Never mind about the economy, Britain has a new luxury brand – Rishi Sunak | Rishi Sunak

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Exchequer spokesmodel/gyoza-toting architect of Eat Out To Spread It About/the Conservative party’s idea of a cool person. Wherever you were before you suddenly became powerfully aware of the existence of Rishi Sunak, it wasn’t a very happy place. Possessed of the ability to spark a bull-run on cashmere with a single hoodie shot – and curator of a personal brand that could make Matt Hancock kick over a small wastepaper basket in a jealous rage – the chancellor will next week unveil his second budget. Hopefully he’ll do it on his Insta Stories, and Conservatives who fail to declare themselves #hereforit will be relieved of the whip.

The many, many Treasury-produced leaks and trailers for the event have included a glossy video package in which Rishi video-called Gordon Ramsay – or as the branding had it: “Rishi Sunak … In Conversation … With … Gordon Ramsay.” “I am SUPER excited to see you,” said the chancellor to the poorly rating gameshow host. “Thanks for making time for me!” “You’re welcome,” replied Gordon graciously, amazingly managing not to pick Sunak up on the failure to chirp “yes, chef!” after his every piece of shit-hot economic advice.

Anyway, even though I tried to let the Rishi x Gordon crossover event wash over me like an extremely expensive wellness experience, I couldn’t help noticing after a while that this “video call” was not single-camera. In fact, there was clearly a crew in Ramsay’s home, as well as a two-camera unit in Sunak’s office. I don’t know if you’ve seen Broadcast News, but it felt a lot like the bit where Holly Hunter realises that when William Hurt interviewed the rape victim, he totally staged his weeping cutaway shots. What a ridiculous old cynic.

William Hurt, I mean – not Rishi Sunak, who is obviously young and self-effacing. Hand on heart, it’s increasingly hard to remember how we managed before multibillion-pound plague announcements were run through the Clarendon filter, and finished off with that already iconic “Rishi Sunak” signature. I wonder if the chancellor appends it to gratitude journal entries, or notes left on the fridge for the help. “Could you pick up my dry cleaning – Rishi Sunak.” “Peloton engineer coming at 11am – Rishi Sunak.”

A lot of people think the classic self-posted Rishi Sunak image is the one of the chancellor working in his booklined home study in the aforementioned cashmere hoodie. But it’s actually the one he tweeted of himself doing a thumbs-up through the window of a high-end kitchenware shop, accompanied by the words “I can’t wait to get back to the pub … and I don’t even drink.” Only the least imaginative elements of British society could look at it and think: is this guy … is this guy maybe a prat? Whether he ever got his pint of kettles is unclear – see also his Nando’s. Sunak claimed last summer that Nando’s reopening was “the good news we’ve all been waiting for”, but for whatever reason tended to be photographed coming out of Mayfair private members clubs instead.

Rishi Sunak in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, June 2020
Rishi Sunak in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, June 2020. Photograph: Simon Walker/HM Treasury

But then, he’s very clubbable. Not like a seal – just like a guy you want to have around. Take that press conference where he followed Boris Johnson by debuting his new catchphrase “thanks, PM!”. This was simply his way of confirming that he is a young, reasonably priced midfield signing who is absolutely without personal ambition, and just wants to provide great service to the star striker. Thanks, PM! Yes, chef! That’s what a team player looks like.

And you just know a team as close-knit as the Conservatives are rooting for him. I’m imagining some Tory party socialiser back in, say, 2018, where a buoyant Matt Hancock takes pity on this diffident nobody. “Everything you’ve heard is true,” I picture him saying to Sunak, “I DO have my own smartphone app. Take a look.” Sunak takes Hancock’s phone and beholds the Matt Hancock app, wearing the genuinely admiring face he might also use for content in which he’s shown unboxing a new Star Wars figurine. “Wow,” Rishi grins, “this is absolutely awesome!” Hancock: “It’s in the App Store and everything.” Sunak, still doing the unboxing face: “You know what, I was having dinner with Tim Cook the other night. Let me put in a good word for you, see if the algorithm can give you a bump. All about eyeballs, isn’t it, mate?” Cut to Hancock, whose eyeballs have turned to carbonite.

So yes, I want you to know that I’m typing this column in the Rishi Sunak autograph font. But it’s so much more than a font: it’s a way of putting the best spin on stuff, making it all feel fresh and from the heart – like there’s a different way to do things, if you’d only invite it in. In fact, just typing in the Rishi autograph font makes me see how fusty some political traditions are starting to look. Take the one that’s endured for more than two decades now, where prime ministerial hopefuls with school-age children have felt obliged to partake of state education for them. But not our guy – and we have to assume people will admire his choices in that department.

Quite frankly, I don’t want to go back to my Arial font, a place of artless phrases such as “tax raid on pensions” and “warning shot from Philip Hammond”. So let’s just play out on a lightly upbeat positive, by declaring that people underestimate Sunak as spectacularly badly as he underestimated the coronavirus for most of last year. Which, when you consider his many underestimations – that optimising for the economy and health were mutually exclusive, that society should be opened prematurely, that people should return to office commutes, that no one needed to quarantine when flying in from abroad, that people should eat out to help out (help out the virus that is), and that an autumn lockdown was unnecessary – should show you just how very, very underestimated the luxury Rishi Sunak brand is.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Never mind about the economy, Britain has a new luxury brand – Rishi Sunak | Rishi Sunak

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