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Rishi Sunak has thrived in the pandemic, but his biggest challenges are yet to come

8 27 13

Rishi Sunak ended 2020 as the most popular politician in the country. However, the chances of him finishing this year in the same spot are growing slimmer by the day. As the chancellor attempts to work out a path back from £400bn of spending, his critics are circling and they are coming from all angles.

Sunak’s first 11 months as chancellor have proved unpredictable. He had initially believed the toughest part of the job would be the last-minute budget he had to piece together when he was promoted after Sajid Javid’s resignation. But a much bigger challenge soon arrived in the form of a pandemic.

While Sunak’s cabinet colleagues – from his boss Boris Johnson through to Gavin Williamson – have found their reputations weakened by the toll of governing through a public health emergency, “Dishy Rishi” emerged as an unlikely success story.

As well as splashing the billions, he was praised for how Treasury schemes stood up under strain, his media performance and his slick online presentation.

But “Brand Rishi” was about more than just competence. As the former No 10 pollster James Johnson put it, he was seen in focus groups to possess something rare for a politician: there is “this sense of he’s not like a normal MP, he’s more like one of us, he’s on our side”, said one respondent.

Little wonder then that Sunak has been at the top of Labour’s attack list. Those around Keir Starmer think that the government’s poll numbers are being propped up by its reputation for........

© The Guardian

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