From Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings and lobby groups, he will have had just four weeks, from his appointment, to put together a credible plan that invests in the future; narrows the North-South divide and reduces the economic impact of coronavirus.
Yet, while the setpiece speech will be judged on the ability of the Richmond MP to be his own man, Mr Sunak’s main objective must be to rewrite the Treasury’s so-called Green Book so it no longer discriminates against the North, deprived areas and all those families, in both urban and rural areas, whose aspiration is a safe and comfortable place to live.
A historic opportunity to ensure that the PM’s ‘levelling up’ agenda underpins every decision, the test will be whether small village schools are more likely to survive after Arkengarthdale, a school in Mr Sunak’s constituency, was forced to shut last year.
It will be whether areas of the North that are particularly prone to flooding, from the Dales to Calderdale and South Yorkshire, receive the defences – and investment – previously made available to the South East because of fumding rules.
And it will be whether the Budget is prepared to prioritise Northern Powerhouse Rail and apply the preferential treatment given to Crossrail in the past. These are just three tests. There are many more and the Chancellor’s task is, in many respects, a thankless one. But, rather than focusing on the political machinations that so obsess the London-centric media, Mr Sunak should make sure that he focuses on the public’s priorities.
If he does so, his first Budget could yet be remembered, in time, for its transformative impact on the whole country rather than the difficult circumstances in which it was prepared and delivered.