OPINION - Rachel Johnson: After the Sky debacle, it's clear Rishi Sunak is a one-man own-goal machine

Rishi Sunak announcing the general election (AP)
Rishi Sunak announcing the general election (AP)

I think it’s now fair to ask — is Rishi Sunak a Labour asset? Deciding to announce an election in a monsoon. Heading to the Titanic Quarter when he was 20 points behind the iceberg. Posing underneath an Exit sign, leaving our fallen heroes on the beaches to do a pre-rec with ITV that wasn’t even going out until last night.

It has become a parlour game to guess what he will delight us with next ahead of his July 4 end-date. Insult Dame Judi Dench? Canonise Jimmy Savile? Do a “family shop” at Asda without a pound coin for the trolley?

We didn’t have to wait long as his next inside job was to go all Monty Python on us during his ITV News interview with Paul Brand (the famous “hole in the ground” sketch with the four northerners showing off about how destitute they were). Yes he spoke about his deprived childhood on TV. He went there. Oops!

This shows total unawareness of the iron rule that if you went to a fee-paying school this means that you can never, ever complain about anything that happens to you for the rest of your life. The only exception to this is if you were abused at said school, preferably in the Seventies, and then of course you can get a book out of it.

You went to private school, ergo you are posh. Nothing else matters. In the public eye you are entitled, minted, talentless, any status and success undeserved, and all you can do is own it and say things like: “I don’t know the price of milk but I do know the price of a bottle of champagne,” or, as I did on Newsnight this week, try to make light of the fact that when two very middle-class mums foully abused me in the supermarket in Ladbroke Grove, “And it was in the Sainsbury’s,” I joked feebly, “Not even Lidl!”

When asked what he went without as a kid, the PM said: “There’ll be all sorts of things that I would’ve wanted as a kid that I couldn’t have.” And the “all sorts of things” were… Sky TV. One, this reminds us how young Rishi is because I watched the moon landings on a flickering black-and-white mini-oven and Sky wasn’t a twinkle in Murdoch’s eye then. Two, this reminds us of Rishi’s political USP — his unerring ability to sink an own goal into the back of the net.

If you went to Winchester and are pro tem the most powerful man in the land, you do not get to tell us that where you came from was not privileged and wealthy even if that was the case.

Nobody cares. Nobody is listening. All they are hearing is that Rishi never had a little Sky dishy, but his boat came in and he is now richer than the King

Nobody cares. Nobody is listening. All they are hearing is that Rishi never had a little Sky dishy, but his boat came in and he is now richer than the King. Look I know he’d had a busy day choppering in from Normandy but it’s no excuse. It’s such a rubbish answer. What matters as a child is not what you went without, it’s what you had.

“It was never a choice between heating or eating, of course. I had two wonderful parents, who loved us, who raised us with a strong set of values,” he should have said. “This childhood made me want to pay it forward, and give back, as my mother and father did in the NHS, to the country that gave my family so much.”

He does have a decent backstory but he somehow can’t project it. He knows as part of an NHS family that health is wealth, but he can’t say it.

Instead of trying to think of things he didn’t have — and failing — he should have emphasised the things that make a childhood — security, a loving home, fresh food, decent schools, efficient GP surgeries, functioning hospitals, local playgrounds and playing fields and access to friends and nature, all of which he had and as PM he should wish for every child in the country. As a parent himself, of two girls, he knows that holidays, gadgets and money don’t bring happiness. And he knows the flipside: deprivation doesn’t bring unhappiness if you have true security.

I never think of what I didn’t have, but I often think of what I did have — remarkable parents, siblings, as many books as I could read, games, jokes, Exmoor, large family meals, travel, adventure, fun. These are all beyond price. All I can think of the richest Prime Minister in British history, who has the reverse Midas touch when it comes to politics, is “poor Rishi”.

Rachel Johnson is a contributing editor of the Evening Standard