Rishi Sunak now least popular Cabinet member among Tory voters

·4-min read
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 11 Downing Street as he heads to the House of Commons, London, to deliver his Spring Statement. Picture date: Wednesday March 23, 2022.
Rishi Sunak has been voted the least popular Cabinet member, by his own party supporters (PA)

Rishi Sunak is the least popular Cabinet member, according to his own party's supporters.

In a poll of Tory party members, Sunak has gone from being one of the most popular senior figures in the party to bottom in the space of a few months.

The figures were published on Monday by the Conservative Home website, which regularly polls members and readers on satisfaction levels of Tory MPs in the Cabinet.

Sunak's fall from grace has been spectacular. Last August, he was the second most popular Cabinet member in the same polling and widely seen as the likely heir to Boris Johnson's premiership.

However, in recent weeks he has been hit with a slew of negative headlines, including his wife's non-dom status; growing criticism of his handling of the cost-of-living crisis; and a fine for breaking the law and attending an illegal party during lockdown.

Pollsters Paul Goodman and Henry Hill said: "Sunak plunged last month to third from bottom in the wake of the Spring Statement (on plus eight points).

"He drops to last place this month, coming in at minus five points, in the wake of the furore about his wife’s tax affairs and former non-dom status. It is perhaps surprising that his fall isn’t larger; it may even be that the worst is behind him – in this table at least."

Here's how Conservative party supporters view their Cabinet:

Satisfaction ratings for Cabinet members according to Conservative party members (ConservativeHome)
Satisfaction ratings for Cabinet members according to Conservative party members (ConservativeHome)

Most damaging for Sunak has been the sustained criticism since it was revealed his wife - and billionaire heiress - Akshata Murty had non-dom status, which typically applies to someone who was born overseas and spends much of their time in the UK but still considers another country to be their permanent residence or “domicile”.

Despite initially criticising the report as a "smear", the Sunaks subsequently announced that she would pay UK taxes on her global income, claiming in a statement that she did not want the issue “to be a distraction for my husband”.

The Chancellor has also referred himself to Johnson’s independent adviser on ministerial interests and denied any wrongdoing.

Watch: Sunak 'extremely and sincerely sorry' after receiving fine for attending lockdown-busting gathering for PM's birthday

Eyebrows were also raised when Sunak admitted that he continued to hold a United States green card – granting him permanent residency in the US – for a period while he was Chancellor.

The US inland revenue says anyone who has a green card is treated as a “lawful permanent resident” and is considered a “US tax resident for US income tax purposes”.

There were further questions after reports that Sunak was listed as the beneficiary of trusts set up in the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands to help manage the tax and business affairs of his wife's family interests.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 09: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murthy attend a reception to celebrate the British Asian Trust at the British Museum on February 9, 2022 in London, England. The British Asian Trust, a charity that works to reduce poverty and disadvantage for communities in South Asia, was founded in 2007 by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak with wife Akshata Murty, whose financial arrangements hit the headlines last week (Getty)

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to the Prime Minister with a detailed series of questions, including whether Sunak had ever benefited from the use of tax havens, whether he made a legal promise to the US when he received his green card that it was his permanent residence, and, if so, whether he was legally a permanent US resident when he entered Parliament and became a minister.

Tensions between No 10 and the Chancellor have increased after the spring statement was criticised for not doing enough to help address the cost-of-living crisis.

This weekend Labour piled further pressure on Sunak after it called for an emergency budget.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace speaks to the media during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark the Hague, Netherlands. Picture date: Thursday April 21, 2022.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace topped the poll of most popular Cabinet members for a third month running (PA)

Johnson is third from bottom in the table with the Partygate scandal - and claims he lied to Parliament about now being aware of any parties at Downing Street - threatening to unravel his leadership.

Priti Patel, who languished at the bottom of the table last month on -17 points, saw her ratings jumped to 31 points, nearer the middle of the table. A recent ConHome survey found that eight in 10 Tory activists were supportive of Pate's new asylum seekers’ scheme.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace topped the satisfaction table for the third month running, with 85 points. A pattern is beginning to form below him – as Liz Truss, Nadhim Zahawi and Anne-Marie Trevelyan come in variously at second, third and fourth (with scores in the mid to low sixties).