Is Rishi Sunak turning into Boris Johnson?

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Is this the week in which it could be claimed that Rishi Sunak has become a prime minister like Boris Johnson?

On Monday, Mr Sunak faced allegations of dodgy declarations of financial interests.

On Wednesday, he hurled Johnson-style insults at Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions and caved in to right-wing Tory MPs on small boats and migration.

And now, after delaying a decision on the report on bullying allegations against Dominic Raab until a second day, Mr Sunak faces claims that he’s attempting to cling on to a close ally in trouble and defy calls to sack him.

It all sounds a bit familiar.

Mr Sunak’s week began with the re-announcement of a maths policy that was overshadowed by the Commons sleaze watchdog suggesting the PM’s declarations of his wife’s financial interests didn’t add up.

The new Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Daniel Greenberg, announced an inquiry into why Mr Sunak failed to mention his wife’s shareholding in a childcare company which could benefit from measures in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s March Budget.

The omission came when Mr Sunak was quizzed by MPs on the Liaison Committee about Koru Kids and specifically asked by Labour’s Catherine McKinnell if he had anything to declare. He giggled and mumbled: “No, all my disclosures are declared in the normal way.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab leaves 10 Downing Street, London, following a Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday April 18, 2023.
Sunak failed to make his expected decision on Dominic Raab’s future on Thursday

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It was a very Johnsonian answer. And his interests weren’t declared in the normal way, because the register of ministers’ interests hadn’t been published for over a year. And, don’t forget, Mr Sunak didn’t appoint an ethics adviser for months.

Mr Greenberg pointed out that the MPs’ code of conduct says they “must always be open and frank in declaring any relevant interest in any proceeding of the house or its committees”.

In other words, while speaking in the Commons chamber or in a committee.

And even when Number 10 published the PM’s full list of interests on Wednesday they didn’t include details of the shareholdings held by his heiress wife Akshata Murty.

Mr Johnson regularly clashed with the Standards Commissioner: on earnings, property income and holidays. In one report, he was accused of an “over-careless attitude towards observing the rules of the house”.

At PMQs, meanwhile, Mr Sunak was no more Mr Nice Guy as he unleashed a barrage of Johnson-style attacks on the Labour leader, branding him “Sir Softie” on crime during his time as Director of Prosecutions and denouncing him as a “leftie lawyer”.

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The Labour leader also asks the prime minister to explain why ‘nothing works’ after 13 years of Conservative government.

Tory MPs loved it, yelping and howling with delight, as Labour MPs sat-grim faced. It was all a reminder of Mr Johnson’s jibes against Sir Keir, when he regularly called him “Captain Hindsight” and “Crasheroonie Snoozefest” at PMQs.

Later, Mr Sunak delighted the Tory right by bowing to their demands for amendments to the Illegal Migration Bill.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman will get new powers to ignore so-called “pyjama injunctions” by judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, blocking migrant deportation flights to Rwanda.

The cave-in followed a bacon sandwiches breakfast in Downing Street for MPs on the Common Sense Group of right-wingers on Tuesday morning. Remember how Mr Johnson regularly used to host the pro-Brexit European Research Group in Number 10?

Then, shortly before the Commons rose for the weekend, it emerged that there would be no Raab decision on Thursday, prompting allegations of “dither and delay” from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The word from inside Number 10 was that the PM, however, was taking time to go through Adam Tolley’s report thoroughly and consider it.

And the longer the wait for the PM’s decision on Mr Raab, the more it looks like he’s attempting to save one of his closest allies.

To be fair to Mr Sunak, cabinet ministers Sir Gavin Williamson and Nadhim Zahawi went quickly when they were in trouble. But Mr Raab lives to fight another day.

Mr Johnson was always determined not to hand his opponents a scalp. Is Mr Sunak now doing the same?

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