The dramatic collapse of the pound against the dollar after Kwasi Kwarteng’s budget will undoubtedly have had Rishi Sunak’s morale rising.
It isn’t simply that he and his wife, Akshata Murthy, have investments in America – not least their luxurious retreat in Santa Monica, California – but that the former chancellor hasn’t given up on his ambition to become prime minister.
“Rishi knew the country was heading into extreme economic turbulence no matter what, but Kwarteng’s budget has obviously made things worse and the money markets have made it clear they have no faith in Trussonomics,” one associate of the former chancellor tells me. “This along with the admission there’s no chance of an American trade deal any time soon increases the possibility that the party will choose to ditch Truss before her party heads into opposition.”
Sunak, who polled a better-than-expected 43% among Tory members against Truss’s 57%, is for now biding his time on the backbenches. Talk of him relocating his career and his family to America have proved wide of the mark. He knows the next leadership race will purely be about the economy and doesn’t believe that Truss and Kwarteng will be able to ride the tiger for long.
After the furore that followed the revelation that his wife – heiress to a multibillion fortune – had non-dom tax status, Sunak is no doubt relishing a period of obscurity. It happily went unnoticed that Digme Fitness, the collapsed upmarket fitness firm where his wife sat as a director, has lately lodged papers at Companies House that show it owes £415,000 in VAT and PAYE/NI contributions. The liquidators ReSolve Advisory now concede they expect a “nil” return for HMRC.
Digme went into administration in February this year. Secured lender West Hill Capital – owed £2,307,000 – is also expected to remain unpaid. Digme, however, remains in business, albeit in another guise after liquidators secured a modest £50,001 pre-pack sale to Digme Digital, which is run by the original company’s founders, who include Geoff and Caroline Bamber. A statement of affairs signed by Murthy as a director in May showed that £2.34m is owed to more than 60 creditors in addition to HMRC and West Hill. The City Of London, City of Westminster and Ealing Council are also left out of pocket.