Review of Rishi Sunak: A Personal Look – You Can Almost Sense the Embarrassment on His Face.
Is Rishi Sunak a suitable candidate for prime minister? According to current opinion polls, the answer is no. In tonight’s episode of “Watching Rishi Sunak Up Close,” the second of two specials about the main party leaders during this election year, one might wonder if Sunak himself shares this sentiment secretly.
Through ITV’s deputy political editor Anushka Asthana’s extensive and exclusive access over several weeks, we gain behind-the-scenes insights into the character of the Conservative party leader. He aims to convey the message that he is a morally upright, exceptionally clever individual who excels at problem-solving. This sentiment is echoed by his ally, energy secretary Claire Coutinho, during a pleasant family breakfast at 10 Downing Street, which portrays him as a successful but caring working father. We are informed that on weekends, the usual breakfast of red berries and M&S yoghurt is swapped out for a traditional English breakfast cooked by the father himself.
Next, we return to Sunak’s hometown of Southampton. He stands on a peaceful cul-de-sac and mimics swinging a bat in front of a lamp-post that he used as a cricket stump growing up. He fondly remembers how his parents, who immigrated from India, worked extra jobs to afford to send him to Winchester College, where he was a well-behaved student. When asked if his school friends would have called him a geek, Sunak responds with a chuckle and admits that they still do. His behavior while visiting St Mary’s, the home of Southampton FC, further confirms his naturally cautious and humble nature. He is truly excited, like a young boy, to be allowed on the pitch by ITV.
In the old Sunak family pharmacy, Asthana poses a thoughtful question about Sunak’s upbringing. Raised by a doctor and a pharmacist, Sunak is now the prime minister who has rejected requests for a fair wage increase from struggling healthcare workers. “Work is work, isn’t it?” he states. “While I am disappointed that it hasn’t been resolved sooner, I understand its importance.” As he speaks these words, he looks away from Asthana and gazes around the room where his mother used to dispense much-needed medications to the local community. His expression is a mix of wistful nostalgia and perhaps even regret or shame.
How did a lovable geek become the leader of a country despite his parents’ expectations for him to become a doctor? According to Sunak, he was driven by a desire for financial independence. He started off as an investment banker and then became a hedge fund manager, where he made millions through risky investments. He then married into a wealthy family. This could be seen as an intriguing tale of a young man who rejected his upbringing as a member of the top 1% of society in order to join the even more exclusive top 0.01%. As the leader of a political movement focused on protecting the interests of the elite, Sunak may feel conflicted as a new member of this privileged group.
During Sunak’s interview with Asthana, they discuss the current pressing issues. However, the format of the program is a common problem in political TV journalism – interviews without follow-up questions. Due to time constraints, the interview must also cover personal topics such as Sunak’s sleep schedule and his daughters’ hair care preferences. This leaves little opportunity to delve into his rehearsed political responses. The pattern typically goes as follows: a question is posed, a disingenuous answer is provided, and the conversation quickly moves on.
When questioned about the issuance of new oil and gas licenses and how it contradicts his efforts to address the climate crisis, Sunak responds by dismissing his critics as engaging in meaningless virtue signaling. He does not provide a defense for the flawed reasoning of the Conservative party, which claims that domestic oil and gas will lower bills and improve energy security, despite them being sold on a global market. Additionally, his shocking response regarding the deportation scheme in Rwanda goes unchallenged, asserting that it is a matter of fairness and following the rules. He believes that illegal immigration undermines the process.
The focus is on softball, but Asthana’s editors include a few shots of Sunak showing a mix of frustration and desperation towards her. It’s unclear which question prompts this reaction from him, but it seems that any questioning at all upsets him. He appears to be struggling to remember when he committed to this role. When asked about his future after being PM, he responds honestly and openly, expressing a desire to spend more time with his children. This wish may soon come true.