Rishi Sunak's dishwasher revelations just made him seem like Alan Partridge – Aidan Smith

Keir Starmer’s ‘dad bod’ may prove to be less of a political problem than Rishi Sunak’s discussion of his domestic chores

Today is a political anniversary. Not especially momentous, and not one which changed the course of history, but it’s probably causing the Prime Minister, henceforth known as Dishwashery Rishi, some grief and prompting a curt memo to his image enhancement team: “Guys, you needed to know this. You should have warned me…”

On March 12, 2015, the headlines read: “Kitchen sink drama for Miliband as homely photo backfires.” In the run-up to that year’s general election, Ed Miliband had invited the TV cameras into his house as part of PR strategy to show that the man bidding to lead Labour to power was, shucks, just an ordinary guy. Unfortunately, all everyone remembers the stunt showing, even now, was that he had two kitchens.

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He tried damage limitation. Twenty-four hours after the offending photos, he was insisting: “Don’t worry, we only use the smaller kitchen.” Six years on the issue continued to dog him. “Don’t worry,” he said, “we’ve turned one of the kitchens into a bathroom-slash-laundry.” As history confirms, Ed “Two Kitchens” Miliband didn’t win the election.

Rishi Sunak's awkward 'at home with the Sunaks' video was reminiscent of Alan Partridge (Picture: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images for Studiocanal)Rishi Sunak's awkward 'at home with the Sunaks' video was reminiscent of Alan Partridge (Picture: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images for Studiocanal)
Rishi Sunak's awkward 'at home with the Sunaks' video was reminiscent of Alan Partridge (Picture: Tim P Whitby/Getty Images for Studiocanal)

All a bit Monty Python

And so to Dishwashery Rishi, the former Dishi Rishi. What, you think I’m trivialising politics? But it wasn’t me who OKed a Grazia magazine interview, filmed with the Sunaks in their Downing Street flat. That was the PM himself, or at least his advisers, in another doomed attempt at normalising our leaders.

Sunak is especially bad at these stunted, stilted affairs, not least because he’s especially rich. That isn’t all on him; it’s his father-in-law who’s the billionaire. Nevertheless, this “at home with… ” piece might have been the worst. Not because he came across yet again as privileged and out of touch. No, it was because he came across as Alan Partridge.

Whenever Ed “Two Kitchens” Miliband is remembered I shout: “Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson!” In Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Arthur was the distinguished classical composer infuriated that in interviews his twin garden huts became the most interesting thing about him. Sunak, in describing how he’ll break off from running the country to rush upstairs at No 10 to make the bed – because he knows his wife Akshata will have neglected this duty – had me recalling Partridge’s food-sex disaster.

The bold Alan’s hot date, undeterred by a visit to an owl sanctuary, had been enticed back to his motel room. In darkness, the woman thought she’d liven up proceedings with chocolate mousse. Alan was appalled. Even more so when he turned on the lights and surveyed the sticky mess. “You’ve got it everywhere!” he shrieked. “On the sheets, my dressing gown… the valance!” “What’s a valance?” the hot date asked. Alan, possibly more appalled by her ignorance, replied: “The skirt-thing round the bed!”

Squishy Starmer

Akshata, we learned in the cringey interview, has been known to eat in bed. And Sunak, I’m absolutely certain, has never not been valance-aware. Now, it may be that some of you think that by evoking the berkish Partridge, Sunak has achieved partial normalisation. And, men, perhaps you’re nodding approval at the additional revelation that the PM is the dishwasher doyen, that Akshata will have a go at stacking but ultimately must bow to his superior skills. Overwhelmingly, though, the Grazia vid has simply brought him more ridicule.

More ammo for Keir Starmer? Surely the Labour leader’s speechwriters would have worked up some good gags for their man’s next appearance at the dispatch box. Except before it was his turn to speak, he was hit with jibes about his weight. Thus it’s become Dishwashery Rishi versus Squishy Starmer.

What, you think I’m trivalising politics? But it wasn’t me who suggested Starmer could do with losing a few pounds; that was Peter Mandelson. The Labour grandee was discussing image and how a politician’s appearance has become crucial, no matter all the fine and noble beliefs.

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Sunak, not being a tall man, favours skinny suits and ties, reckoning these big him up and possibly stop people meeting him for the first time thinking he’s the outsized, but not too outsized, Playmobil model from the foyer of the toy manufacturer’s HQ. Lord Mandy opined that rather than create an optical illusion in his favour, the cut of the PM’s clobber “diminished” him. Then, in the interests of ‘balance’, if not valance, Mandelson had a dig at Starmer over his dad bod.

Bionic from Gladiators

But what I have done here but height-shamed the PM? It’s all too easy amid the glib culture of lookism. Shouldn’t we, though, expect better of the mad scientist of New Labour than fat-shaming? Possibly not; his bitchiness is legendary. And, anyway, doesn’t possessing a dad bod make a politician relatable? More than that, doesn’t it make him attractive?

Surveys back this up. One by Planet Fitness found 69 per cent of women in agreement. I conducted my own research – Mrs Smith – who said: “I think girls who’re a bit squishy themselves don’t want guys looking like Bionic or Nitro out of Gladiators making them feel bad. So, yes, I’d rather have you and your dad bod.” (Hang on, who’s saying I have one?)

Just as Starmer was being dubbed a chubster, there was another survey from the University of Montpellier which concluded that tucking into a full fried breakfast makes men fanciable. Of course, everything that’s good for you can also be found to be bad and the celebrations of greasy spoon proprietors must have been quickly quelled by publicity garnered for FMD – the ‘fast mimicking diet’ which outlaws bacon, sausages, etc.

In their place are nettle gnocchi and cabbage burgers. I can see Lord Mandy going for them, considering how he once mistook a chip shop’s mushy peas for guacamole. Yes, for politicians, attempting to get down with the normies has always been fraught with hazard.



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