LONDON (Reuters): British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faced criticism on Saturday for seeming out of touch with ordinary people when he asked a homeless man at a charity whether he “worked in business” and wanted to get into the finance industry.
Sunak, a former Goldman Sachs banker and one of Britain’s wealthiest people, was serving breakfast at a homeless shelter in London on Friday when he began chatting with a man who identified himself as Dean.
“Do you work in a business?” the prime minister asks the man at one point during the conversation as he hands him a plate of sausages, toast and eggs.
“No, I’m homeless. I’m a homeless person,” the man replies.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, posted a clip of the exchange on Twitter, calling it “excruciating.” In contrast, another Labour lawmaker, Bill Esterson, called Sunak “out of touch”.
His ascent to the British premiership in October made Sunak the richest occupant of Number 10 Downing Street when the country struggled with a cost-of-living crisis.
The prime minister this week made surprise phone calls to British diplomats and military personnel around the world to give them Christmas wishes, his office said on Friday.
His awkward exchange with the homeless man begins when the man asks Sunak if he’s “sorting the economy out”.
When the homeless man says he is interested in business and finance, Sunak replies that he used to work in finance, too, before asking: “Is that something you would like to get into?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind,” says Dean. “But, I don’t know, I’d like to get through Christmas first.”