RISHI SUNAK was parachuted into the safe Tory seat of Richmond eight years ago but now, having flown too close to the sun that was Boris Johnson and getting badly burned, he has landed in Downing Street.

It is a remarkable rise – but it hasn’t all been up. Three years ago when the profile writers first turned their attention to him as he became Mr Johnson’s “puppet chancellor”, their stories were all about his inexorable climb but since then he has experienced some severe downs as well.

Mr Sunak, 42, was born and grew up in Southampton, the grandson of Indian immigrants whose parents reached this country by way of east Africa. He straddles two societies: one of his Hindu Punjabi ancestry, and the other of his own growing up in Britain. He speaks of his youth mixing the temple of his family’s religion with the cathedral of modern British life: the football stadium, in Southampton.

In fact, his is a classic Tory story, reminiscent of that of Margaret Thatcher, of hard work above a shop leading to political success.

Whereas Mrs Thatcher’s father was a grocer, Mr Sunak’s mother was a pharmacist – his father was a GP – and young Rishi helped out doing the chemist’s books.

He went to Winchester College, Oxford University and then Stanford University where he met his future wife, Akshata, who is the daughter of Indian billionaire, NR Narayana Murthy, co-founder of the Infosys technology company.The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty.

They married in 2009 in a two-day Hindu ceremony in Bangalore, attended by Indian celebrities, including former cricket captain Anil Kumble. They now have two daughters and, with a joint fortune of £730m and ranked the 222nd wealthiest people in the country by the Sunday Times Rich List.

The Northern Echo: Richmond MP Rishi Sunak with his children at the santa run.

Mr Sunak and his daughters on the Herriot Hospice Santa run in Northallerton in 2017

Mr Sunak made his own fortune in finance, working for Goldman Sachs and as a hedge fund manager. Commentators refer to him as “by far the richest member of the British Cabinet”, and he has a £10m property portfolio which includes his £1.5m Georgian mansion to the east of Northallerton which features an indoor swimming pool and an ornamental boating lake set off by a 12th Century church.

He arrived out of the blue in North Yorkshire in late 2014 to vie for the safest seat in the country which William Hague was vacating.

The Northern Echo: The new Tory parliamentary candidate for Richmond, in 2015, with a picture of his predecessor, William Hague, in the background. Picture:SARAH CALDECOTT.

In his office in 2014 when the new candidate, with a picture of the old MP, William Hague, behind

There was a natural local successor in Wendy Morton, chair of the local Conservatives, but at the selection meetings, Mr Sunak “blew all the other candidates out of the water” with his sharp mind and ready smile. Ms Morton, from Wensleydale, found a seat in the West Midlands and was Liz Truss’ Chief Whip who resigned/did not resign over the farcical fracking vote that was the final straw that broke Ms Truss’ reign.

In the wider Richmond constituency, there was great scepticism about such an outsider being parachuted in – one Yorkshireman is said to have confused him for someone who could trim his privet.

The Northern Echo: Richmond MP Rishi Sunak talks to Wensleydale dairy farmer James Dent in 2015 as he got to grips with the rural nature of his constituency. Are those blue wellies?

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak talks to Wensleydale dairy farmer James Dent in 2015 - are those blue wellies?

“The Maharaja of the Dales” does stick out like a sore thumb, but there are stories of how he turns it in his favour. He described himself to the Yorkshireman whose privet needed trimming as the same as William Hague, only with a better tan, and on another occasion he is said to have jokingly pointed out how he and his wife make up the entire immigrant population of the constituency.

He won the constituency over in those early years by hard work and ubiquity. He appeared at farmers’ markets, immersed himself in the intricacies of milk pricing and was photographed beside drystone walls wearing artfully muddied wellies – they were city blue to begin with but as he has become more Yorkshirified, they have become farmerly green.

The Northern Echo:

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak helps out with the milking at Matthew Bell's Semerdale Hall Farm, near Hawes, in 2015

His approachability and enthusiasm won over many doubters – in 2017, he took 63.9 per cent of the vote, more than any Tory in Richmond since 1959.

When the Brexit referendum was called, Mr Sunak was quickly and publicly in favour of leaving the EU – a brave position for an ambitious backbencher in a party led by David Cameron and in which Mr Hague, a remainer, was still hugely popular locally.

