Exclusive:Sources claim that the chancellor’s staff has been creating a website and a marketing campaign while assessing Sunak’s chances for success among MPs.
Rishi Java is finishing up a PR-led leadership campaign. He told his allies that he believed Partygate could prove “unsurvivable” for Boris Johnson. The Independent learned.
According to , the chancellor had created a draft of a campaign website using inspiration from his weekly No11 newsletter and then developed a marketing strategy.
Sources claim that he and his circle of friends had also spoken to former MPs and staffers at No 10 about recent scrutiny of Downing Street in an informal conversation to assess his chances of winning a leadership contest.
After the Metropolitan Police requested that the Sue Gray report on parties at No. 10 be kept “minimal” references to parties under investigation, it is likely to have less impact.
A source said that police involvement could slow down Mr Sunak’s plans. However, they also stated that Rishi and his team “have everything in place”. They also noted that there was a clear communication plan and that the copy for a website had been written and is ready to go live.
Cass Horowitz is a special advisor to Mr Sunak and is widely credited for building the chancellor’s online brand through clever use of social media, growing his Instagram following, as well as overseeing his newsletter.
An ex-No 10 employee told The Independent Mr Horowitz was considered a “boy genius” by many Conservative Party members. He had redesigned the party’s use of social media and moved to work for Mr Sunak.
“He has created a data dashboard using the newsletter. Every click and every share will inform the larger leadership campaign. They said that he’s always on the lookout for online grassroot sentiments to tap into.”
The No 11 newsletter has an informal and upbeat tone. It includes “uplifting” statistics in the “Stats Corner”, which is a selection of official releases from the past week. These are intended to show Mr Sunak’s efforts in their best light.
An ex-staffer claimed that a Twitter account called Ready for Rishi ( @ForRishi ) – which is described as “grass-roots”) – had set the hares racing at No 10 in September 2020, when it first appeared. The latest tweet from the account, which was posted on 27 January, is pinned to its profile. It reads: “Time to be a leader who doesn’t break the rules #readyforrishi.”
The former employee said, “If Cass were here, I’d tap that sentiment.”
Sources claim that Mr Sunak suggested recently that Partygate would eventually prove “unsurvivable” to the prime minister in recent conversations.
One conversation is reported to have been focused on the idea of Johnson’s inability to continue his career long-term, since the scandal had irreparably damaged his brand.
However, a source close enough to Mr Sunak claimed that these claims along with those about the chancellor having planned a leadership campaign were “totally false”.
Sources said that attention has been drawn to Mr Sunak’s recent political behavior, which was not unnoticed by Downing Street.
This includes his absence from PMQs, when Mr Johnson first apologized for not attending the May 2020 party at No 10. It also includes the time it took Mr Sunak for him to publicly support the PM on Twitter before he finally gave what was considered a token of support.
As Ms Gray’s report is still pending, Tory MPs claim that conversations at Westminster revolve more around Mr Johnson’s identity as the result of the long wait.
A senior Tory MP said that they supported the prime minister and was surprised that Liz Truss, foreign secretary, had drawn more criticism for taking photos than Mr Sunak for his personal branding regarding policies like Eat Out to Help Out.
In addition to Mr Sunak, Ms Truss and Mr Sunak, speculation revolved around possible biddings for secretary Michael Gove (ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi)
Others being considered include Mark Harper (whose role as chair of the Covid Recovery Group made him an icon for lockdown-sceptic MPs) and Tom Tugendhat, Foreign Affairs Committee chair, who could win support from “One Nation” MPs connected to the more liberal Tory Reform Group.
The Independent was told by one MP that succession preferences were the subject of conversation when “two or three” are gathered together.