Chancellor Rishi Sunak says ‘God no’ to ambitions of becoming PM

Rishi Sunak has declared that he does not want to take over as prime minister as he praised a “close personal friendship” with Boris Johnson amid speculation of a rift between the pair.

The Chancellor acknowledged disagreements but spoke warmly of his relationship with Mr Johnson after rumours of a split between the two men inhabiting Downing Street.

The suggestions have largely been fuelled by the Prime Minister’s decision to stay away from the Commons when the Chancellor unveiled his winter economy plan last month.

And some on the Conservative backbenches have been talking up Mr Sunak’s prospects as leader following disquiet over Mr Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

But, asked if he eventually wants the keys to No 10 in an interview after his Tory conference speech, Mr Sunak said with a chuckle: “God, no. Definitely not seeing what the Prime Minister has to deal with.

“This is a job hard enough for me to do.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his dog, Dilyn (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his dog, Dilyn (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Sunak used his setpiece speech to praise the Prime Minister, saying he has a “special and rare quality” to connect to the public and has made the right calls “in the big moments”.

In the interview, Mr Sunak alluded to a friendly relationship when he acknowledged that his boss calls him “Rish”.

“He keeps trying to tell me to call him other things but I just stick with PM,” he added.

“We have a close personal friendship which then spreads through the teams where there’s an enormous amount of mutual trust.”

Mr Sunak acknowledged there are disagreements at times, saying that ministers are not “all robots” but insisted any debate is always done with the “spirit of trust and respect”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (John Sibley/PA)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (John Sibley/PA)

Living in No 11, the Chancellor said his two daughters’ “favourite thing in the world” is Dilyn, the dog Mr Johnson keeps in Downing Street with his fiancee Carrie Symonds.

“Our families are very joined at that moment,” Mr Sunak added.

Of course, the current occupant of No 10 repeatedly ruled out ever landing the job of prime minister.

Mr Johnson would claim he had greater chances of being “reincarnated as an olive”, “decapitated by a flying frisbee” or “locked in a disused fridge” than leading the nation.

But in June last year he launched his successful bid to succeed Theresa May as Conservative leader and become Prime Minister.

And during the December general election, while not becoming locked in a fridge, he was accused of hiding in one to avoid a TV interview.

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