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Inside politics

A studious mute among “work-shy demagogues”

Peter Nicholls/Pool/Getty

Rishi Sunak’s maternal grandmother was born in a hut in Tanganyika – present-day Tanzania – and entered an arranged marriage as a teenager. She sold her wedding jewellery and bought a one-way ticket to England in 1966, leaving her husband behind; her daughter Usha became a pharmacist and got married in Leicester. Usha’s first child, Rishi, was born in Southampton General Hospital on 12 May 1980 – and that child has now been prime minister for a year. It’s a story that paints Britain in the best light, says Will Lloyd in The New Statesman. It’s “a vindication of hard work, decent values and the sky-wide possibilities of meritocracy”. But Sunak doesn’t enjoy telling this story. “He would rather talk about potholes, and his detailed plans to ban things.”

Sunak was a head boy, a hedge fund manager “who never made a bad deal”, and an MP who became chancellor without making enemies. A source once told me he “was the best prime minister since Blair. Serious, dedicated and fantastically knowledgeable.” But 12 months in the job have brought out his “pinched, flinty persona”. He grates when interviewed. Like Richard Nixon, he fails to understand “that hard work doesn’t guarantee a win”. He is a man out of time: a studious mute in an era of “work-shy demagogues”; the first millennial prime minister, presiding over a party of “decaying baby boomers”. An institution man – Winchester, Oxford, Goldman Sachs, Stanford – in an age of institutional collapse.