Rishi Sunak goes up against one of the most formidable interviewers in the business today when he is grilled by Piers Morgan on his 100th day in charge at No 10.
The prime minister is under pressure over mounting Tory sleaze claims, the winter crisis in the NHS, growing public sector strikes, deepening cost of living woes and worsening poll ratings for his party.
Should the PM be worried about being caught out by the TalkTV host? Or can he use the interrogation to reset his image with the public? The Independent takes a closer look at potential pitfalls for Mr Sunak, and where he could gain some ground.
Tory sleaze: what did Sunak know?
The prime minister is under to pressure to say exactly what he knew and when about Dominic Raab’s conduct, as his deputy PM faces an investigation into bullying allegations.
Mr Sunak was reportedly told about “unacceptable behaviour” from Mr Raab over the summer, and is said to have read excerpts of some of the formal complaints before ordering the probe. Could Piers trip up Mr Sunak about his attitude to bullying?
The TalkTV host is also likely to ask about his relationship with scandal-ridden Boris Johnson. The ex-Tory leader continues to cause the PM problems over Partygate (being probed by MPs) and his ties to the BBC chairman (being investigated by the public appointments watchdog).
The NHS crisis and ongoing strikes
Mr Sunak tried earlier this week set out his approach to tackling terrible ambulance response times and record waiting lists, promising the “fastest-ever improvement” in NHS waiting times.
But polls suggest the public isn’t buying it – with one finding that 85 per cent of voters saying the government was handling the NHS “badly”. Surveys also show most people blame ministers for the ongoing pay row with nurses.
Asked if would pay hard-pressed nurses “properly” at a recent Q&A audience, Mr Sunak gave a long-winded argument about inflationary cycles. Mr Morgan is likely to be scathing if the PM cannot show he has a way of ending the disputes and offering patients hope.
Sunak’s wealth: can he relate?
The prime minister’s enormous family wealth is bound to come up in tonight’s interview. Tax remains a particularly tricky subject for Mr Sunak, after The Independent revealed last year that his wife Akshata Murthy enjoyed non-dom tax status while he was chancellor.
Although she later renounced the special status, which allowed someone living in the UK to avoid tax on overseas income, the Nadhim Zahawi scandal has nenewed the focus on the tax affairs of super-wealthy Tories.
The TalkTV host may wish to probe just how much Mr Sunak knows about the struggles of those on or close to the breadline. He could also about the PM’s expensive taste in Prada shoes, and the infamous moment he struggled to pay for his own petrol.
Rishi Sunak struggles to use contactless payment in awkward clip
Sunak has a chance to show voters he cares
One of Mr Sunak’s big problems has been getting any kind of message across to the public. Focus groups have revealed that many people feel he has been absent, failing to register with “red wall” voters in the north and Midlands.
Recent Labour-run groups with swing voters have reportedly been “utterly brutal for Sunak” and found many believe he is “out of touch”. An interview with a star broadcaster comes with big risks, but it does give him the opportunity to show he gets voters’ fears about their bank balances.
Sunak has very little to lose
The brutal but consoling truth for the prime minister is that things can’t get much worse. The Tories are trailing Labour by more than 20 points in most polls, with recent surveys showing a slight-but-further dip for the party in government.
No 10 strategist Isaac Levido set out the situation at a cabinet “awayday” last week, saying enthusiasm for Labour is weak and the Tories still have “narrow path” to victory at the next election if they prove competency.
Mr Sunak has to convince the public he is not only a safe pair of hands, but has the energy to start fixing the huge problems the nation faces. Holding his own with fierce combatant Piers Morgan is a good way of showing he is up for the fight.