Mr Sunak came out at the same time as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, and when Cameron heard, he reportedly said: “If we’ve lost Rishi, we’ve lost the future of the party.”

Mr Sunak took his message to his constituents in a series of town hall question and answer sessions (I chaired a couple of them). Lean and super-confident, he marshalled his arguments persuasively and with an internationalist slant, but was honest enough to admit there might be a downside.

The Northern Echo: Risi Sunak and former Darlington MP Jenny Chapman pictured at the entrance to Darlington Memorial Hospital in 2018 when they were jointly campaigning about hospital services

Rishi Sunak and Jenny Chapman are pictured at the entrance to Darlington Memorial Hospital in 2018, jointly campaigning for better hospital services

It was a close run thing, with Richmondshire voting 57 per cent to leave and Hambleton 54 per cent, but it was clear that this former hedge fund manager knew which side to back in a gamble.

Similarly, in spring 2019, he gambled early on backing Mr Johnson’s leadership bid, and in February 2020 when Sajid Javid quit as chancellor over No 10’s interference in his department, Mr Sunak happily took over.

On his first anniversary in office, Mr Sunak, a massive Star Wars fan, tweeted a picture of himself as a small schoolboy, knee-length shorts and oversize cap, on his family doorstep alongside a picture of himself, sharp coat and smart tie, on the doorstep of No 11 Downing Street.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak's twitter feed

Rishi Sunak's tweet on his first anniversary as Chancellor showing him on his first day at school

“Growing up, I never thought I would be in this job (mainly because I wanted to be a Jedi),” he wrote beneath the pictures, showing as much as anything his shrewd mastery of modern media.

He was the yin to Mr Johnson’s yan. Just as Mr Johnson was scruffy and unkempt, Mr Sunak is always thin and immaculate; just as the Prime Minister didn’t do details, Mr Sunak was immersed in them.

He had a good, if expensive, pandemic, his £350bn package including a furlough scheme that kept Britain working and a Eat Out to Help Out scheme that kept hospitality going, even if it did increase the infection rate by up to 17 per cent, according to one university study.

He also carried through on a couple of schemes that could have profound implications for the North East economy. As early as 2016, he was writing about the benefits of freeports, and he has helped put that into action at Redcar, and he has transferred 1,500 civil service jobs to Darlington to create the new Treasury campus.

The Northern Echo:

Campaigning with Boris Johnson at a farm near Ripon in 2019

Yet, it was his closeness to Mr Johnson that caused his first major setbacks – his closeness quite literally, as he was photographed next to the Prime Minister at a lockdown-breaking party and was fined, perhaps harshly, for breaking the laws.

With Mr Johnson’s spending continuing, Mr Sunak raised taxes to the highest level since the 1940s, to the despair of many low-tax Tories.

And then his own family fortunes came under the spotlight, with his wife being forced to renounce her non-dom tax status – a personally painful time.

Only July 5, as Mr Johnson’s affairs unravelled, Mr Sunak resigned, forcing the Prime Minister out. The Conservative Party never likes the knife-wielder, and even in North Yorkshire, you could sense the scales fell from people’s eyes as the boy wonder was revealed to be just another politician who was prepared to stab the back of the man who had promoted him.

So the seeds of his defeat to Ms Truss in the leadership election were sown, and there was speculation that, because his natural rise to the top had been thwarted, he wouldn’t remain in Richmond long.

However, that defeat was also the start of his rehabilitation. During the campaign, he was vilified for “mansplaining” to Ms Truss that her unfunded tax cuts were “fairytale economics” that would cause interest rates to soar – a prediction that came quickly true with frightening speed.

In seven short years his rise to Downing Street is remarkable, as is his turnaround from being a loser with an uncertain future just six weeks ago to now being the new man in No 10.

In 2016, when he was beginning his rise in Richmond, he told children at a school in Leeming that, when he was their age, all he ever wanted to be was a Jedi knight. Now, as Prime Minister, he will need all his skills with a light-saber to bring order to his fractious party and steer the country through the most turbulent of economic times.

The Northern Echo: Chancellor Rishi Sunak working in Darlington

Chancellor Rishi Sunak at work at the economic campus in Darlington