George Parker reviews ‘All to Play for: The Advance of Rishi Sunak’

If Rishi Sunak is feeling down, Michael Ashcroft’s new book about the Prime Minister’s career might cheer him up. Some people think Sunak’s time as Prime Minister won’t go well, but Ashcroft disagrees. The book’s title, “All to Play For,” gives you a hint about what it’s about. Ashcroft believes that the country might re-elect a politician who, according to him, works very hard, is smart, and sticks to his principles while leading the country.

Ashcroft thinks there will be an election campaign like the ones for the President, where Sunak will show he’s more lively, experienced, and better at talking to people than Sir Keir Starmer. He asks, “Who will most people in Britain prefer?” It’s true that Sunak is more liked than his political party, but that doesn’t mean much. Recently, most people didn’t like him much, with almost two-thirds of voters saying they didn’t have a good opinion of him, according to a YouGov survey.

Ashcroft’s latest book is an updated version of his 2020 book about Rishi Sunak. It tells us about Sunak’s role in Boris Johnson’s problems, his defeat in the leadership race against Liz Truss, and how he finally became the Prime Minister. Talking to Sunak’s friends and people in the government, Ashcroft mostly disagrees with the idea that Johnson and his supporters had a plan to bring Sunak down. Instead, he suggests that Johnson made mistakes that led to his own downfall. Ashcroft also suggests that someone close to Johnson might have told the press about Sunak’s wife’s non-dom status. But he doesn’t say it’s certain, and another book by Ben Riley-Smith is more doubtful about this idea.

Ashcroft says that in the end, Sunak’s belief in doing what’s best for the country, even if it made him look bad in the short term, made it impossible for him to keep working with Johnson. Johnson thought Sunak was trying to undermine him, saying he wanted experienced people in his team, not ambitious ones.

Ashcroft also suggests that someone close to Johnson might have told the press about Sunak’s wife’s non-dom status, but he’s not sure if it was illegal. The main idea of Ashcroft’s book is that Sunak tried to do the right things, like raising national insurance to pay for social care, even if it made some people think he was a high-tax, big-government Chancellor. Ashcroft has a hard time finding people who can explain what “Sunakism” is or what Sunak’s vision for the future of Britain is. After almost 500 pages, we might have expected more answers.

Sunak’s advisors say that he came to Downing Street after the problems of Liz Truss’s time as Prime Minister, promising to fix things and show results rather than making empty promises. We’re told that things will become clearer at the Conservative conference in Manchester. Tory MPs hope that their leader can convince the country that there’s still a chance for success.

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Amar Shinde is a writer and researcher specializing in the intersection of culture, technology, and society. In their free time, they enjoy playing chess.