There’s a long list of factors that are understood to have contributed to Rishi Sunak’s sudden fall from grace. Some Tory party members question his loyalty and blame him for the rebellion that ended Boris Johnson’s premiership
When Rishi Sunak was named the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020, barely five years after first entering the parliament, he was on his way up in UK politics. His handling of the Covid-19 pandemic catapulted “Dishy Rishi” into a household name.
At the time, he was so close to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that many feared that his appointment as finance minister could compromise the independence of the Treasury. Some in the governing Conservative Party and among the British public even began to see him as the next leader of the country. But just two years on, his road to the top appears as to be as steep as his decline.
On August 12, at a Conservative Party hustings at Cheltenham in the south-west of England, as he made his own run for prime minister, Sunak revealed that Johnson no longer returns his calls and messages. The revelation, like Sunak put it, was “unsurprising”. After all, it was the former chancellor’s resignation, weeks before, that eventually resulted in the early end of Johnson’s tumultuous premiership.
It appears that in bringing down Johnson, Sunak may have also negatively impacted his own chances at the top position. He is now so far behind the other finalist that it is widely expected that foreign minister Liz Truss – despite her wooden deliveries, propensity for gaffes, and commitment to dressing like the first British PM Margaret Thatcher – is going to win the race to be the next leader of the country. The final result of the vote by 160,000 members of his party will be announced on Monday.
Sudden fall from grace
There’s a long list of factors that are understood to have contributed to Sunak’s sudden fall from grace. Some Tory party members question his loyalty and blame him for the rebellion that ended Johnson’s premiership, while others believe that under him, the party will not be able to defeat the Labour Party in the next general election. Among the public, the revelations that he held a US green card for a while when he was chancellor, and that his wife Akshata Murthy – daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy – did not pay taxes on her international income as a non-domicile resident, have irreparably damaged his reputation. It does not help that he was first chancellor to be fined for breaking the rules by attending parties at 10 Downing Street – the PM’s official residence – during a Covid-related lockdown.
A day after Johnson resigned, Sunak announced his bid to become the prime minister (and Conservative Party leader) with a slick video and with the website ready4rishi.com. “We need to restore trust in our politics. We need to rebuild our economy. And we need to reunite the country”, reads his website. But eagle-eyed observers were quick to spot that while the domain for his new website was registered on July 6, two days after his own resignation, Sunak had previously registered for the domain readyforrishi.com in December 2021 – six months ahead of the end of the final political crisis, suggesting the former chancellor had been planning the run for a while.
In his resignation letter, Sunak said, “I firmly believe the public are ready to hear that truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one.”