Rishi Sunak’s grandmother sold all her wedding jewellery for a one-way ticket to the land of Oxford and Shakespeare

Serialisation of Going For Broke: The Rise of Rishi Sunak, published in The Mail On Sunday on 08 November 2020.

If there is such a thing as a perfect childhood, all the evidence suggests that Rishi Sunak was lucky enough to have had one.

Loving parents and siblings, a stable home environment, a big house with a garden in the sort of leafy English neighbourhood where children can play in the street, and an education at one of the country’s leading public schools. (more…)

Our next Prime Minister? Rishi Sunak’s ex-boss at Goldman Sachs warned he is too nice to win in the dirty world of politics

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 08 November 2020.

Who is Rishi Sunak? That’s the question I set out to answer when I decided to write a book about how he landed one of the most powerful and influential jobs in government.

It all happened so suddenly. One minute almost nobody outside Westminster and Yorkshire, where he is an MP, had heard of him.

The next, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, leading the economic response to coronavirus. In what seemed like a heartbeat, he had become a star. (more…)

The Unknown Warrior represents all that is best about our military

First published in the Sunday Express on 08 November 2020.

THERE are more than 3,300 graves, tombs and memorials in Westminster Abbey, including the final resting places of 30 kings and queens.

However, to me, there is one grave that, since it was placed in the floor of the 800-year-old building just inside the Great West Door, has a significance matched by no other.

It is the final resting place of the Unknown Warrior and has been rightly revered for an entire century – since King George V first paid his respects on Armistice Day, November 1920. (more…)

See the November issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.

The November issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Petty Officer George McKenzie Samson, who was awarded the VC for bravery during the First World War.

Samson, who was born in Carnoustie, Forfarshire (now Fife), Scotland, led an adventurous life travelling extensively all over the world. He was awarded his VC for bravery during the Gallipoli landings in April 1915. (more…)

Thin, faint, exhausted

Serialisation of Going For Broke: The Rise of Rishi Sunak, published in The Mail On Sunday on 01 November 2020.

Many predict Rishi Sunak will be the next PM… but a new biography by LORD ASHCROFT reveals 18-hour days battling the Covid crisis has pushed him to the limit.

When billionaire tech tycoon’s daughter Akshata Murthy first told her father of her plans to marry, his reaction was typically paternal. ‘When a daughter gets married, a father has mixed feelings,’ Narayana Murthy, sometimes known as ‘the Bill Gates of India‘, wrote back to her. He admitted to a twinge of jealousy at having to share her with a ‘smart, confident younger man’.

But Narayana was to change his opinion rapidly after meeting his future son-in-law, a charismatic 29-year-old with degrees from Oxford and Stanford Business School, then working for arguably the UK’s best-performing hedge fund. (more…)

“Trump lies a lot and Biden’s kind of not all there” “The silver lining is that if Trump loses, he can run again!”: My final election focus groups in Pennsylvania and Arizona

The final week of our virtual pre-election focus group tour of America’s swing states takes us to Pennsylvania, which swung narrowly to Trump four years having backed Democrats for president in every election since 1988, and Arizona, which has voted for the Republican in all but one election since 1948 but now high on Joe Biden’s list of targets.

With only days to go, we found some 2016 Trump supporters torn over how to cast their vote: “I was a little concerned that Biden’s not sure what he’s going to do with fossil fuel. And I’m concerned on Trump’s side with the healthcare system, but I like the economics, but maybe Biden has a better plan for disability people like me. So right now I’m stuck;” “Trump has no response plan for the virus, nothing’s going on.

Read more …

“He’s like a great surgeon with a terrible bedside manner” “It’s starting to feel like China” “If you’re voting for Trump, you keep your mouth shut”: My US election focus groups in Georgia and Ohio

This week our virtual tour of America takes us to Georgia, widely seen as a toss-up this year despite having voted for the Republican in every presidential election since 1992, and Ohio, the quintessential swing state which has backed the losing candidate only once since 1944.

As if often the case with political news, the Hunter Biden email scandal – the claim that Joe Biden’s son was involved in corruption involving a Ukrainian energy company – seemed to have gained a great deal of attention without moving any votes.

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Escape From A Nazi Firing Squad

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 18 October 2020.

Handcuffed and led into the woods at dawn, two SAS men prepared to die… What followed was one of the most breathtaking episodes of the entire war, writes LORD ASHCROFT.

It was approaching dawn on August 9, 1944 and the seven prisoners of war caught operating behind enemy lines in German-occupied France thought they knew their fate.

After weeks of imprisonment, including brutal interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo, their end was near.

German SS men, armed with automatic weapons, led the seven SAS men, all of whom were in handcuffs, from a lorry to a clearing some 100 yards into a wood.

‘Are we going to be shot?’ asked Corporal Jean Dupontel, one of the prisoners. (more…)

“He’s so toxic he’s worn out his welcome” “He’s the first president I paid attention to because he’s awesome” “There’s a lot of effing stupid people in our country”: My latest US election focus groups

This week our virtual focus-group tour of America takes us to two more swing states, one in the rustbelt and one in the sunbelt: Michigan, which voted for the Democrat in every presidential election for 20 years before narrowly backing Donald Trump in 2016, and North Carolina, recently a more Republican-leaning state where polls now give Joe Biden a slim lead.

The week has been dominated by the Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nomination the vacant seat on the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The issue is the source of fruitless allegations of hypocrisy on all sides: the Democrats furious that the process is happening at all given the Senate’s refusal to confirm an Obama nominee in the months before the 2016 election, and the Republicans pointing out that the nominee in question would certainly have been confirmed if the Democrats had had the votes in the Senate.

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“Who says you have to like the President?” “He pretended it wasn’t a big deal and then went and caught it” “I think there might be riots no matter who wins”: My focus groups in Florida and Wisconsin

In the weeks before the United States elected Donald Trump in 2016, I conducted focus groups to find out what was on people’s minds in swing states around the country This year, the Ashcroft in America tour is happening via Zoom, but the aim is the same: to hear what voters themselves are thinking as they weigh their decision. This week we begin in Florida and Wisconsin, speaking to voters who backed Trump in 2016 having backed Obama four years earlier and were having second thoughts, Hispanic voters who had helped elect Trump but were now undecided, and centrist Democrats backing Biden with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Read more …

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