“If he wants to win, Rishi Sunak will certainly win. The question is whether he really wants to carry on at the top, after all the damaging stories about his family’s tax affairs, and getting fined by the police over parties. But if he really wants to be prime minister, the Tory party members definitely won’t stand in his way.”
Some absolute idiot said that on live TV, barely a month ago, and he’s still got a column in The Independent. What an absolute joke.
To be fair to the complete cretin in question (which, if you haven’t guessed, was me), can anyone truly say they foresaw how terrible Rishi Sunak would be?
Is this really the same person who sashayed into the political big time two-and-a-half years ago and started handing out hundreds of billions of pounds worth of free money? Who ponied up £500m of public money for half-price Wagamamas for everyone (and even served a few of the dishes himself)? Whose personal brand was barely tarnished by £500 cashmere hoodies, £150 flip-flops, a £180 coffee cup and a private family fortune running almost into the billions which, back then, did not have question marks over whether the appropriate amounts of tax had been paid on it?
Is this really that guy? Smooth, likeable, sincere Rishi, who might not be able to quite understand your pain at having, say, no job or no money, but could do a very passable impression of at least feeling it?
Rishi Sunak’s unimaginable crapness in this leadership contest has surely taken even him by surprise. The truly toe-curling jokes, which have even been followed with pauses for laughter that have not been forthcoming. On stage in Darlington on Tuesday night he told a very, very long story about how nice it is to meet children when campaigning because, wait for it, they’re the same size as me. He has waited expectantly for Welsh crowds to be wowed by a solitary word in Welsh. They have not been.
He told the Darlington crowd that if he won, it wouldn’t be long before they were “eating parmos round the cabinet table”. The parmo is from Middlesbrough and, to the best of my knowledge, meals are rarely, if ever, eaten round the cabinet table, and certainly not ones that are rarely eaten before 11pm and would also require a delivery driver to put in a 500-mile roundtrip. They stared back in complete silence.
Maybe, just maybe, the signs were there. There was, after all, that time he filled up someone else’s car for the sake of a photo, then couldn’t work out how to use the contactless payment machine. He also talked about that, calling it the “most embarrassing moment” of his life, but don’t worry, he’s since been shown how to use a contactless payment machine (which came in in 2007, when he was in his mid-twenties). One struggles to believe that incident was itself more embarrassing than his attempt to joke about it.
And there was also that time he kind of seized up with awkwardness while telling two schoolchildren how much he liked Mexican coke, which is apparently made with pure sugar as opposed to fructose, which is in itself one of those weird and completely untrue 1990s playground rumours that died out very soon after the widescale uptake of the internet. See also Prince’s rib.
There are other causes too. Can anyone really blame Sunak’s campaign for getting worse and worse as the days wear on? He is a man still trudging up Everest, having already been told he’ll die before he gets there. Still carrying on, fighting a now unwinnable fight. Should he have calculated that his party would hate him for doing what the rest of the country probably considered the honourable thing, and finally putting Boris Johnson out of our misery?
Should he have worked out that, once he frankly hadn’t done enough to convince people he isn’t, you know, maybe just a little bit of a tax avoider, then that was definitely going to be the end of his electoral prospects?
Sunak’s latest wheeze is his “10-point plan for Britain”. It includes such ingenious ideas as “rebuilding our economy” and “winning the next general election”. Is Rishi Sunak aware that this is not what is known as a “plan”? This is a Christmas list, written by a man who doesn’t seem to have worked out that it’s his job to deliver the presents, not ask for them.
There are still long weeks of this to go. It is almost impossible to see how things can get any worse, yet they certainly will.
Sunak is still only 42 years old, but historically the prognosis isn’t great for British politicians who get close to the leadership of their party but don’t quite make it. Running for leader is something you only really get to do once.
There are exceptions, but Ed Davey is currently the only person to have done an Ed Davey, and while he lost to Jo Swinson in 2019 and then won not long after, he was fortunate not to have made a very public fool of himself in the process.
It is remarkable to recall that, not very long ago, Rishi Sunak was the future once, a fact that he will have many decades to reflect upon after the most pyrotechnic political self-immolations quite possibly of all time.