Rishi Sunak: I am passionate, not tetchy

The prime minister has denied he is “tetchy” in a recent interview, saying of the criticism: “I don’t understand that”.  

The criticism emerged in the wake of his diplomatic spat with the Greek prime minister over the Elgin Marbles, which saw Rishi Sunak call off a meeting at the eleventh hour over his Greek counterpart’s comments. 

Speaking to The Spectator magazine, the prime minister said there was “nothing tetchy” about him.

Pointing to the Conservative leadership election in the summer of 2022, which he lost to Liz Truss, he said: “That wasn’t an easy time for me, I was taking a lot of criticism and flak. But I just fought hard for what I believed in – every day, seven days a week for six weeks. 

“I’m the same person now, I am fighting for the things I believe in. There’s nothing tetchy. But I am passionate. When things are not working the way I want them to work, of course I’m going to be frustrated”.

It comes as the prime minister has been given his lowest ever net favourability score of minus 49, a drop of ten points from late November.

New polling from YouGov shows 70 per cent of Britons have an unfavourable view of the PM, with just 21 per cent having a favourable view.

Sunak is on his lowest ever net favourability score of -49 — a 10-point drop from late November.

The new figures mean Sunak’s overall net favourability score is comparable with Boris Johnson’s during his final months in office.

Johnson’s net favourability score was -46 immediately after he resigned. However, Sunak is beating Liz Truss on this measure, her score dropped to minus 70 in her final days in office.

Elsewhere in his Spectator interview, Sunak said critics focusing on the rising tax burden rather than recent tax cuts are taking a “glass-half-empty” approach. 

The prime minister told The Spectator: “That’s a really glass-half-empty way to look at it. You’ve got to differentiate.

“Look, why is the tax burden as high as it is? It’s because we had a once-in-a-century pandemic and we had a war in Ukraine, both of which necessitated an enormous response from the Government.

“I think it’s completely fine to have said the Government should not have responded to help everyone with energy bills, the Government should not have responded during Covid… If one person had consistently said that throughout, totally fine.

“[But] nobody did, not a single person said that you shouldn’t have done all those things. I was very clear at the time, we should do those things but let’s be clear that that will have consequences and we will have to pay that money back and yes, like a Thatcherite and actually just a good Conservative, if you borrow money it does have to be paid back.

“The choice at the next election is between me and Keir Starmer. A Labour party that wants to borrow £28 billion a year is not going to control welfare or public spending. A Conservative party is going to do those things – and cut your taxes instead.”

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