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HENRY DIDES watches Rishi Sunak launch his bid to become prime minister

Loud screeching, waving posters. not to mention a few middle-aged ladies in a tizzy. For a moment there, it might have been more of a convention of nerdy teenagers than a leadership launch.

But then there was always a bit of boyband energy Rishi Sunak. Those moon eyes, that buttery smile and boyish charms that make activists fall to their knees.

His performance yesterday was a precise piece of performance art. A heavy dose of saccharine thrown in with a side of schmaltz. Sick, yes. But I’m afraid he’ll stop for a while.

Our setting was the QEII Center in Westminster, with a stage emblazoned with his newly created ‘Ready For Rishi’ logo.

It resembles the coat of arms you see stamped on a tub of laundry detergent. You know, the one that boasts a new, improved formula with extra ZING added? Maybe that’s the idea.

Rishi Sunak, 42, launched his leadership bid at Westminster’s QEII Center on Tuesday, emblazoned with his newly created ‘Ready For Rishi’ logo.

Just a week ago, Rishi was still Boris's neighbor. Now he spoke of him as one might speak of a disgraced uncle who has a little thirst and a weakness for horses.

Just a week ago, Rishi was still Boris’ neighbor. Now he spoke of him as one might speak of a disgraced uncle who has a little thirst and a weakness for horses.

Around the room stood several thinly dressed men, stroking their chins thoughtfully. My guess would be rich backers. This campaign reeks of both professionalism and big money.

Our support act for the day were some star recruits. Rishi’s team was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who did the decent thing and put his badly limping campaign out of its misery.

Both reached sounds they probably weren’t quite used to; Mr Shapps looked stunned, as if he had just won a prize.

A number of senior Tories in the audience jockeyed for position. Former party chairman Oliver Dowden was there, along with ex-treasury chiefs John Glenn and Helen Whatley, each with adoring eyes twinkling with the eagerness of a puppy for a new job offer.

Hovering in the shadows in one corner was the hyena-like silhouette of former education minister Gavin Williamson. Are you hovering? Flying more like.

Finally, Mr. Sunak turned into view, his suit and tie immaculate, his hair as slicked back and coiffed as Barbie’s friend Ken’s mane. The crowd roared with delirium. Mercifully, no underwear was thrown on stage.

Not everyone was swallowing the pretty boy's routine. Sky¿s Beth Rigby accused Rishi of being a

Not everyone was swallowing the pretty boy’s routine. Sky’s Beth Rigby accused Rishi of being a “destructive” figure within his party and discussed his wife’s tax arrangements with him. The crowd didn’t enjoy it.

The former chancellor shot his supporters one of those big smiles that could power the national grid. Folk sincerity oozed from every pore.

“I want to talk about how we got here,” he announced quietly. Simple answer to that, friend. You resigned, then turned on your boss.

He insisted that he would come to praise Boris, not to bury him. The Prime Minister, he said, was a “remarkable leader” who had a “good heart”, bless me.

Yes, he was flawed, “but so are we all,” he added. Strange. Just a week ago, Rishi was still Boris’ neighbor. Now he spoke of him as one might speak of a disgraced uncle who has a little thirst and a weakness for horses.

His pitch had “no time for a rookie”. By my count, he used the term “adult” three times, suggesting that he views his leadership rivals as gullible idiots.

He promised a clean fight, then immediately accused some of his colleagues of spinning “fairytales” with their promises to cut taxes, which he has so far ruled out.

A cheerleader next to me clapped enthusiastically.

Not everyone was swallowing the pretty boy’s routine. Sky’s Beth Rigby accused Rishi of being a “destructive” figure within his party and discussed his wife’s tax arrangements with him. The crowd didn’t enjoy it.

Leave the golden boy. Some of them whistled. Pathetic. They can expect a lot of investigation into Sunak’s family finances in the coming weeks.

A man from The Sun has asked if he has spoken to Dominic Cummings since the former aide slipped out of Downing Street. Of course not, came Rishi’s reply. He had no intention either. Audible gasps of relief from nervous Tory MPs.

Other broadcasters just wanted to know one thing. Why did you stab Boris? A reasonable enough question that will probably cause problems if Rishi ends up facing party membership.

HENRY DIDES watches Rishi Sunak launch his bid to become prime minister

SourceHENRY DIDES watches Rishi Sunak launch his bid to become prime minister

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