ruling against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s immigration strategy.
Radiohead - Creep
YouTube has introduced an AI feature named Dream Track that can mimic the voices of celebrities such as Demi Lovato and John Legend, enabling users to compose brief songs by specifying lyrics and mood
Quizás,Quizás,Quizás - Andrea Bocelli - Jennifer Lopez
Viktor Orbán Welcomes Cameron's Political Return
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - Multi-Couples
The UK’s Supreme Court, in a move that surprised no one who respects international law and human rights, has just delivered a landmark ruling against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s immigration strategy.
Pentatonix Havana
AWS, Google, and Microsoft to Invest $8.5 Billion in Thailand
Paula Cole - Autumn Leaves
Top German journalist received €600,000 from Putin ally, leak reveals
Oscar Benton Bensonhurst Blues
A Dramatic Video from Gaza, Provided by IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari, Offers Undeniable Evidence of Hamas Establishing Terror Operation Bases Near Schools, Above Hospitals, and Inside Civilian Areas.
FBI Agents Confiscate Electronic Devices of New York Mayor
Nina Simone - ”I Put A Spell On You”. Vezi aici cum cântă Jeremy Ragsd
Moody's Downgrades U.S. Credit Outlook to Negative Amid Fiscal Concerns
NIGHTWISH - The Phantom Of The Opera
Significant security measures set in place by Scotland Yard this Remembrance weekend in London
Motorshow 2016 Tanjay Negros Oriental
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
Monica Bellucci - Ti Amo
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean Milena The Voice France 2018
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Michael Buble (Help Me Make It Through The Night) feat Loren Allred
Memories Canon In D - Maroon 5 (Boyce Avenue piano acoustic cover)
Matteo Simoni - Marina
Maroon 5 - One More Night
Maroon 5 - Memories
Mark Knopfler - Brothers In Arms (Berlin 2007 Live)
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Romeo And Juliet (Real Live Roadrunni
Marina, Marina - The LUCKY DUCKIES intimist live concert at Guimarães
Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On Mauranne The Voice France 2016
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet - Joslin - Henri Mancini, Nino Rota
LoLa & Hauser - Love Story
Linkin Park Jay-Z - Numb Encore (Live 8 2005)
Hallelujah Mennel Ibtissem, The Voice France Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love
Leonard Cohen & Natasha Rostova - Dance me to the end of love
La casa de papel - Bella Ciao
La Camisa Negra
L'italiano (Toto Cutugno) - The Gypsy Queens
Juanes - La Camisa Negra
Jonathan and Charlotte - Britain's Got Talent 2012 Live Semi Final - U
John Powell - Assassin's Tango
Joe Cocker - You Can Leave Your Hat On (LIVE in Dortmund)
Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart 2002 Live
Joe Cocker - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Jay Z & Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind LIVE
Jason Mraz - Im Yours (live)
Jarrod Radnich - Bohemian Rhapsody - Virtuosic Piano Solo
James Blunt - You're Beautiful
James Blunt - You're Beautiful & Bonfire Heart (Live at The Nobel Peac)
If You Go Away - Helen Merrill & Stan Getz (Tribute to Virna Lisi)
I Say a Little Prayer
Hotel California ( Eagles ) 1994 Live
Historia de un amor - Luz Casal. Vezi interpretarea Biancăi Sumanariu
Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover) on Spot
Heart - Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin - Kennedy Center Honors
HAVANA by Camila Cabello Zumba Pre Cooldown TML Crew Kramer Pastra
HAUSER and Señorita - I Will Always Love You
HAUSER - Waka Waka
HAUSER - Lambada
HAUSER - Historia de un Amor
HAUSER - Despacito
Great Pretender
Georgia May Foote & Giovanni Pernice Samba to 'Volare' - Strictly Come
Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues
Fugees - Killing Me Softly With His Song
French Latino - Historia de un Amor
For A Few Dollars More The Danish National Symphony Orchestra (Live)
Flashdance • What a Feeling • Irene Cara
Filip Rudan - “Someone You Loved” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sez
Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight
Enya - Only Time
Enrique Iglesias - Bailando (English Version) ft. Sean Paul
Enrique Iglesias - Bailamos
Elena Yerevan Historia de un amor
Ed Sheeran - Shape of You (Official Music Video)
Ed Sheeran - Perfect Symphony [with Andrea Bocelli]
Ed Sheeran - Perfect (Official Music Video)
Easy On Me - Adele (Boyce Avenue 90’s style piano acoustic cover) on S
ERA - Ameno
ELENA YEREVAN- Cancion Del Mariachi-IN STUDIO-2017 DPR
Dust In The Wind - Kansas (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Despacito x Shape Of You - Pentatonix
Deep Purple - Child In Time - Live (1970)
David Foster When A Man Loves A WomanIt's A Mans World (SealMichael Bo
Dance me to the end of Love ( Pi-Air Design )
Coolio - Gangsta's Paradise (feat. L.V.) [Official Music Video]
Conquest Of Paradise (Vangelis), played on Böhm Emporio organ
Cielito Lindo
Chico & The Gypsies - Bamboleo
Canción Del Mariachi - Antonio Banderas, Los Lobos • Desperado
Camila Cabello - Havana (Audio) ft. Young Thug
Camila Cabello - Havana ( cover by J.Fla )
California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas José Feliciano (Boyce Ave
Buster Benton - Money Is The Name of The Game
Hallelujah Pentatonix
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy (Official Music Video)
Bob Dylan - Knockin' On Heaven's Door Emilia The Voice Kids France
Besame Mucho - Cesaria Evora
Ben E. King - Stand by Me Sax Cover Alexandra Ilieva Thomann
Bella Ciao
Beautiful in White x Canon in D (Piano Cover by Riyandi Kusuma)
Bad Romance - Vintage 1920's Gatsby Style Lady Gaga Cover ft. Ariana Savalas & Sarah Reich(1)
BAMBOLEO - Gipsy Kings • Antonio Banderas, Katya Virshilas
BAILANDO (original)
Awesome Ukrainian yodeler - SOFIA SHKIDCHENKO (with English subtitles)
Avicii - The Nights
Atom - The Great Gig in the Sky
Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Official Ly
Antonio Banderas - Cancion del Mariachi (Desperado)
André Rieu - Zorba's Dance (Sirtaki)
André Rieu - Can't Help Falling In Love
André Rieu & Mirusia - Ave Maria
Andrew Reyes Elton John - Don't Let The Sun Go Down The Voice 2020 (
Andreas Kümmert Whiter Shade Of Pale The Voice of Germany 2013 Showd
And I Love You So
All About That Bass - Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Alan Walker - Faded (Piano Cover)
Ain't No Sunshine -- Bill Withers (cover by Canen 12 y.o.)
African music
Adriana Vidović - “Creep” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
Adriana Vidović - “Believer” Nokaut 3 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
A Fistful of Dollars - The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Tuva
4 Beautiful Soundtracks Relaxing Piano [10min]
2CELLOS - Whole Lotta Love vs. Beethoven 5th Symphony [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
2CELLOS - Smooth Criminal (Live at Suntory Hall, Tokyo)
2CELLOS - Smells Like Teen Spirit [Live at Sydney Opera House]
13 Year Old Girl Playing Il Silenzio (The Silence) - André Rieu
094.All About That Bass
(Ghost) Riders In the Sky (American Outlaws Live at Nassau Coliseum, 1
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams (Boyce Avenue ft. Conn
What a wonderful world
Moon river