“Can Rishi Sunak Save the Economy from Covid-19?” asked the BBC at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. The tweet and accompanying video (which featured the Chancellor “literally handing cash to a line of unemployed people”) portrayed Sunak as Superman and was swiftly withdrawn after a torrent of users accused the BBC of state propaganda.
“On reflection we think the illustrations struck the wrong note and we’ve removed the article” the BBC conceded.
Their misstep was, in a certain way, understandable. After all, if you live in the liberal media bubble you could be forgiven for thinking that Sunak is Superman. A Times profile of Sunak spoke of “the frenzy at his every utterance, like it was the Fonz up there on the afternoon press conference podium, and not the chancellor of the exchequer.”
“Advisers liken his calm integrity to Jeremy Hunt’s” they added (apparently without irony). “He has the geeky klutz of Ed Miliband.”
The BBC’s own profile notes that Sunak has “been dubbed “Dishy Rishi”, “Britain’s economic Jedi”” and states that he “has appeared to be a reassuringly steady hand at the tiller.”
Both profiles also provide the following information:
- Sunak was educated at Winchester College boarding school for boys (annual fees circa £40K) then Lincoln College, Oxford.
- He is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy.
- He previously worked for Goldman Sachs and as a partner at hedge fund management firm The Children’s Investment Fund Management (TCI)
- He has been likened to Tony Blair (“People can project what they want onto Rishi, a bit like they did with Blair”) and is tipped as a future PM
Welcome to the corporate media’s idea of Superman: a privately educated, multi-millionaire former hedge fund manager who, as the remainder of this article will detail, is as enmeshed in the nepotistic matrix of media, business and politics as anyone in possession of these basic facts would suspect.
Sunak’s connections to wealth can’t be overstated. According to Forbes N. R. Narayana Murthy has a “real time net worth” of $2.9 billion. His daughter Akshata (Sunak’s wife) “is worth some £300 million in her own right” according to The Times profile.
Rishi and Akshata own at least 4 properties (again, as per The Times): a Georgian mansion set in 12 acres in Northallerton, a £7 million house in Kensington, a flat on Old Brompton Road and an apartment in Santa Monica, California. “They fly first class with their two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka. Locals describe parties with liveried staff pouring champagne from magnums.”
TCI, the institution at which Sunak made his name, are known, even in the cutthroat world of hedge funds, as highly aggressive. A document leaked to The Guardian cited TCI saying they “fully intend to ‘go to war’” with a company that wouldn’t play ball with them.
The same article notes that “the new chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was part of a small team of hedge fund managers criticised by a US court for covertly acquiring an interest in a Wall Street-listed firm while working on a 2007 corporate raiding deal.”
A similar story highlights that “Rishi Sunak was part of a small team of hedge fund bosses who shared nearly £100m after an audacious stock market bet that lit the touchpaper on the 2008 financial crisis.”
The fact that Sunak, like countless other investors, made a fortune engaging in reckless behaviour that ultimately tanked the economy, sits ill-at-ease with his portrayal as an economic saviour and “steady hand at the tiller”.
Perhaps Sunak has changed his ways and now acts purely for stability and public benefit? Fortunately there is a way to check this…
How Sunak Votes
Politicians are known for their sophistry and spin. Journalists can laud them to the high heavens or condemn them.
Voting records can’t lie, embellish or exaggerate.
They Work for You have tracked every Sunak vote. What did they find??
Like almost every active Tory MP Sunak “generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights” and “consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change”
Not the best start. If Superman doesn’t believe in human rights and preventing climate meltdown does he at least believe in democracy?
Rishi Sunak “voted for fewer MPs in the House of Commons”, “voted against a wholly elected House of Lords” and “voted against removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.”
Not only is Rishi opposed to more elected MPs AND LESS unelected peers in the Lords, he doesn’t appear to wish to see power dispersed across the nation:
Sunak “voted against a more proportional system for electing MPs”, “consistently voted for reducing central government funding of local government” and “generally voted against more powers for local councils.”
The economy is Sunak’s thing, of course. He’s Chancellor. What does he think about the rights of workers and those on benefits?
