It was a sleight of hand that critics say betrays the depth of Rishi Sunak’s ambitions to be the next Prime Minister.
After his Budget last week, the Chancellor issued two different versions of Treasury graphics highlighting his announcements.
The one sent to fellow Tory MPs bore the Conservative Party logo, but those shown to the public carried Mr Sunak’s signature instead.
One Tory MP last night described it as a blatant ploy to bolster his political profile. ‘It’s all about brand Rishi,’ they said.
‘All of this only makes sense if Boris was going next week. Boris isn’t going anywhere, so this just annoys people.’
It was a sleight of hand that critics say betrays the depth of Rishi Sunak’s ambitions to be the next Prime Minister (bottom right shows Conservative logo version sent to Tory MPs)
After his Budget last week, the Chancellor issued two different versions of Treasury graphics highlighting his announcements (bottom right shows Rishi Sunak’s signature version shown to public)
It is not the first time that Mr Sunak has been caught replacing the Conservatives’ branding with his own.
When furlough was extended in November, promotional images used the Conservative tree logo, but with his name underneath.
The latest move is part of an engrossing tussle between the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss over who may one day succeed Boris Johnson as leader.
The rivalry has drawn comparisons to the power struggle in the HBO drama Succession, where the scheming heir apparent, Kendall Roy, vies with sister Shiv to pursue patriarch Logan Roy’s crown.
Tory MPs fear the dark saga of the power-hungry siblings – and their respective camps of loyalists – is almost matched by the ambitions of the two Cabinet rivals.
Just hours before Mr Sunak stood outside No 11 on Wednesday, Budget Red Box in hand, a striking article about Ms Truss’s power dressing appeared in The Times.
Observers couldn’t help but note the timing of the feature, not least because Ms Truss had chosen to give her first major interview as Foreign Secretary to The Telegraph last Saturday – on the same day Mr Sunak gave his pre-Budget interview.
Traditionally, Government media handlers leave the weekend clear for the Chancellor.
Aides to several other Cabinet Ministers said they were holding off announcements to avoid overshadowing the Treasury, so eyebrows were raised when the interview with Ms Truss appeared.
As the final touches were being put to the Budget, the two Cabinet rivals were described as being on ‘constant manoeuvres’.
Anonymous reports that the Chancellor has been ‘unashamedly’ building support among grassroots MPs prompted sources close to Mr Sunak to point out that Ms Truss has been wooing ‘Red Wallers’ with dinners at 5 Hertford Street, a £2,850-a-year private members’ club.
Westminster insiders say small groups of female MPs are also being invited to so-called ‘Fizz with Liz’ nights, although allies said many Cabinet Ministers entertained MPs after taking up new roles. A source close to Ms Truss said: ‘There’s obviously some rivalry [with Mr Sunak], but any [leadership] contest is all so far away.’
The one sent to fellow Tory MPs bore the Conservative Party logo (bottom right shows Conservative logo)
But those shown to the public carried Mr Sunak’s signature instead (bottom right shows Rishi Sunak’s signature)
Mr Sunak has caused some grumbling among backbench Tories, concerned by the cost of the pandemic and a ‘tax and spend’ Budget that drew comparisons with Labour’s Gordon Brown.
Nor were they impressed by the tidal wave of media briefings before the Budget that drew a sharp rebuke from the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
Using language that could have come from the ruthless Logan Roy, one MP said: ‘The Treasury f***** up big time in the briefing. They massively overdid it.
It affects everyone. The Speaker then punishes the Government for misbehaving. There was no need.’
But another Tory source said Mr Sunak has given himself a ‘get out of jail card’ among Conservatives by pledging to lower taxes before the next Election if possible.
Ms Truss has wasted no time leveraging her new role. The Government Flickr account has featured 267 pictures of her and 104 of Mr Sunak.
And her brand is only set to grow after No 10 agreed she can recruit an Instagram guru.
Mr Sunak is the only other Minister with an image consultant, having recruited social-media expert Cass Horowitz last year.
Ms Truss is also working to make friends in the Foreign Office.
A source said: ‘Liz knows how to treat her colleagues. It’s one of the reasons she’s so successful.’