Rishi Sunak’s resignation from government alongside Sajid Javid on 5 July triggered a landslide that saw more than 50 Conservative ministers follow suit over a chaotic 40-hour period that finally brought an end to Boris Johnson’s scandal-plagued premiership.
With the prime minister on the way out, the former chancellor, 42, initially found himself leading the parliamentary leg of the contest to replace him but has since fallen behind foreign secretary Liz Truss in what is now a straight two-horse race.
Mr Sunak had moved quickly to set up a campaign headquarters in a Westminster hotel immiediately after he stepped down and quickly fired out a slick promotional video, hoping to conjure warm memories of his generosity when Covid-19 first slammed Britain into lockdown in the spring of 2020.
That period, in which he became the fresh face of the £69bn furlough scheme keeping citizens in work and was even dubbed “Dishy Rishi”, was a happy one for Mr Sunak in which he was cheered on as a free-spending chancellor known for posing behind his laptop in a hoodie and ferrying plates around Wagamama to promote his Eat Out to Help Out initiative.
But this year has proved to be rather more of a rollercoaster ride for Mr Sunak, who began 2022 as the man most likely to succeed Mr Johnson – then mired in Partygate – before being brought low by controversy over his family’s tax arrangements, only to then turn his fortunes around once again this month.
As he seeks the keys to No 10, the challenge for Mr Sunak will be to convince his peers that he is the ideal man to revive an ailing economy that he himself has been at the helm of for two-and-a-half-years and to do so without the tax cuts they demand but which he has dismissed as “fairytale” politics.
Should he win, he will also eventually have to convince the electorate that his being one of the richest MPs in Westminster, thanks to his marriage to Indian billionaire’s daughter Akshata Murthy, need not be an obstacle to understanding the realities of poverty in Britain today and delivering the help they need to make ends meet in the face of rising bills and swiftly declining living standards as inflation bites.
Mr Sunak was born in Southampton on 12 May 1980, his parents Yashvir and Usha Sunak a GP and pharmacist respectively, the couple originally from East Africa with roots in Punjab, India.
The eldest of three children, Mr Sunak attended the prestigious Stroud School in Hampshire and Winchester College, where he was head boy and edited the school newspaper, waiting tables in a curry house during the school holidays to boost his coffers.
Slightly embarrassingly in hindsight, the family appeared in a BBC documentary in 2001 entitled Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl, a clip of which recently resurfaced online…