Nadhim Zahawi is regularly described as ‘one of Westminster’s good guys’. As one observer puts it: ‘There are a lot of bad hombres around here, but Nadhim is not one of them.’
And his warmth and charm have paid dividends. In a world riddled with duplicity, the Iraqi-born Chancellor is an unusually popular figure.
But his perpetual, bubbly enthusiasm has blinded many observers to the ambition which has now taken him to the cusp of No 10.
Slowly, stealthily, he has built up a powerful team of backers among MPs, donors and strategists, without attracting the same level of attention as his rivals.
He already looks the part, having lost over two stone in the past year due to a rudimentary but effective diet. ‘I only eat half of what is on my plate,’ he says.
It means he needs to invest in a new range of bespoke suits, which will only make a small dent in a personal fortune estimated at anywhere between £30million and £100million.
Allies of Mr Zahawi, 55, are at pains to distinguish his vast wealth from the even greater fortune of his predecessor, Rishi Sunak, who made the Sunday Times Rich List with a joint worth of £730million with his wife, Akshata Murty.
They say there is a difference between his self-made millions and those acquired by Mr Sunak through his marriage to Akshata, whose father Narayana is known as the ‘Bill Gates of India’.
That is slightly unfair on Mr Sunak, given he enjoyed a successful career in investment banking before entering politics, but Zahawi supporters are acutely conscious of the political damage which the former Chancellor sustained over revelations that his wife pays £30,000 a year for ‘non-domiciled’, or non-dom, status, which means she does not have to pay UK tax on dividends or income earned abroad.