Rishi Sunak: 'I don't want to be prime minister'
Rishi Sunak has said he does not want to become prime minister and praised his “close personal friendship” with Boris Johnson.
Asked in an interview after his virtual Tory conference speech if he eventually wants the keys to No 10, the chancellor said: “No. Definitely not, seeing what the prime minister has to deal with – this is a job hard enough for me to do.”
Sunak acknowledged that Johnson calls him “Rish”, adding: “I call him prime minister – he keeps trying to tell me to call him other things but I just stick with PM.
“We have a close personal friendship which then spreads through the teams, where there’s an enormous amount of mutual trust.”
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The chancellor said his two daughters’ “favourite thing in the world” is Johnson’s dog Dilyn, a rescue pet the prime minister adopted last year with his now-fiancee Carrie Symonds.
“Our families are very joined at that moment,” Sunak said.
In his speech, the chancellor, 40, promised to balance the books after the coronavirus crisis brought the economy to a standstill and forced the government to spend billions to support workers, struggling businesses and the NHS.
He said: “I am committing myself to a single priority – to create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can.
“We have a sacred responsibility to future generations to leave the public finances strong.
“And through careful management of our economy, this Conservative government will always balance the books.
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“If instead we argue there is no limit on what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole, what is the point in us?
“I have never pretended there is some easy cost-free answer. Hard choices are everywhere.”
The chancellor was appointed in February after the dramatic resignation of Sajid Javid.
Sunak’s appointment at 39 makes him the second youngest ever chancellor, behind George Osborne.
Despite entering office just as the coronavirus crisis was about to change everything, his Eat Out to Help Out promotion and the furlough scheme have seen his popularity soar.
Meanwhile, Johnson appears to have fallen out of favour, both among Tories and the public.
According to a survey of party members by the website ConservativeHome, 81.5% are satisfied with Rishi Sunak, while Johnson has for the first time ever gone into negative territory with a rating of -10.3%.
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He recorded the second-lowest score of any cabinet member, with education secretary Gavin Williamson scoring -43%.
Conservatives have turned on the PM over COVID restrictions, particularly with local lockdowns, and his apparent plans to breach international law over Brexit.
Sunak’s comments today echo Johnson’s 2017 dismissal of reports that he wanted to replace Theresa May as prime minister as "tripe".
"It is absolutely right she should go ahead for this government and it is absolutely right that she should go ahead and deliver on the priorities for the people and I am going to be backing her," said Johnson, then foreign secretary.
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A year before that, he told the The Andrew Marr Show his reported ambition to become prime minister was “cobblers”.
"Do you expect to be our next prime minister?" Marr asked Johnson.
"Look at the – look at the – certainly not… I think the whole thing is a load of cobblers," Johnson said.
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