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LET RISHI BE RISHI - One Ejection er Election at a Time
How a long term thinking fiscal conservative (his words) takes a walk through the looking glass and gambles it all with a last? throw of the dice.
Let Rishi be Rishi has been the underlying theme of Sunak’s time at No.10. Said to all as though, he just needs us to give him a break. We all need to pretend we don’t see what we’re seeing and give him a chance to steady the ship. The fact that the ship is full of holes, the wood is rotting, the sails have been torn and the masts are splintered is, of course, irrelevant. Getting the public to overlook the state of the ship and continue happily on their cruise is the stuff of Greek mythology and Sunak is looking for his very own Sirens. Which is nice if you can get them.
He began with a handicap as Britain’s first appointed and unelected Prime Minister in modern times after he lost the election for party leader. Who needs elections - they’re oh so bourgeois. But he also began with advantages. He wasn’t Truss, wrecker of all that lay before her and he wasn’t Johnson, Trump with better hair (is it real?) and a posh accent. That’s got to be like a double eagle in golf terms.
Sunak, double eagle or not, stepped into a mess. Although to be fair it’s a mess which he has merrily supported and participated in and even architected to some degree since his election as an MP in 2015.
Once arriving at his destination, however brutal the travel conditions, he had to find a way to scrape the mess off his Prada shoes. Having fed the dog chocolates for so long the mess was really gross so he had to sound solid, hardworking and serious. So, voila - some smart aide (fired now, no doubt, unless it was the billionaire dude himself) came up with his 5 Pledges:
Grow the economy
Get debt falling
Cut NHS waiting lists
Stop the small boats
Well - we’re coming up on a year now and truth be told those pledges are looking a tiny bit unmet. Sunak will likely deliver on the inflation target thanks to the Bank of England mind you, but as for the rest not so much.
The fact that the pledges themselves conflict with each other - any first year economics student knows raising interest rates to fight inflation is an economic growth killer - was overlooked or ignored when he thought them up. And why should we expect more from Sunak he grew up in politics during the purist no-deal Brexit era. The PPE dons at Oxford and the Stanford University MBA professors must be wondering where they went wrong. But Sunak wasn’t the first Oxbridge educated politician to ignore their lessons. After all punting down the river sounds way more interesting.
Austerity began with Cameron and Osborne in 2010 but the debt is bigger now than it ever was (blame the pandemic in part). The Tories have been lampooned for creating an economic doom loop. Some claim Britain’s missed out on £400 billion pounds of growth since 2010 and if we continue on the current trajectory it’ll be £900 billion by 2027. That's stats from the TUC. And the BoE is no more optimistic. The US and the Eurozone are predicted to be 7 and 10 percent larger at the end of 2025 than before coronavirus struck. The UK economy is not expected to have grown at all in the same period - pledges or not.
Back to the pledges themselves with the second pledge on the economy growing. Well it hasn’t been growing - blame Brexit and the pandemic. But its simpler reasons than that and again high school economics class teaches you have to invest to grow. Uh oh it's that doom loop rearing its head once more. Investment ain't happening because we need to cut the debt to fulfil pledge number 3.
And if you’re not already pledged out the third pledge is to reduce the debt. Well the debt is bigger now then since WWII or some stat like that. So no love for Sunak there. But what else can he expect? There’s been no growth and you can’t only cut yourself to lower debt. You really need to get some systemic good news happening to make any headway there. And well invest in stuff. Like a railway line or a few wind turbines. Oh wait…
The pledge for the NHS waiting lists is also going nowhere without a paddle. The lists are only getting longer. And again we can blame Austerity, Brexit and the pandemic. I used to think the NHS destruction was purposeful - the better to increase the private health sector almost by stealth. But now I think that’d be too strategic and clever by half for this lot.
And the small boats - blame mass migration because of climate change and Braverman’s incompetence perhaps. But we might need those small boats anyway because that ship Sunak’s been riding is only getting less seaworthy by the day. Or maybe the small boats will start heading the other way the more the UK tanks - aha, perhaps that’s the plan after all.
Whatever you do, don't blame the Conservatives. While the party is busy looking left and right, up and down trying to figure out who led them to this disastrous place Sunak is left wondering how he manoeuvres himself to stay in his wondrous new position. He is going to actually have to win an election. Having read all the books on great leaders/CEOs at Stanford he does what they say. Bring in the experts. Since per Rory Stewart’s new book there aren't any experts among the Tory MP’s he looks farther afield. But not too far.
Where to find a Johnson-like master of making the fantastical seem likely to the average man and if not at least make ‘em laugh. There waiting with a Cheshire cat grin are the orchestrators of the Johnson landslide election and Sunak brings them onboard.
These Australian wunderkinds are busy laying the groundwork for disavowal of the 5 pledges. After all it seems like the BOE is taming inflation so that first pledge is a go. As for the others, well, some can be finessed or blamed on someone else. Instead let's get some outrageous policy that everyone can argue about and that Rishi can say champions the common folk you know reduces the cost of living and all that. Rishi can be the champion of the common man and take that one away from Labour. So u-turn on net zero policy. The old ‘we’re just delaying having to pay for anything yet’ or in other words - invest in anything yet. Sigh.
Bingo - controversy, all the power players, everywhere, in the whole world, are against it. Even in his own party. But he is for it because it'll help the common folk and he is their champion. The man who arrived in a Range Rover and borrowed a Skoda or whatever Flintstone mobile to pretend to pump gas himself for a photo op…. is standing up for the other classes struggling with the grocery bill and mortgage payments etc. So what if the heating bill will forever be high. Immediate relief, no investing in the future. Austerity lesson learned.
Let’s court even more controversy and stop the HS2 boondoggle. It has doubled in cost since its beginning. Its the incredibly shrinking rail line with an ever increasing price tag. Maybe you can drive a bus around with a sign about how much you can invest a week in the NHS if you don't spend billions on the rail line.
Add no smoking ever if you’re a teenager. Start talking up inheritance tax changes. Make Labour look profligate. Starmer wants to spend £28,000,000,000 on climate initiatives and make you buy an electric car - back to the Musk thing. HS2 is sucking up all the valuable capital we need for the NHS so we can’t invest in the future. The inheritance tax bit is a real winner. Even people who won't be taxed hate it. The ads practically write themselves. “They want to keep your money after you’re dead” and “Save your children from smoking”. Nanny state objections be damned.
It all feels a bit desperate from here but hey what does he have to lose. When all one sees when looking out at the view is crumbling schools, sewage inundating rivers, terrorist prisoners walking out of jails, ridiculous barge boondoggles and never ending small boats its hard to think you stand a chance of winning anything. And the damn polls keep showing you’ll lose in a landslide. The polls are like Lady Macbeth’s damn spots. It could be that all that’s left is to make a lot of noise. Change the subject. Maybe no one will notice the ship has sunk perilously low on the horizon.
Elections in May before anything else goes wrong.
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