This biography gets more abrasive towards its conclusion, including an enjoyably sardonic chapter about how his image-makers have used social media to promote “Brand Rishi” as if he is an aftershave or a line of aspirational menswear.
The author rightly says we can’t be sure whether this is “Peak Rishi”. Does he have the skills to endure a recession and ascend to the summit of British politics? When recently asked whether he wanted to be prime minister, Sunak replied: “Oh gosh, I don’t have that desire.” So there’s another thing we know he can do with charm: he can fib.
Although there is no doubt that Sunak’s popularity will wane as he transitions from furlough-paying Santa to tax-raising Scrooge in the coming months of inevitable economic calamity, Ashcroft’s book suggests that his are the safest hands in the Government to handle such a crisis. Like the political equivalent of the Duchess of Cambridge, we are presented with a middle-class boy done good whose ambition has never turned into arrogance, and who appears motivated by a genuine desire to make Britain a better place. A principled and decent man who has so far avoided putting a foot wrong – even when wearing the wrong-coloured wellies.
Ashcroft encounters a familiar problem when trying to tell this story. Sunak’s ascent has been so relentless and smooth, it lacks grit, let alone a narrative arc. Another problem for the author — I can vouch for this — is that it is hard to find enemies willing to dish any dirt. Ashcroft, a former Conservative deputy chairman, suggests that Sunak’s competence, attention to detail and humility have taken him a long way.