How ‘dishy’ Rishi hit his stride in UK PM race

The UK went into its Covid lockdown on March 23, 2020, and four days later its new chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, tweeted his work-fromhome photo with the hashtag # StayHomeSaveLives.
It was a homely pic. Sunak, a father of two, tapping away on an ergonomic keyboard while staring at dual screens (a former investment banker, he’s said to think in Excel) in his study after 9. 30pm. For full domestic effect Sunak wore a grey hoodie rather than one of his immaculate suits.
But if the ensemble was calculated to tell the public the country’s finances were in safe, stable, responsible, diligent hands, it had an unforeseen effect. The hashtag #DishyRishi took off. Now, it wasn’t a new hashtag, but unt il then it had been reserved for the character Rishi Sharma who once did a cringey dance in the British TV show Emmerdale.
Applied to Sunak, DishyRishi meant only one thing – sexy. The British press latched on to the craze quickly. A week after Sunak’s tweet, Flora Gill wrote an article about him in GQ under the headline: “I fancy Rishi Sunak. And a fter reading this, you probably will too. ”
It started with all the confessional zeal of a schoolgirl in her first crush. “. . . one dark, emoji-filled evening on WhatsApp, emboldened by the lack of a face-to-face meeting, I opened up to my friends about my shameful new feelings: a deep desire for Rishi Sunak…” As if to implicate everyone else, Gill added: “Rishi is the man we’d all self-isolate with. ”
Around the same time Phoebe Luckhurst wrote in Vogue: “Sunak reminds you of the medic you had a crush on in the first term of your first year: smart, focused and earnest, bright eyes twinkling with sincerity, the good cop to the bad cop of the boy you inevitably went out with. ”
Sunak had already made himself politically valuable. That’s how he had risen from first-time MP to the UK’s chief bean counter in five short years. But the #DishyRishi craze made him a charismatic figure overnight. As Luckhurst wrote: “when Dishy Rishi takes his turn at the podium, no one is booing. ”
Sunak himself made light of the craze in an interview to LADbible TV in November 2020 . “I struggle to know whether to be happy or not… my wife has a strong point of view but it’s probably best not said today. ”
He did acknowledge, however, that the hashtag helped h im connect with people and make them understand what he was trying to do. “Economic policy sometimes is a bit abstract from people’s lives and it shouldn’t be, ’cause i t makes an enormous difference. ”
That serious note aside, Sunak’s obviously trim and youthful appearance – possibly aided by the fact that he’s a teetotaler – had much to do with his newfound celebrity. When The Independent wrote: “Your ‘strange’ crush on Rishi Sunak could be a racist fetish,” a fan tweeted: “It feels wrong because he looks about 18. ” Another fan tweeted: “Literally, how is Rishi Sunak that fit! – He’s like the Asian James Bond!”
There was his geeky, BigBang-Theory-ish fascination with Star Wars too. Tatler wrote about Sunak’ s “hobby for minutely detailed models of spaceships and video games”. So, in the middle of a scary pandemic, Sunak was checking all the right boxes. Smart as Sheldon, dependable as Leonard, and a bit like Raj minus the accent. Tatler says he retains enough of his family’s Indianness to be a practising Hindu who does not eat beef and “takes his parliamentary oath to the Queen on the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. ”
Almost as soon as the #DishyRishi craze started, people were talking about Sunak being Boris Johnson’s likely successor. Like Anthony Fauci in T rump’s America, Sunak had impressed the public with his Covid briefings. Gill wrote: “While Boris Johnson looked evasive and insincere, Sunak appeared firm and decis ive. ” And on Twitter, a fan seconded that with: “I really like Rishi doing the conferences. He’s clear and concise in what he’s saying. He makes me feel calmer. ”
The British public also liked him because, for a conservative politician, he made the almost radical decision to support people who had lost their jobs or incomes during the pandemic.
“For the first time in our history, our government is going to pay people’s wages. We want to look back on this time and remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency,” he announced at his press briefing on March 20, 2020.
The government’s ‘magic money tree’, excellent communication skills, a hedge-fund manager’s knack for betting on the winning side, and a grey hoodie – if Dishy Rishi becomes the first non-white British PM, those will be some of the factors history will credit for his rise.

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