Does Rishi Sunak’s £730m fortune make him too rich to be PM? | Rishi Sunak

If Rishi Sunak becomes prime minister, it will be first time in history that the occupants of No 10 Downing Street will be richer than the monarch in Buckingham Palace – and at a time when millions of Britons are struggling with a cost of living crisis.

Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, are sitting on a combined fortune of about £730m – roughly double the estimated £300m-£350m wealth of King Charles II and Camilla, Queen Consort.

Sunak, who earlier this year became the first frontline politician to ever be included in the Sunday Times Rich List of the UK’s wealthiest people, will also almost rival the King in terms of numbers of official residences.

The former chancellor, who is vying with Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt to become Conservative party leader and prime minister, owns a portfolio of four properties spread across the world and valued at more than £15m.

Sunak, his wife and two daughters, Krishna and Anoushka, spend most of the week at their five-bedroom mews house in Kensington, west London, which is estimated by estate agents to be worth more than £7m.

Rishi Sunak’s constituency home at Kirby Sigston in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Observer

At the weekends they retreat to a Grade II-listed Georgian manor house in the picturesque village of Kirby Sigston in his Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire. The house, which the couple bought for £1.5m before he was elected as an MP in 2015, is now worth more than £2m and has been transformed into something of a wellness retreat with a £400,000 indoor swimming pool, gym, yoga studio, hot tub and tennis court.

Soaring energy costs mean it could cost more than £14,000 a year to heat the 12-metre by 5-metre pool – almost six times the average family’s energy bill.

That fortune – and Sunak’s clumsiness in flaunting it – has some people asking if he is too rich to understand the day-to-day struggles of voters. Ashley Blakely, a waitress and coordinator of the Darlington People’s Assembly, said it aggravated her that Sunak had “so much money to throw thousands on heating his pool and having parties when there are single parents, pensioners and working families who will freeze this winter”.

Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for nearby York, has said his new pool showed that he couldn’t be “more out of touch” and “as far as most people are concerned, Rishi Sunak is living on another planet”.

Austin Gordon, manager of Richmondshire Leisure Trust, which runs a charity public swimming pool in nearby Richmond, said the soaring cost of energy meant its continued operation was a daily fight. “It’s hard to criticise someone for spending money how they choose to,” he said. “But we are struggling to keep a pool that serves thousands of local people open.”

Carmel Carrick, who runs Zetland Winestore in Northallerton, the closest town to Sunak’s house, said she thought Sunak should be selected to become the next PM. “Everything he predicted has pretty much happened,” she said. “He warned that tax cuts would lead to rate rises. I think he knows what’s what and will do a good job.”

Carrick, 54, who has met Sunak several times when he has opened events in the town, said he was “a lovely guy” who had done a lot for local people and businesses. Asked about his wealth, she said: “In this world there are people with money and people without. You can’t hold it against him, but you can ask that he runs a government that looks after people.”

Carrick said she worried that the government has not done enough for people who are struggling with the cost of living crisis and energy bills. “As much as everyone says we’re all in it together, we’re not really, are we?” she said. “We have people on the streets thinking how are they going to get through the winter.”

Gary Stevenson, a multimillionaire trader turned inequality campaigner, recently visited a food bank in Northallerton to highlight the inequality in Sunak’s constituency. He said most people using the service didn’t seem to be aware of just how rich their MP – and potential PM – is.

“People have got so much going on with their own lives, it’s hard for them to know just how insanely rich their MP is,” he said. “He is arguably the richest person to ever to sit in parliament, and as chancellor he oversaw the biggest increase in inequality ever.”

Stevenson said he did not think that being very rich should exclude someone from being prime minister, but he said that Sunak’s wealth could quickly become a flashpoint if he became prime minister and oversaw an expected “broad collapse in living standards”.

Sunak’s wealth – most of which comes from his wife, who is the daughter of an Indian software billionaire – was a regular talking point during the last leadership campaign and it is likely to become so again next week. His £450 Prada loafers and £180 smart coffee mug fuelled criticism that the former Winchester college pupil is out of touch.

In a podcast with the Telegraph this summer, Sunak, who made his money at investment bank Goldman Sachs and hedge funds TCI and Theleme Partners, said he was not afraid to answer questions about his fortune.

“I actually quite welcome it, to be honest,” he said. “It is the opposite of annoying. Very few people bring it up with me. While I was chancellor I did town hall [meetings] very regularly with members of the public … virtually nobody asked me about it.”

However, he has repeatedly refused to answer questions about exactly how much money he has or where it is invested. Revelations that Murty claimed non-domicile status, allowing her to avoid UK tax on the £11.6m in annual dividends she collects from her father’s software company Infosys, dogged him through the leadership campaign.

Sunak says he doesn’t think voters care that he wore a bespoke £3,500 Henry Herbert suit or Prada shoes while touring a building site during the campaign. “Values are what are important, what I’m wearing is irrelevant to all of that.”

As well the Yorkshire mansion and the Kensington mews house, the Sunaks own a flat on Old Brompton Road in west London for visiting family, and a Santa Monica beach penthouse valued at £5.5m, which the property developer describes as having “stunning views of the Santa Monica mountains” and where you “wake up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore”.

However, if he wins the leadership contest – and he is the bookies’ favourite to do so – Sunak plans to move back into the flat above No 10 where he lived as chancellor until a few months ago. “It would be a bit odd to not just go back there because all the wallpaper that we did is still up in that flat. That’s where Margaret Thatcher lived, and that always gives me goosebumps every time.”

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