DOES biography matter in politics? Should it? Last week in the General Election campaign, the press invited all our potential leaders to share examples of the hardships they experienced when they were growing up.

Relatability is always on the ballot paper, but this election, leading politicians have been given new incentives to prove they understand the economic challenges facing the middling sorts in Britain’s struggling economy.

Against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis – with voters facing inflated housing costs, energy hikes and dearer ­supermarket baskets – credible stories of childhood ­adversity are now a valuable political ­commodity. The problem is that most of our political leaders’ hardscrabble origin stories don’t really stack up.

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Sir Ed Davey – who has leaned heavily into his personal life in this campaign – came up with a story about his mum sending him to a different shop to buy a cheaper brand of coffee when he was a nipper. Sir Keir’s answer – inevitably – is “my dad was a toolmaker and worked in a factory”.

And what did Rishi Sunak have to say, ­confronted with the possibility he’s too posh to function?

For context: Sunak is minted. More so than the Tory MP Ordinaire. He raked in flipping great wadges of cash during his stint working for the vampire squid during the ­financial crash. Marrying into international capital consolidated his millions.

Estimates suggest he and his wife have amassed about £650 million quid between them, having met in high-powered, high-finance circles in California – to which ungenerous souls speculate Sunak longs to return.

Sunak’s career progressed from ­Winchester, to Oxford, to Goldman Sachs, to the Tory cabinet. His life describes a ­perfect British establishment arc – fully ­executed by reaching high office in his ­thirties and forties – despite the lack of any obvious political nous.

There’s the memorable clip of the ­teenaged Sunak on telly, outlining just how broad his social circle was: “I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are ­working class.” This prompted a sceptical smile from his old man, and the curtained future PM pipped in: “Well, not working class, but I mix and match.” Truly, all of human life was there. If Sunak has a political brand, then down to earth, practical and worldly wise isn’t it.

A more natural politician would have sensed the danger as they picked their way across this perilous political ­territory.

A braver politician would have owned their privilege. Wealthy families have their troubles, even if they don’t take the form of the phone being cut off or bailiffs at the door. But characteristically, Sunak blundered into the underbrush with a thoroughly misplaced, unearned sense of triumph over adversity.

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As a child “I went without a lot of things”, he insisted in a tetchy ­interview broadcast last week.

Pressed for ­examples, the PM was stumped. But with his ­characteristic sure touch and ­emotional intelligence, Sunak decided he had ­juvenile scores to settle with his parents, who “famously” refused to invest in the satellite TV their firstborn son wanted, prioritising the 20 grand a year his fees at Winchester ­College cost instead.

According to Tatler, “the best part of Winchester is that it limits the amount of sociopaths coming in because of its focus on academics”. Because what is a good education for, if not constraining ­sociopathy to acceptable levels, right?

In terms of bids for public sympathy, “as a child I was forced to go without Sky TV so my parents could afford my school fees” may struggle to land. But this tech-bro man-child said it all the same, ­crackling with resentment at the idea someone with his kind of gilded ­upbringing might only have modest ­insight into the challenges of living on Universal Credit or could be a complete political soul, without ­pretending to ­economic strain we all know he has never experienced.

After Joyce Cary, the late Christopher Hitchens called comments like this “tumbrel remarks”. The Hitch defined them “as an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines”.

Marie Antoinette’s good housekeeping guide for using up your leftover Battenburg was the prototype. Sunak might as well have gone all in. Times are tough: I’ve been forced to forgo my bi-annual skiing holiday. I won’t see Switzerland again this year. I’m having to make do with four cars.

One of the familiar hypocrisies of the cost of living crisis is that folk feel obliged to say things like “we’re all struggling just now”, as if trying to keep your gas meter sputtering to life in a damp flat is just like the challenges of keeping the indoor swimming pool heated in your second stately home.

This hollow universalism – just like Sunak’s wholly implausible attempt to appropriate economic hardships other people actually experience – ignores the fact that many folk are doing very nicely, thank you, and haven’t had to alter their spending habits at all. And if they’re ­involved in politics, they should be brave enough to say so.

But the fact that tetchy Sunak felt able to air these petty grievances in the ­interview – or was able to conceptualise them as material proof of the setbacks he’d faced on his struggle for self-actualisation – tells you a lot about the guy. And I can almost sympathise. Because there’s more than a hint of something which dare not speak its name here.

Sunak clearly has a conditioned sense of being an outsider, but is conspicuously unable to articulate exactly why he feels this way. He’s in rubbing distance of the gilded circle which still makes such an outsize impact on public life in Britain – but doesn’t feel like he’s the real deal.

Too much of politics. Sunak is on the cusp of an ego calamity, as his sense of self – and real impact on the world – crash brutally together. We’ve now seen several leading politicians in the UK – Johnson, Truss, Sunak, Yousaf (below) – who chased after high office with everything they were worth, and in some cases won it early in their lives, only to discover once the chase was over and prize was won, that they really had no talent for the positions they’d been preparing themselves for.

(Image: PA)

Watch any conversation he’s party to: he certainly isn’t comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t have the learned and uncanny ease of the born to rule. There’s one obvious reason he might feel this way – but given the policies he’s championed in office, given the prejudices his government’s policy panders to, he’s unable to say any of this out loud.

In the past, Sunak has reflected on the role of racial inclusion and exclusion in his education. Twenty years ago, he told the BBC that “at Winchester I was one of very few Asians, I mean the first generation into that level of society. It does put me in an elite of achievement definitely in society, but I’ll always consider myself sort of, you know, professional middle class.”

This week’s more muted version of the same theme was “my grandparents ­emigrated in this country, with very little and in three generations, I’m sitting here talking to you as prime minister”.

It is in many ways a remarkable story – but for reasons the Prime Minister is wholly unprepared to say out loud, so he girns about being deprived of Sky instead.

There’s something deeply disturbing about Conservative politicians inviting us to celebrate their hardscrabble ­family ­origin stories, while introducing ­policies to ensure that anyone like ­Sunak’s grandparents – arriving in Britain with ­potential but without assets – will be ­demonised in the tabloids, denied entry, denied right to remain and swiftly ­escorted back to their country of origin by Home Office goons.