One could almost hear the frantic movements across the keyboards as my housemates and I attempted to rapidly google the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position that is seen by many as the second most important in government after that of the Prime Minister (and perhaps more recently, whatever Dominic Cummings is). It would be difficult to blame us for not knowing anything about the new Chancellor, as until his recent appointment, Sunak’s highest office in government was Chief Secretary to the Treasury he now runs.
Prior to becoming an MP for Richmond in 2015, Sunak worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs, before founding his own investment firm. Sunak comes from the trusted brand of Westminster Conservatives, having studied PPE at Oxford. So far, so boring. Some attention has been given to Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayan Murthy. However, on a surface level, little evidence can be seen as to why Sunak has been elevated to such a high position from a comparatively junior one.
Perhaps Boris Johnson simply wanted a chancellor more aligned with him ideologically, after all, Sunak campaigned for Leave in the EU referendum as well as backing Boris early on in the leadership campaign. It is equally possible that Johnson paid attention to some of the increasing buzz surrounding Sunak. Former Conservative party leader, Lord Hague, called Sunak an, “exceptional individual”, and his former boss Sajid Javid stated, “The force is strong with young Sunak”. On that end, in the long-term, Sunak may even be positioned as a future Prime Minister. Afterall, it is not uncommon for an incumbent PM to build up their Chancellor as a potential replacement.
However, whatever talents Sunak can bring to the office may have been overshadowed for the moment due to the circumstances under which his predecessor left. Sajid Javid resigned during the cabinet reshuffle despite being offered the Exchequer again, as he was commanded to release his own external advisers and merge his team with that of Dominic Cummings and the PM. For Mr Javid, this was one power grab too far, prompting his resignation. No matter who came into the role, the next Chancellor would be seen as a ‘yes man’, lacking the independence of Javid, willing to meekly accept the centralisation of power within 10 Downing Street.In attempting to undercut this assumption by elevating such a clearly capable individual as Rishi Sunak, Johnson may have underestimated the potential of his new neighbour in 11 Downing Street. Sunak worked in high pressure environments for years in the world of investment banking, becoming one of a small minority of hedge fund managers to actually profit off the 2008 Financial Crash. If Sunak can demonstrate this unique insight in the Exchequer, we may witness one of the most meteoric rises through the Conservative party since David Cameron.