The political spouse is back.
Akshata Murty made a surprise appearance at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester Wednesday, hyping up her husband Rishi Sunak and cracking jokes in a bid to humanize the U.K. prime minister, who is trailing in the polls.
Taking the stage before Sunak’s own speech, Murty — businesswoman and daughter of a major Indian IT tycoon — described the pair as “one team,” and riffed on Sunak’s public image as a geeky technocrat.
She confirmed Sunak “does love a good rom-com, the cheesier the better,” but quipped that episodes of Netflix hit Emily in Paris “are not informing his outlook on the EU.”
In the most openly political part of her speech, the PM’s other half said her husband’s outlook could be summed up with one word — “aspiration” — and insisted he would not shy away from telling hard truths.
She recalled being struck when the pair met 20 years ago by Sunak’s “deep love for his home, the United Kingdom 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.”
“He shares your values, and he knows how much you care about the future of the U.K., but also about the struggles and the challenges that people are facing today,” Murty said of a Conservative leader whose personal wealth has at times seen him labelled out of touch.
Sunak returned the favor as he took the stage for his own address, riffing on the new Conservative slogan to hail Murty as “truly the best long-term decision for a brighter future I ever made.”
Murty has generally kept a low profile since Sunak took office, although she played a key role in the British prime minister’s presence at the recent G20 summit. Her tax affairs came under close scrutiny last year when it was revealed she claimed non-domiciled tax status, a decision later reversed.
Murty’s Manchester appearance is not the first time a political spouse has been thrust into the conference spotlight.
Embattled Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was introduced in 2009 by his wife Sarah, who described him as “messy,” “noisy” and “no saint,” but stressed that he “wakes up every morning and goes to bed every evening thinking about the things that matter.”
Brown’s Labour successor Ed Miliband — who was pilloried for his own nerdy demeanor — later said he regretted his decision to bring his wife Justine Thornton on stage with him after a party conference speech, saying it placed undue “stress” and “anxiety” on her.