Rishi Sunak has launched his bid to become the new Tory leader with a slick PR-led campaign confirming plans that were first reported by The Independent in January.
Mr Sunak is the most-prominent MP to join the race since Boris Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday, with Liz Truss and Jeremy Hunt expected to follow him over the weekend.
He threw his hat into the ring at 4:16pm on Friday, posting a glossy video titled “Ready for Rishi” on his social media channels and linking to a website of the same name.
The Independent first revealed the former chancellor’s leadership ambitions in January when we reported that Mr Sunak had built a draft version of a campaign website, taking inspiration from his weekly No 11 newsletter, and developed a marketing strategy.
Sources told The Independent’s Anna Isaac at the time that “there’s no question that Rishi and his team have got everything in place.” They noted that there is a clear communications plan, and that a copy for a website had been drafted and was ready to set live.
Cass Horowitz, a special adviser to Mr Sunak, who was widely credited with building the former chancellor’s online brand, was thought to have been central to the preparations.
A former No 10 staffer told The Independent that Mr Horowitz was regarded as a “boy genius” by many in the Conservative party for his use of social media.
“He’s built a data dashboard from the newsletter. Every click and share will be informing the wider leadership campaign. He’s got form on watching for any online grassroot sentiment to tap into,” they said.
The ex-staffer said that a Twitter account called “Ready for Rishi” (@ForRishi) set hares running at No 10 when it first appeared in September 2020. A tweet posted on 27 January and pinned to the top of its profile, read: “Time for a leader who doesn’t break the rules #readyforrishi”.
At the time, a source close to Mr Sunak denied that the Richmond MP had prepared a leadership campaign – branding the suggestion “totally false”.