Opinion: Opportunistic Sunak has missed the chance to sink Johnson

Since getting onto the political ladder eight years ago, Rishi Sunak’s rise from MP to PM has been nothing short of meteoric – albeit opportunistic.

Upon closer inspection, Sunak’s career has been littered with shortcuts and fast-tracks. Fate has played into his hands at every stage of the path to glory – but it would be remiss to suggest his clinical nature has not played a vital role in this.

Dishi Rishi – as he became known while he was chancellor during the pandemic – has steadily progressed his career by taking advantage of huge opportunities.

In 2015, Sunak was boosted into the Tory safe seat of Richmond. In 2020, he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer off the back of Sajid Javid’s feud with Johnson. Even his accession to the top was due to the downfall of Trussonomics.

So, why – when faced with an opportunity to wash his hands of all Johnson-related controversy – was the Prime Minister missing in Parliament on 19 June?

According to reports, Sunak did not see this as the right occasion to weigh in on the Privileges Committee’s investigation into Boris Johnson.

Well, Keir Starmer took his opportunity.

The Labour leader begged Sunak to “show leadership” upon hearing rumours of his abstention from the vote, which ultimately came across as weak.  

It is difficult to contend this point of view.

Considering the former Chancellor was more than willing to land the first punch by resigning from Boris Johnson’s cabinet, it appears he lacked the courage of his convictions to deal the killer blow.

The majority of his MPs followed the leader, as over 220 Tory abstentions were registered last Monday.

Whether attending “longstanding engagements” – as cited by his spokesman – or to appease party members, refraining from delivering his personal verdict will not help his cause.

He may have been able to drift through his career so far with the occasional lucky break and minimal collateral damage, but the top job requires him to have the courage of his convictions.

As he faces his greatest challenge yet, he must learn that the consequences for not taking these opportunities are monumentally greater.

Image: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak visit Pizza Pilgrims in London on 26 June 2020. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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