Rishi Sunak Isn't A Man Of The People – He's Just Like The Rest Of Them

The Chancellor's comments about Nando's reopening shows he's just as out of touch as the rest of the cabinet, Maighna Nanu writes

On the morning of an incredibly fraught political day during lockdown the Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted: “It’s the good news we have all been waiting for,” and linked to an article about the reopening of 54 Nando’s across the country.

The replies were quick and angry and almost instantly he was met with derision.

Adam Kay, a former junior doctor, tweeted: “If this isn’t a vaccine, an efficacious treatment or a principled stand from the cabinet against Dominic Cummings then I suspect you’ve read the room desperately wrong here.”

One account, who was part of the cohort of new starters that were ineligible for the furlough scheme, replied: “Some of us have more concerning issues in our lives, Rishi. Like how to put food on the table & pay basic bills this month, after having £0 to very little income since March.”

Referencing the ongoing scandal involving Dominic Cummings another Twitter user jokingly replied: “Hi Rishi, will the Nando’s in Durham be reopening and if it is can I drive to it from my home in London to feed my child.” The tweet received more likes than the original.

At a time when the UK has the highest daily death rate in the world and the government is struggling to restore public faith in lockdown, it is an ill-judged time to tweet about something as trivial as Nando’s and frame it as good news.

It is a particularly bad look if you are at one of the highest posts of government and have had a hand in crafting the more serious measures.

71% of the public are outraged that Dominic Cummings broke the rules without repercussions; they want him to resign and they want a government that practises what it preaches.

People have endured unbelievable hardship during lockdown — thousands were unable to see their loved ones at their final moments; some wonder if they will ever see family members again; and everyone is hoping for a vaccine.

But, coupled with tweeting his support for Cummings, this tweet about ‘good news’ signals that Sunak cannot gauge the public mood at all.

If the Cumming’s scandal wasn’t evident enough that the government was out of step with the public mood, this tweet made it crystal clear.

Up until now Sunak has been regarded relatively favourably and despite only becoming Chancellor in February he is the UK’s 21st most popular Conservative politician.

As the youngest Chancellor in history he has been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic and has regularly appeared on screen to deliver daily briefings.

His furlough scheme of £22bn has paid the wages of a third of workers and his spending is typically uncharacteristic of his Tory predecessors.

Compared to his colleagues, he has been calm, collected, and clear in his briefings despite being on the brink of a horrible recession.

But in recent days his social media performance suggests he is just as out of touch as the rest of the Cabinet.

First, his blatant defence of Cummings and now the Nando’s tweet demonstrate that he is just the same, only slightly more articulate.

He is not the only politician to have used food in a bid to seem relatable and have it spectacularly backfire.

When David Cameron claimed to love pasties from a pasty shop in Leeds to seem relatable it turned out the shop in reference closed two years prior to his visit; Ed Miliband has admitted that getting pictured eating a bacon sandwich is probably the regret of his career; and last year when the now defunct Independent Group posted a group picture of themselves enjoying a Nando’s they were mocked for the awkward staged nature of their picture.

For Sunak to be relatable and credible at this stage would perhaps entail him trying to remedy the hardships of some of the one million people who missed out on his furlough scheme.

Or though it is incredibly unlikely, taking a moral stance and speaking out against Cummings.

Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that Sunak will likely announce a cut-off date for the furlough scheme after which no employees would be allowed to join.

So perhaps Sunak should get used to the idea of public unpopularity.

Maighna Nanu is a freelance journalist interested in social affairs, politics, and race.


What's Hot