TIM WALKER on Rishi Sunak’s latest spending, and why the theatrical Fox dynasty is a broad church when it comes to politics
Although he scarcely faces much competition, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, prides himself on being the most ‘gym fit’ member of the cabinet.
The lockdowns have meant he couldn’t attend any of the Digme gyms in London, where his wife Akshata Murthy is a director and shareholder, so he’s been working out when possible at the facilities in the Treasury building. The latest spending disclosures show Sunak, pictured, has authorised a £71,690 revamp of the changing rooms at Horse Guards Road.
Taxpayers’ cash seems to be no object, too, when it comes to ensuring his staff are tech fit. After I reported the £750,000 he authorised for new hardware last October – which saw his staff handed laptops, phones and home-working kits – he’s splashed out another £1 million. His shopping list for March included 901 new mobile phones, 161 HP laptops, 38 hi-tech secure Rosa laptops, 70 height-adjustable desks, 150 work-from-home packages and 160 monitors. The 161 HP laptops cost £200,298 alone.
Still, Sunak is a model of thrift compared to his boss. After struggling to find the cash for the refurbishment his girlfriend Carrie Symonds wanted for their grace-and-favour Downing Street flat, Boris Johnson has lavished an additional £2m on overall “modernisation” for the block.
Although Sunak’s wife is the daughter of one of India’s richest business tycoons and her shares in his tech firm Infosys are worth £430m, making her one of Britain’s richest women, she claimed taxypayers’ cash to furlough staff at her Digme business.
The Mail on Sunday claimed over the weekend that they had a poll that “proves” Labour lost its red wall seats because of “wokery”.
This was on the basis of questions the pollsters asked, such as: should people should lose their jobs for writing or liking politically incorrect posts on social media? 21% supported, 40% opposed; is Britain an institutionally racist country? 29% agreed and 39% disagreed; should statues of (presumably embarrassing) historical figures be taken down? 18% supported and 59% opposed.
This polling was not, however, conducted in the red wall seats and only 2,026 people were “interviewed”. The outfit that supplied this poll was J L Partners, which may ring a bell with readers.
Last year I reported how they had supplied a poll to the Daily Mail that showed the British public had delivered a “crushing verdict” on the BBC: it was “hopelessly out of touch”. Only 1,012 people had taken part in that online poll.
J L Partners was set up a couple of years ago by one James Johnson, who once worked as an adviser to Theresa May. As a student, the avid Tory went on a road trip around America with, somewhat bizarrely, a life-size cardboard cut-out of the then Tory minister Eric Pickles, whom he photographed himself with at a variety of locations.
Lord Lebedev‘s maiden speech to the House of Lords last week was a strange, rambling affair in which he Zoomed his thoughts to his fellow peers on the illegal wildlife trade, the pandemic, got in a plug for the London Evening Standard and jokingly talked about teaching his fellow peers “how to make a fortune.”
The man who has hosted Johnson often at his luxurious Umbrian villa also said he would defend “our” values as a nation, but then went on to say that, while he considered himself to be British, he was also Russian, a country whose values are, of course, currently seem totally irreconcilable with ours.
The hard right politics of the failed London mayoral candidate Laurence Fox are definitely not shared by the whole acting clan. His father James may have spoken about how “aggressive” he felt towards “bien pensant thinking,” and James’s brother Edward may have been an early supporter of Brexit who once campaigned for the late Sir James Goldsmith, but Freddie Fox, Edward’s son, shows they are ultimately a broad church.
When he appeared on stage with his octogenarian father in a production of An Ideal Husband, Freddie said that on the issue of Europe, his father was “a f***ing idiot.”
Nigella Lawson would no doubt empathise with his predicament. “Have all those take-back-controllers noticed that countries in Europe have been closing their borders independently?” she asked, rhetorically on Twitter as the pandemic began. Her father Lord Lawson and brother Dominic Lawson are both avowed take-back-controllers.