Rishi Sunak became the youngest prime minister in modern British history on Tuesday at the age of 42. But the country is not unaccustomed to youthful leaders.
Tony Blair, a Labour leader, and David Cameron, a Conservative, both became prime minister at 43 — just slightly older than Mr. Sunak is now. Mr. Blair served as Britain’s leader from 1997 to 2007, and Mr. Cameron served from 2010 to 2016. Britain’s youngest ever prime minister remains William Pitt the Younger, who took office in 1783 at the age of 24.
Mr. Blair and Mr. Cameron spent years as leaders of their parties when they were in opposition, and thus had time to prepare before becoming prime minister. Mr. Sunak, by contrast, will take his first steps as party leader while also governing in the full glare of the Downing Street spotlight.
Mr. Sunak entered Parliament in 2015 after spending more than a decade in the finance industry, first with investment bank Goldman Sachs and then with two hedge funds. His rise through the ranks of the Conservative Party has followed a conventional, if rapid, trajectory, amid the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote and the impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy.
The upheaval opened space for younger talent in the party to emerge. In 2019, four years after entering Parliament, Mr. Sunak was given the No. 2 job at the Treasury and then, a year later, was made chancellor of the Exchequer under Boris Johnson.
He quickly gained prominence as chancellor, and became popular for adopting pandemic policies that were seen as supporting businesses as the economy contracted and supporting individuals whose jobs were furloughed as a result of a series of lockdowns. Mr. Sunak has not had to face voters in an election since he came to prominence on the national stage.