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UK politics

Boris’s ambitious next-door neighbour

The PM with Rishi Sunak in October 2020. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The relationship between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak is “a highly combustible cocktail”, says Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. In a leaked letter this month, the Chancellor argued for easing Covid restrictions early. “Maybe it’s time we look at Rishi as the next secretary of state for health,” the PM told aides, infuriated by a leak that made him appear weak. He was so troubled by Sunak’s anti-lockdown agenda, I’m told he referred to the Treasury as “the pro-death squad”. Yet while Johnson is pummelled for Covid failures and Afghanistan, the “much younger” Sunak “artfully swerves the opprobrium”.

No wonder he’s paranoid about this “heir apparent”. Sunak was expected to be pliant, “willing to rubber-stamp all the cheques that the prime minister wanted to cash”. Instead this “fiscal conservative” has cut “cakeist” Johnson off. He has a talent for charming Tory MPs, and the debt-ridden PM may also envy his money. A former investment banker who is married to the daughter of a billionaire, Sunak is thought to be Britain’s richest MP, and “pointedly” let it be known he’d paid for a No 11 refurb himself. He has just received planning permission for a pool, a gym and a tennis court at his Grade II listed manor house in North Yorkshire. “That will do as a facsimile of Chequers until he gets a chance to bid for the real thing.”