United Kingdom

Rishi Sunak poses in Stanford University jumper in pre-budget photoshoot

Torn between spending more on Covid support and getting the nation's finances back on track, the public will be hoping for a lightbulb moment from Rishi Sunak at Wednesday's Budget.  

And the Chancellor appeared confident and relaxed in his latest candid photoshoot -  even posing in front of an artwork filled with various light fixtures by Canada-born artist Lisa Milroy. 

'Team Rishi' today released new behind-the-scenes pictures taken by Rishi's personal photographer, in which the Chancellor hammed up his finance savvy in a Stanford University sweatshirt - where he mastered his trade after obtaining an MBA from their graduate business school in 2006.

The Chancellor, dubbed 'Dishy Rishi' by his hoards of female fans, can be seen in the latest set of candid images taken at 11 Downing Street looking relaxed and beaming with his hands in the pockets of his £125 sweatpants by Canadian brand Reigning Champ. 

Mr Sunak recently marked a year in the role of Chancellor, which has seen his profile soar from a relatively unknown minister to one of the nation's most recognisable politicians, with the help of a well-oiled PR operation.  

Chancellor Rishi Sunak donned sweatshirt and joggers as he posed in front of lightbulbs in pre-budget photoshoot in the Number 11 state drawing room

He donned a Stanford University sweatshirt - where he mastered his skills in finance after obtaining an MBA from their graduate business school in 2006

The pictures were taken by former Times photographer Simon Walker, who is the Treasury's 'digital content editor', hired as part of Sunak's team to improve his social media output. 

After the Chancellor posed in his sweatshirt in the Number 11 state drawing room, he threw on a suit and recorded a pre-cut clip to tee up the budget announcement next week. 

Mr Sunak is known for cultivating his brand under the guidance of his adviser, the former TV presenter Allegra Stratton, including by marking Treasury media releases with his personal signature. Allegra has since joined the Prime Minister's team.

The 'Brand Rishi' push in the past year - including his own logo - has fuelled speculation that the Chancellor could one day launch a bid for the Tory leadership.

After the Chancellor posed in his sweatshirt at Number 11, he threw on a suit and recorded a pre-cut clip to tee up the budget announcement next week

Mr Sunak said last year that he does not want to run for the top job and insisted he was sticking to the top job at the Treasury.

Who is artist Lisa Millroy? 

Lisa Milroy is an Anglo-Canadian artist known for her still life paintings of everyday objects placed in lines or patterns.

She has also produced a number of different series including landscapes, buildings, portraits and geishas in incongruous settings. 

 In 1978 she moved to London to study at Saint Martin's School of Art. 

She gained her BFA at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 1982.

Her first solo exhibition was in 1984 which was based on still life.

She gained election to membership of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2005 and was appointed Artist Trustee of the Tate from 2013-2017.

'I think the job I have is hard enough and I see up close what the Prime Minister has to deal with everyday,' he said.

Mr Sunak's expensive tastes were highlighted in July when he was pictured preparing in his Treasury office for his mini-Budget with a £180 'smart' coffee mug.

He is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian IT mogul Narayana Murthy. They live with their daughters Krishna and Anoushka at home in Downing Street.

Akshata has shares in her family's tech firm that are worth £430million, making her one of Britain's wealthiest women with £80million more cash than the Queen. Her father is worth an estimated £2.3billion ($3.1bn).

Ms Murthy and her relatives hold a multimillion pound portfolio of shareholdings which have come to light amid questions over the Chancellor, who met his future wife while studying at Stanford University, California, failing to declare them in the register of ministers' interests.

The assets make Indian-born Akshata richer than the Queen, who is estimated to be worth £350million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

She is the daughter of one of the richest men in India - billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy - who has been described as the father of the Indian IT sector and 'one of the 12 greatest businessmen of all time'. 

Overnight the Chancellor announced a £5 billion grant scheme to help non-essential retailers reopen and trade safely at his Budget on Wednesday. 

Hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms, will be eligible for up to £18,000 per premises as they are due to open later under the plans for easing lockdown.

The Treasury estimates 230,000 firms will be eligible for the higher band, which will be awarded based on their rateable value, and 450,000 shops will also be able to apply.

Mr Sunak told the Mail on Sunday the scheme would provide at-risk businesses with 'the support they need to get them through, get them back on their feet and get the tills ringing once again'.

