The people of Ireland should be “very encouraged” by Rishi Sunak’s victory in the second Tory leadership contest of this year, a leading conservative commentator has said.
After a summer of debate, Mr Sunak was defeated by Liz Truss in the first contest. However, following the chaos of her brief premiership, Tory MPs have turned to him to lead their embattled party.
In 2016, Mr Sunak voted to leave the European Union but commentator Iain Dale says that as Prime Minister he is unlikely to take a belligerent stance as Britain and Brussels renegotiate the protocol.
“I think those discussions will become rather more speedy,” Mr Dale told The Hard Shoulder.
“And, without giving away too much, he was never in favour of the hardline policy that was pursued in earlier discussions.
“I think everyone on the island of Ireland should be very encouraged by the approach that Rishi Sunak will take to the protocol.”
However, he caveated that whatever is agreed between the two sides, “won’t please the DUP but, let’s face it, have the DUP ever been pleased about anything?”
Mr Sunak served as Chancellor of the Exchequer during the COVID pandemic and put together the widely praised furlough scheme that saw the state pay the wages of workers whose jobs were not viable during lockdown.
Another scheme, Eat Out To Help Out, that gave people discounted meals over the summer of 2020, was criticised for allegedly spreading the virus.
Either way, Mr Sunak has been tested in the toughest of times and Mr Dale said he was “quite happy” with the result.
“I think he’s a calming influence,” he said.
“And I think he will turn out to be exactly what the country needs for at least the next two years.
“I have to say, given the state of the polls, probably only the next two years.”
Mr Sunak resigned from Government in July after it emerged that Boris Johnson had appointed as Deputy Chief Whip an MP that he knew had had allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. Mr Sunak wrote to Mr Johnson that “the public rightly expect Government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously… I am sad to be leaving Government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”
For this, many of Mr Johnson’s most loyal supporters have never forgiven him; during this summer’s leadership contest, one Secretary of State retweeted an edited image of Mr Sunak dressed as Brutus ready to plunge a knife into the Prime Minister’s back.
However, Iain Dale believes that these harcore Boris fans represent only a small minority of Tory MPs.
“Rishi Sunak is a transparently nice person, to talk about MPs hating his guts I think goes a little bit too far,” he said.
“Yes, there are some Boris Johnson supporters who blame him for the fact that Boris Johnson was brought down.
“But the person to blame for Boris Johnson being brought down is actually Boris Johnson. Most sensible people recognise that.”
Mr Sunak will be appointed Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister by King Charles III in the coming days and can expect to lead the Conservative party into the 2024 election.
Main image: Rishi Sunak and colleagues in early 2022. Picture by: Alpha Press 079965 29/03/2022