A former Cabinet minister suggested that Mr Sunak hire new communications advisers with “grizzled experience” to handle any future “pratfalls”. The ex-minister suggested he poach Craig Woodhouse, Nadine Dorries’ director of communications at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
“I’m all for encouraging bright young things, but you need experience,” the former minister said.
“You’ve got to have that sort of grey beard experience sometimes, which he by his own acknowledgment doesn’t have.”
The backbencher complained that Mr Sunak had been forced to issue too many statements to the press over the stories – first defending his wife from press criticism and later referring himself to Lord Geidt, Mr Johnson’s independent adviser on ministerial interests.
“You do one statement, and then you shut up about it,” they said.
Frustration at ‘partygate’ saga
Others said public anger about Mr Sunak’s wife’s non-domicile tax status had now abated, because voters are more concerned about the cost of living and the news that Mr Johnson has been fined over “partygate”.
“All these issues from his personal life seem to have blown away,” said another former Cabinet minister.
“Boris has stuck an umbrella above him. No one is really raising the issues unprompted.”
Mr Sunak has apologised for his own partygate fine, which he received for briefly attending a gathering for Mr Johnson’s birthday in the Cabinet Room in Downing Street in June 2020.
Allies of the Chancellor said he feels frustrated at being “dragged into” the partygate saga, despite not attending any of the more raucous events.
A senior Conservative MP speculated that Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is “on manoeuvres” for a leadership bid, because she has said little to defend either Mr Sunak or Mr Johnson over the events.
Mr Sunak’s personal approval ratings have fallen by 26 points in a month and are now negative for the first time, following a slew of negative stories about him and a jump in household bills.