AMANDA PLATELL: All 5ft 4in of Akshata Murty took centre stage in chunky black heels – and nailed it!
Having endured dozens of Tory leaders’ dreary speeches in sweaty conference halls over the years, I can’t recall one that started quite like this. Frankly, even a hardened old cynic like me was stunned.
After a couple of rabble-rousing warm-ups from Penny Mordaunt and Johnny Mercer, up to the lectern stepped the diminutive Mrs Rishi Sunak.
‘Yes,’ she began by saying, ‘you are absolutely right: I am not on the agenda for today. A bit of a surprise addition, shall we say — and a surprise for my husband, too, who has no idea what I am going to say.’
To tell the truth, though, the surprise was all ours.
Until now, Rishi’s wife had remained in the shadows, known only for occasional photo-ops, for questions over her tax status (she’s the daughter of an Indian billionaire) and much Leftie muttering over how a woman as rich as her could ever be in touch with ordinary Britons.
AMANDA PLATELL: Akshata Murty took centre-stage for the first time — all 5ft 4in of her in chunky black heels — and absolutely nailed it
Yesterday, however, Akshata Murty took centre-stage for the first time — all 5ft 4in of her in chunky black heels — and absolutely nailed it.
Dressed in a sharp, coral trouser suit, with hardly a hint of make-up, no flashy jewellery — just gold hoop earrings and her wedding ring — and with her long hair softly curling around her shoulders, she looked as relaxed as if she was talking to a WI meeting in her husband’s Yorkshire constituency.
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty ditches the Sam Cam-era midi dress in favour of £875 coral suit
Betraying not a trace of nervousness, Akshata addressed the conference hall — and the watching nation — with unaffected warmth.
‘Rishi and I are each other’s best friends. We are one team and I could not imagine being anywhere else but here today,’ she said.
One word encapsulated him: ‘aspiration’. When they met in America aged 24 (they’re now both 43 and have been married for 14 years), he was spurred on even then, she said, by a desire to give to other people the same opportunities for self-improvement that his migrant family had enjoyed when they first came to Britain.
She fell in love with Rishi because of his ‘strength of character, his honesty and his integrity’. Marrying him was the easiest decision she ever made, she said.
It was lavish praise — but delivered without a gush or blush.
When she told us how proud she and their daughters Krishna and Anoushka were of Rishi ‘every single day’, she was talking about the highest office in the land — but her easy familiarity made her sound like any mum talking about dad winning the school egg-and-spoon race. After years of practice myself and of teaching others the art of public speaking, I know how tough it can be to get the tone right.
Akshata insisted it was the ‘greatest honour’ for him to be in charge of the country, and gave an impassioned endorsement of his character
And given the current state of the opinion polls, Akshata surely knew she risked looking like a desperate woman pleading for Rishi’s survival, some cut-out caricature of a Stepford Wife.
How daunting it must have been to face the world’s cameras, an eternity on YouTube, the satirists’ impersonations, the inevitable mockery of Left-wing TikTok ‘influencers’. And how especially nerve-racking for someone who, until this moment, had pretty much existed behind the scenes.
Yet she didn’t come across as some little woman fawning over her man, but a proud wife standing up for her husband.
As it happens, I am no stranger to dealing with a leading politician’s plus-one, having worked as William Hague’s press secretary up until the 2001 election.
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