WHOEVER is responsible for the cliché “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” could well have been describing Rishi Sunak’s year.
Valentine’s Day will forever have an added piquancy for the current occupant of Number 11 Downing Street. It was the day when his very good friend, and then boss, Sajid Javid, resigned after the prime minister ordered him to fire his aides. Johnson immediately promoted Sunak from Treasury chief secretary to chancellor. The MP for Richmond in north Yorkshire had just four weeks to deliver his first budget, something his predecessor never got to do. Not only that, Sunak had to do so in the middle of a global pandemic, and he won huge plaudits on his side of the aisle, business and the NHS.
“The biggest rabbit he pulled out of the hat, which was the furlough scheme, is undoubtedly one of the things I would say has been pivotal in retaining some economic stability and personal security for a lot of people in the country,” says one Westminster insider, who did not wish to be named. “To do that as a relatively new chancellor – at that point he wasn’t even 40 years old – it was a huge responsibility on relatively young, let’s be clear, pretty inexperienced, shoulders.”
Sunak cuts a dashing figure; some have described him as the Conservative equivalent of Labour’s Tony Blair when he took over his party in 1994. Indeed, the Daily Mail, the bastion of white, middle England, heralded him “PM in waiting”. Speak to many and, at this moment, the most used word to describe Sunak is “impressive”.
Sunak has achieved more in his 40 years than many of us will in a lifetime. Head boy at the independent boarding school, Winchester College; Oxford university beckoned; as did being a Fulbright