The enormous wealth of Rishi Sunak, Britain’s first prime minister of Asian descent, risks once again becoming a liability for the under-fire politician.
In an interview marking the occasion of his first 100 days in office, Piers Morgan, the former editor-in-chief of the left-leaning Daily Mirror, caught him off guard with a series of questions regarding virtues and vices.
Sunak was happy to confirm he was teetotal and never smoked or did drugs before Morgan asked him then if he was “stinking rich.”
Sunak’s smile froze, before he mustered, “Most people would consider I am financially fortunate, yes.”
Sunak’s problematic privilege
Sunak’s privileged status has proved problematic in the past.
Opponents seized on his ill-advised attempt to be relatable by being filmed putting gas in the tank of a small Kia Rio hatchback that turned out not to be his.
So when pressed whether he had enough to be considered a billionaire, Sunak refused to answer.
“What matters about that is not how much is in my bank account,” he said. “What matters are my values and what actions I take for the country.”
Sunak grew up in a well-to-do family and attended the elite Winchester boarding school before becoming an investment banker.
Sunak is easily one of the wealthiest MPs in the House of Commons, if not the wealthiest, also thanks to his heiress wife, Akshata Murty.
Normally that might not be an issue the media would seize upon, but with inflation surging, half a million workers picketing for higher wages, and the U.K. economy tipped to be the only G7 country to face a likely recession this year, it risks making him appear out of touch with the everyday voter.
The last thing Sunak needs during Britain’s cost of living crisis is to remind everyone that he is not only loaded, but so is his wife. The daughter of one of the founders of Indian software giant Infosys only recently began paying taxes on her overseas wealth once it became a political scandal.
Boris Johnson waiting in the wings
Sunak is in an unenviable position right now.
Polls suggest his party could be wiped out in the next election, scheduled to be held next year at the latest, and potentially lose power for a generation.
Lurking in the background as always is Boris Johnson, unsatisfied with his new life as a lowly backbencher.
The disgraced former prime minister has been gallivanting around—one week in Davos, the next in Kyiv—in a potential bid to look statesmanlike again and rally support.
Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter examining what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.