But Mr Sunak issued a warning about the scale of the damage caused by the pandemic, suggesting he could use the Budget to begin making less palatable decisions to tackle the deficit.

Overnight he announced a £5 billion grant scheme to help non-essential retailers reopen and trade safely at his Budget on Wednesday

He told the Financial Times he plans to 'level with people' during his Commons speech, as he spoke of the 'enormous strains' on the UK's public finances are facing.

Treasury sources did not deny a report suggesting the Chancellor plans to raise £6 billion by freezing income tax thresholds for at least three years.

The Sunday Times said he would freeze the £12,500 point at which people start paying the basic rate of income tax and the £50,000 threshold where they begin paying the higher 40p rate, as he aims to raise £43 billion a year.

The move would allow Mr Sunak to raise extra funds without breaking the manifesto pledge that guaranteed the Conservatives would not raise the 'rate' of income tax.

But the newspaper estimated the move would push an extra 1.6 million people into a higher tax bracket before the next general election is due in 2024.

The Government is braced for the possibility of a rebellion from Tory MPs over any tax rises, with backbenchers being warned they could be kicked out of the parliamentary party if they vote against the Budget.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that 'now is not the time' for tax increases, as have some Tory MPs who want the Chancellor to focus in growing the economy as it reopens from lockdown.

Hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms, will be eligible for up to £18,000 per premises as they are due to open later under the plans for easing lockdown

In a series of announcements ahead of his set-piece speech, Mr Sunak said the UK will launch a sovereign green savings bond for retail investors to help cut greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050.

The £5 billion for restart grants is targeted at England, but the devolved nations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive an extra £794 million in funding through the Barnett formula.

Local authorities will be tasked with distributing the grants and will receive the funding in April.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak's met his wife Akshata Murthy (pictured together at their wedding in 2009) while studying at the Stanford University

The UK Hospitality trade body welcomed the plan, saying many firms are 'struggling to see how they could survive through' Boris Johnson's road map for reopening, with laws on social distancing set to continue until at least June 21 - the earliest date when nightclubs will be considered for reopening.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: 'Cash reserves have been severely depleted after a year of closure and restrictions and these grants are a very welcome boost, putting the sector in a better place to restart.

'Businesses are crying out for the cash now so there can be no further delays which might make it too late for some.'

But she said the grants must form part of a wider package that includes an extension to the reduced VAT rate and a business rates holiday.

'Without these measures, and full furlough while we reopen, the hospitality sector's recovery will be stunted along with our ability to start tackling unemployment by creating jobs,' she added.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) joined UKHospitality in calling for clarity on whether the grants will be subject to state aid caps mirroring the EU's, but welcomed the funding as 'a vital injection of funding during this extremely challenging period'.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson did, however, warn that the grants 'will only provide temporary relief' and called for an extension to the moratorium on aggressive rent enforcement and to the business rates relief in the Budget.

Federation of Small Businesses national chair Mike Cherry said the grants will 'provide a much-needed lifeline', but called for the Chancellor to set out more funding 'for those that have been excluded from income support throughout this crisis'. 

Sunak is the son of a GP father and pharmacist mother who emigrated to Southampton from East Africa in the 1960s, and he studied at Oxford University before winning a Fulbright scholarship to Stanford where the future husband and wife met.

Rishi and his wife Akshata live with their daughters Krishna and Anoushka at home in Downing Street Pictured: Sunak with his wife, Akshata, and their children Krishna and Anoushka

Sunak is locally he is dubbed the 'Maharaja of the Dales' (pictured, their magnificent Georgian manor in North Yorkshire)

Rishi Sunak, pictured with his wife Akshata Murthy, was better known in India than Britain before he became Chancellor

Sunak and Akshata married in 2009 in her home city of Bangalore in a two-day ceremony attended by 1,000 guests. 

Before entering politics, Mr Sunak, who is now a multi-millionaire in his own right, studied at the £42,000-per-year Winchester College and later at Oxford University. 

During his time in business, he worked in California, India and Britain for various investment firms including Goldman Sachs. 

He later set up his own business, Theleme Partners, in 2010 with an initial fund of £536million. 

While building the hedge fund he spent a couple of days doing voluntary work for the Conservatives – which was when he decided he would like to go into politics full-time.  

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