In a time of so much economic uncertainty, it could be said that Rishi Sunak has brought a fresh face to politics.
Rishi Sunak was appointed to the position of Chancellor in February following the resignation of Sajid Javid. The departure of Mr Javid back in February was perhaps an unusual one, apparently prompted by the decisions of the Prime Minister’s Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings – yep, that guy who drove to Barnard Castle in lockdown as a “test ride” in order to check his eyesight.
Rishi Sunak, the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was appointed to the position of Chancellor by Boris Johnson. It’s important to note that Mr Sunak’s experience in politics is rather limited in comparison to some of his colleagues, with him only becoming an MP five years ago in 2015. With this and the changes taking place in the Treasury, there were certainly some asking questions at the time of his appointment about whether Sunak would be able to successfully carry out the role of Chancellor.
Sunak’s appointment on 13 February came at a time when the Coronavirus pandemic was only just starting to impact the UK – perhaps few, if any, could have known what the full scale of the economic situation now facing the country would be at that point, but either way, Rishi Sunak had big boots to fill in helping the Conservatives to deliver their manifesto pledges.
The Coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone and the public have been keen to see strong leadership from the government. Whether they have got it, is, of course, a point of heavy debate. Some claim the government has reacted well to an ever-changing situation – others have criticised the government claiming they have acted too slowly and have broken their own rules.
Many of the key faces of the government have had slip-ups or shall we say, bizarre moments while presenting statements or press conferences during the pandemic. Boris Johnson has been criticised by some for ‘jabbering’ and his use of scenarios such as ‘playing whack-a-mole’ has led to the creation and circulation of plenty of memes on social media. Priti Patel had a maths gaffe in a press conference she presented, Matt Hancock nearly got kicked out of one session of PMQs and Grant Shapps, rather than talk about COVID-19 or a senior government adviser breaking lockdown decided to talk passionately about the A66…
In a government where some ministers have ‘jabbered’, Rishi Sunak has been seen by some as a fresh face at 0the table. In fact, he’s being touted by many to be the next Prime Minister (odds for which are currently at 4/1).
Perhaps this is because he has been the one presenting more positive news during this pandemic. Perhaps it is because of his personality, or maybe its a bit of both.
Sunak was seen as a saviour by many after he announced the Government’s Job Retention Scheme and other measures to support the public and the economy during the Coronavirus lockdown. Few would disagree that without the economic interventions, many more people would be facing unemployment and more businesses would be facing bankruptcy. This certainly isn’t to say that the government’s response has been perfect, but many have praised the interventions that have been made.
Again today, Rishi Sunak is the name trending on Twitter – and while it’s not all praise, there has been a fair bit headed his way after he announced a Job Retention Bonus, temporary tax cuts and a meal discount scheme for the month of August.
The way Sunak communicates is one thing that seems to make him stand out. When speaking in Parliament or in Downing Street, Sunak seems to take a much calmer approach than others including the Prime Minister. His body language and his tone are carefully controlled and arguably much closer to those of Keir Starmer rather than Boris Johnson.
Sunak has even appeared to be ‘down with the kids’ at times and while sometimes it has backfired with memes, other times it has probably helped with the government’s communication. Not everything about his communication is perfect and plenty of Twitter users did find fault with his announcement of ‘Eat Out To Help Out’. But if you don’t like ‘jabbering’, you might like Sunak a bit more.
In lockdown, Sunak has stood out. Much more still has to be done. COVID-19 is still circulating in the UK, people are still on furlough and the economic impacts from the virus pandemic will probably not be fully felt for some time to come. But in lockdown, many will have seen Sunak as showing something different.
Some will be grateful to him, some will question his priorities and some still probably don’t even know who is – but if the Rishi Sunak of lockdown continues post-lockdown and post-COVID, I would not be surprised if Rishi Sunak is a future Prime Minister.