It’s the question that “fills politicians with cold horror”, says Clare Foges in The Times: “How much is a pint of milk?” David Cameron once fell foul of the “old grocery grilling”, getting the price of bread wrong. Rishi Sunak was 40p off on the price of beans. The best response was Boris Johnson’s when mayor of London: “I know the price of champagne, how about that?” The “out of touch” question has always irritated me. “I am pro-elite” – if people have been successful enough to “elevate their lives above humdrum grocery shopping”, isn’t that evidence of suitability for high office? In other countries, great wealth is no handicap. Before President Zelensky in Ukraine there was “chocolate king” Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary tycoon. “Bunga-bunga Berlusconi was hardly reticent about his wealth, like his brother in gold-plated opulence Donald Trump.” But “in Britain there is such a thing as being too rich”. And Sunak is too rich.
Of potential Boris successors, the Chancellor is the best of a mediocre bunch. But his family’s fortune – his wife is the daughter of one of the world’s richest men – is now his defining feature. People “frothed” at a staged photo of him putting petrol in someone else’s Kia Rio, and attempts to empathise with the public over the cost-of-living crisis will always be dismissed out of hand. Everything he does will be taken as “evidence that he is out of touch”. Someone in the 1% or even the 0.1% would probably be fine. But Sunak’s place in the 0.001% is a step too far.