Rishi Sunak “consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability”, “consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits” and “consistently voted for more restrictive regulation of trade union activity”
Ah, he’s probably just as tough on the wealthy, though…
Sunak “consistently voted against higher taxes on banks” and “consistently voted for reducing the rate of corporation tax”
The Media Matrix
One of the benefits of attending illustrious schools and Oxbridge are the lifelong elite connections to be made. As this parliamentary report highlights, top jobs in media are predominantly occupied by those with elite educational backgrounds – over 50% of the top 100 journalists in the UK attended private schools and Oxbridge.
Sunak’s schoolfriend James Forsyth is political editor of the Spectator. Rishi was best man at Forsyth’s wedding to Allegra Stratton, who has worked in high-profile editorial roles for ITV and the BBC, co-presented Peston on Sunday and written for The Times, Independent and Guardian.
Allegra attended Cambridge University and now works as “Director of Strategic Communications” at the Treasury – i.e. for Sunak.
One of Rishi’s closest friends at Oxford was Tom Clementi, “whose father Sir David is the chairman of the BBC” (Times profile).
How coincidental that a man who has enjoyed such good publicity has strong personal connections to people of influence within the world of journalism!!?
Dominic Cummings’ army of SpAds (Special Advisors) provide even more revolving door politico-media connections to burnish Sunak to a sheen:
Dougie Smith – Described by The Times profile as “the unsung hero in Rishi’s rise”, Smith is a researcher and strategist in Downing Street who is married to Munira Mirza, director of the No 10 policy unit. Smith formerly ran a company called Fever Parties, which, as we explore here, organised orgies for “good looking couples under 40 years of age” that selected single females (#MeToo!) were also welcome to attend.
Katie Hile – A Sunak SpAd who worked for BBC news in a variety of roles for over 10 years before joining the Downing Street team.
Cass Horowitz – Worked on both the Andrew Marr and Robert Peston shows before signing up as a SpAd. That’s the two leading Sunday morning politics shows covered then Rishi!
Nerissa Chesterfield – Worked as the Head of Communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs, self-described as “the UK’s original free market think tank”. Like most right-wing think-tanks the IEA attempts to present itself as independent while, somewhat suspiciously, masking its funding sources. DeSmogUK report that it has received funding from oil giant BP and that an affiliated organisation in the US received a “donation” from Exxon Mobil.
Liam Booth-Smith – Was the Chief Executive of Localis from 2016-2018. Another “independent…not-for-profit think tank”, Localis are said to have close associations with the right-wing Policy Exchange. So close that Booth-Smith reportedly moved to Policy Exchange from Localis before relocating to Downing Street…
Rishi Sunak contributed four articles to Policy Exchange, three of them just as he was launching his political career in 2014. Policy Exchange came bottom of a league table investigating the funding of think-tanks with a score 0 (“Highly Opaque”). A past chairman of the think-tank is Charles Moore, the influential former editor of The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator who in 2015 “was made a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the UK’s most prominent climate science denial campaign group.”
Sunak’s SpAds offer a startling reminder of the revolving door between business, politics and the media. The role of right-wing think tanks shouldn’t be underestimated as a key link between all three areas (with opaque funding masking the role of wealth in the process).
In a representative democracy the media are supposed to be a ferocious, independent force hellbent on holding politicians and business to account. Sunak’s matrix, like every other matrix article we’ve produced, demonstrates that the opposite is the case.
The relationship isn’t independent, it’s incestuous.
SUPERMAN FOR THE GROUSE SHOOTING ELITE
We apologise for the cynical tone of this article. It would be nice for the public to have a politician they can believe in and Blairite figures like Sunak, with their sharp suits and boyish smiles, possess undoubted appeal.
Unfortunately, Sunak’s web of elite connections is woven just as tightly as every other member of the current Tory cabinet. The notion of a hedge fund millionaire, with a billionaire father-in-law, four properties and an ivory tower education, putting himself at the service of the ordinary voter is laughable – and Sunak’s voting record proves it.
“It does put me in an elite in society” Sunak conceded of his private school and Oxford education.
Along with the other members of this mutually supporting elite – in journalism, business and politics – Sunak will continue to shape society in elite interests.
He’s the Superman who’ll only save you if you’re wealthy.