14 of Rishi Sunak's biggest gaffes and most awkward moments

14 of Rishi Sunak's biggest gaffes and most awkward moments
Rishi Sunak mocked as ‘accidental Partridge’ telling children he's a ‘coke addict’

Rishi Sunak is now the prime minister.

This morning the politician met with King Charles, after Liz Truss formally resigned after working as PM for a shorter duration than most work experience placements, and the monarch asked him to form a government - as is the constitutional way.

Having only been an MP for seven years, we don't know as much about Sunak as we do about PMs who came before him. He was the chancellor under Boris Johnson during the coronavirus pandemic and made some well-known policies like the furlough scheme and Eat Out to Help Out. He is also very rich and loves his Peloton, but apart from that who is he?

Well, he hasn't had as many opportunities as others to make a fool of himself and for skeletons to come clattering out of his closet as other politicians. Not as many opportunities, but still some and we've found quite a few occasions where the new prime minister has managed to put his foot firmly in his mouth.

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Here is a roundup of Sunak's biggest gaffes and most cringeworthy moments. Enjoy.

1. When he told children he was a "coke addict"

It goes without saying in a social media age that saying things that can be clipped and circulated out of context is a certified Bad Idea.

Someone didn't tell Sunak that, and last year a clip of the politician talking about being a "total coke addict" resurfaced and went viral.

He was talking about Coca-Cola in an effort to connect to two teenagers on a school visit in 2019, and he quickly realised his mistake and corrected himself.

Still, pretty embarrassing

2. When he said he orders a McDonald's item that doesn't exist

We take you away from your fizzy drink now to some fast food to go with it and in August this year, Sunak put on his man of the people act to the test on This Morning where he was asked about a photo snapped of him in McDonald's.

He said he was buying "bacon roll with ketchup and pancakes" which was a normal answer but flew too close to the sun when he added: "If I'm with my daughters we get the [breakfast] wrap with hash brown and everything in it."

The problem? The wrap was permanently taken off the menu in January 2022...

3. When he didn't know how to use a contactless card

He managed to use a contactless card correctly to order his bacon roll - indeed he posted the pic of him at the fast-food chain that led to that awkward interview on his own Instagram.

But this was an attempt to reclaim the upper hand after another PR disaster when he was filmed struggling with the very normal payment method in March this year while promoting his spring statement.

It also emerged that he borrowed someone's car to take photos of him filling it with petrol, so overall it was one of Sunak's most gaffey days out on the town.

4. When he rapped to colleagues

So no wonder he likes to let loose in his free time to unwind and during the summer contest an interesting vignette about Sunak emerged. The Sunday Times, reported that the former chancellor broke into song and bopped his head when he recited the first few bars from the 1990 Vanilla Ice anthem 'Ice, Ice, Baby' at a meeting.

His aides apparently "fell about laughing", so at least he's keeping some people happy.

5. When he shredded EU laws

He didn't keep people who voted Remain happy in August this year though when he posted an embarrassing video pledging to shred EU laws if chosen as the new PM.

Instead, people found it utterly cringe.

6. When he spoke about 'working class friends'

It is probably better to be cringe than out of touch, though. And people accused Sunak of being the latter earlier this year when a video resurfaced of him admitting he didn't have any working-class friends.

"I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are, you know, working class, but... well, not working class," he can be heard saying in 'Middle Classes: Their Rise & Sprawl', a 2001 BBC documentary.

It proved very controversial and resurfaced when he was elected as the new leader of the Tory party yesterday.

7. When he tried to speak Welsh

From alienating working-class people to alienating Wales, Sunak left people cringing when he attempted to speak Welsh during a leadership hustings in the summer.

In Cardiff, he said: "noswaith dda Welsh conservatives" - meaning "good evening Welsh Conservatives" - before looking incredibly chuffed with himself and saying "yep", with the air of someone who thinks they've completely nailed it.

8. When he struggled with geography

He didn't just act awkwardly in Wales though. In July, during a Spectator TV interview, Sunak was quizzed on relations with the devolved nations and was asked if he'd be spending a lot of time in Scotland in order to build a better United Kingdom.

"I think people can already see that I take that seriously...I was the chancellor who set up an economic campus for the government and the treasury in Darlington," he responded.

Darlington, of course, is in England. It is up north in Durham so at least it is kinda near Scotland. It is not Scotland, though. Can't stress that enough.

9. When he handed out sunscreen to political journalists

With Scots and Welsh people probably a bit miffed, he thought it was pretty important to get journalists on side to defend him. So during his summer campaign, his team gave care packages to those covering him.

Of course, sunscreen and a Twix aren't enough to make a journalist think you are a good politician but if his team wants to send indy100 some chocolate, we won't turn it down.

10. When he struggled to spell

In return for the snacks, maybe journalists could teach Sunak to spell because in October last year, he posted a photo of himself on Twitter preparing for his Conservative Party conference speech.

“Practise makes perfect” he announced, sharing a link for eager viewers who wanted to tune into the speech.

It is PRACTICE, Sunak.

Around a year on, Sunak's skills had not improved and during a hustings he sat with a promotional banner spelling ‘campaign’ as ‘campiaign’ behind him.

11. When he bragged out taking money out of "deprived urban areas"

By far the most damaging episode in Sunak's leadership campaign though was when a video of him emerged of him bragging about taking money out of "deprived" areas.

In footage obtained exclusively by the New Statesman, Sunak is shown addressing Tories in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on July 29 and saying areas like it "deserve" more cash.

He said: "I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure areas that like this are getting the funding that they deserve because we inherited a bunch of formulas from Labour that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas and that needed to be undone.

"I started the work of undoing that."

Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, has a Conservative majority of 14,645 and has been held by the party since its creation in 1974. In 2020 it was ranked Kent's least deprived county, according to the government's own figures from the Multiple Deprivation Index.

12. When he strolled around Wagamama's without a mask

Let us travel out of Kent now and go back in time to 2020 to the coronavirus pandemic when Sunak promoted the Eat Out to Help Out scheme by serving food at the Wagamama restaurant at Royal Festival Hall - without a mask.

What a PR move...

13. When he punched the air during his (first) Tory leadership campaign

But people forgave him and he carried on in politics and when Sunak found out he had reached the final two in the race to replace Johnson in the summer, he punched the air with glee and for some reason circulated that footage.


14. When his first Tory leader speech became an instant meme

Despite all these gaffes, Sunak became the leader of the Tory party yesterday. He got things off to a bad start though, when he delivered an 86-second speech that sparked robot comparisons because his delivery was so clunky and he paused for an incredibly awkward length of time at the end.

With Sunak now in the most important job in the country, with the nation's eyes watching his every move, we can only expect this list of gaffes to grow and grow.

It is a simple and fundamental principle that the government derives its democratic legitimacy from the people. The future of the country must not be decided by plotting and U-turns at Westminster; it must be decided by the people in a general election. And for this reason The Independent is calling for an election to be held. Have your say and sign our election petition by clicking here.

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