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Rishi Sunak: is the chancellor’s long political honeymoon coming to an end?

There’s grumbling that, as a former banker and the son-in-law of a billionaire, Sunak is flashy and out of touch

Is Rishi Sunak’s long political honeymoon coming to an end, asked Rowena Mason in The Guardian. For the past 18 months, the Chancellor has been riding high in the opinion polls, thanks to the generous furlough scheme and to his carefully curated public image. “He is serious, smooth and sleek, a teetotal family man”, who presents an “obvious counterpoint” to Boris Johnson. But “doubts are beginning to creep in” on the right of the Conservative party, following a “big tax-and-spend budget” more redolent of Gordon Brown than Margaret Thatcher.

Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary, had already “stolen his place at the top of the Tory popularity charts”. Now there’s grumbling that, as a former banker and the son-in-law of a billionaire, he’s flashy and out of touch. Most of all, there is irritation at Sunak’s “constant polishing of his own brand”, and his barely concealed ambition to succeed Johnson as PM.

“It’s an open secret Boris believes his chancellor has been insufficiently subtle over his manoeuvring to succeed him,” said Dan Hodges in The Mail on Sunday. It also annoys his colleagues that, when announcing popular policies on social media, Sunak removes the Conservative branding and replaces it with his own signature.

Last week, he even “appeared to disown his own Budget while he was still delivering it” – explaining at the end of his speech that he would much rather cut taxes, but that his hands were tied. Embarrassingly, he used the speech to make a personal pitch to Tory MPs about his own low-tax credentials. “He may long to be prime minister”, but for now he is Chancellor. He should “own” his own Budget.

Well, he was in a genuinely difficult position, said Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. Sunak is instinctively a low-tax Tory, like many of his colleagues – Truss, Sajid Javid, Priti Patel. But they were barely consulted by a prime minister who “treats his Cabinet like a personal court”, and who likes to splurge the cash. After promising to cut taxes whenever he can, Sunak will find it very difficult to raise them again; Johnson will, effectively, have to sack him. The Chancellor has “come as close as he dares to making a personal ultimatum”.

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