TONY Blair had “education, education, education”, Boris Johnson stood behind “get Brexit done”, and now the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, wants it known that he is all about “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

While not the most imaginative slogan, it suits the frightened times. Tens of thousands of jobs have already gone as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and this is just the start. That light at the end of the tunnel is a job loss express heading this way. People instinctively know it. If you want to know why pubs, restaurants and shops have not been overrun by punters rushing to spend, spend, spend, it is because they are afraid.

As anyone who lived through the late 1970s and early Eighties can testify, they are right to be nervous. If you were to construct a cultural montage for that period it would feature the Conservatives’ “Labour Isn’t Working” poster, complete with a long line of unemployed people; a clip of Mrs Thatcher at her hectoring worst; a scene from Boys from the Black Stuff (“Giz a job,” says Yosser Hughes); some shots of rioting; and the whole sequence overlaid with The Specials’ Ghost Town.

That was the snapshot. The longer term reality was a generation laid to waste and the winding back of the clock on British political culture. Government went from feeling a duty to look after the weakest to actively punishing the poor. Not UK plc’s finest hours, and the effects are still evident today, particularly in Scotland.

Any decent Chancellor would strain every sinew to build a shelter against such a storm. Thus far, Mr Sunak has consistently surpassed expectations. His furlough scheme has helped pay the wages of nine million people. Mortgage and tax holidays, rebates, grants, special sectoral help. For a Tory Chancellor he has made the radical left look like timid tightwads.

Yesterday saw him delivering the next part of the recovery package. Despite Number 10’s blethering about New Deals there was nothing here to transform society, FDR-style. But the targeted help for the 16 to 24 age group was significant. There was a rabbit out of the hat, too, in the shape of half price meals out (brace yourselves Pizza Express).

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Of course he could have gone further, but as a package this was practical and populist, smart and innovative, considered and caring. Perhaps the most significant moment came when he said: “For me, this has never been just a question of economics but of values.”

Was this the new face of Conservatism we saw before us, a future Prime Minister maybe?

It could go either way for him. He has not been shy in grabbing the glory, but if his plans do not produce results, and furlough proves to be a waiting room for redundancy as many fear, Mr Sunak will bear a large part of the blame.

Already, some Conservative MPs are becoming jittery over the ever growing cost of this help. They want, in the words of senior backbencher Sir Edward Leigh, to hear “less about high-spending lefties like President Roosevelt and more about good Conservatives like Margaret Thatcher”.

But let us say most of the measures work. Some, like the youth support scheme, a version of which was brought in by Labour after the 2008 financial crash, are tried and tested. Mr Sunak would then be lauded as the Chancellor who put a down payment on the next election victory. A politician thus far untainted by the mistakes his colleagues in Government made in handling the coronavirus crisis, he would be ideally placed to take over from a tired and discredited Boris Johnson. What seismic changes that could bring about in British politics. Or would it?

It depends how one reads Mr Sunak and his meteoric rise thus far. To a great extent he is just another off the peg Tory. Privately educated, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford, career in banking including time at Goldman Sachs (memorably described by writer Matt Taibbi as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”).

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He was already rich when he married into silly money courtesy of his billionaire father in law, NR Narayana Murthy. He won a safe seat (William Hague’s old stamping ground in Richmond, Yorks) in 2015 and five years later he was Chancellor.

But then there is the other side to Mr Sunak. Grandparents who came to the UK from East Africa, parents who worked hard as a doctor and pharmacist. Proud to call himself British-Indian. A Hindu. He’s endearingly geeky, a Star Wars fan no less, and is invariably described by those who have worked with him as a nice sort.

When his potential was first spotted it used to be thought that he was missing the genes for empathy and relatability, but he has made up for that during the virus crisis. Even though he is a stranger to the dole queue, he made a lot of people relieved that they might not be joining it just yet.

Before the pandemic hit, Mr Sunak was best known for replacing his party leader on the General Election televised debates circuit. A touch nervous at first, he quickly came into his own. It was clear that fellow debater Nicola Sturgeon rated him. Player recognised player.

Imagine what impact a PM Sunak might have on Scottish independence. Though he has insisted a second independence referendum was “absolutely not our intention”, it was once suggested that he thought England would be better off on its own – a charge he denied. Keir Starmer’s Labour has more to fear from a fresh Sunak administration than an already wobbly Johnson premiership.

Impressive as he has been to date, it may be wise to hold off on a big bet on Mr Sunak becoming PM just yet. He is, after all, a man who took the job of Chancellor knowing that Number 10 would want to pull the strings. There is a long way to go before any of us begin to see the back of this crisis. New faces of the Tory Party have been hailed before – I seem to recall Ruth Davidson was one such property – only to come to nothing. But keep an eye on that man Sunak just the same. You will not be alone.