Southampton-born, Oxford-educated and London-living Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak has been called out for suggesting he was “the most northern chancellor in 70 odd years”.
During the first official hustings with Tory members in Leeds on Thursday night, Sunak and rival Liz Truss battled to burnish their northern credentials before a Yorkshire audience.
Sunak – who does represent the Richmond constituency in Yorkshire – was challenged by an activist on failing to deliver on Northern Powerhouse and levelling up promises.
In his rebuttal, Sunak pointed to part of the Treasury moving to Darlington, the Teeside freeport and rail investment in northern England, as he claimed: “I’m the most northern chancellor that this party has had for something like 70 odd years.”
South coast-born Sunak went to boarding school at Winchester College in Hampshire, studied at Oxford University and spent much of his working life in London, where he made a fortune working in the City.
He was parachuted into the safe Tory seat in Yorkshire in 2015, succeeding former Tory leader and actual Yorkshireman Willam Hague.
Many were quick to point to Sunak’s predecessor as chancellor, Sajid Javid, was born in Rochdale, Lancashire.
A Tory chancellor under John Major, Ken Clarke, is from Nottingham, East Midlands.
Norman Lamont, who ran the Treasury between 1990 and 1993, is from the Shetland Islands.
When Truss came under the microscope, she was more successful in capitalising on her Yorkshire roots.
Referencing her upbringing in Leeds, she said it was “fantastic” to be in her “old stomping ground”, adding that she hoped none of her former teachers were in the audience.
She also said “I do want us to channel the spirit of Don Revie” – a former Leeds United and England manager – because “we need to win”.
But a Tory councillor at the hustings criticised Truss’s characterisation of her old school in Roundhay, which she said failed many of her contemporaries.