- Daniel Sillett
The comeback kid: Record-breaker Rishi’s at Number 10
By DANIEL SILLETT
Number 10 Downing Street is quickly becoming a revolving door. These are all the rage at the moment – virtually every new building seems to have one, which includes none other than the University of Warwick’s very own Faculty of Arts Building (FAB) and Oculus. But whilst these revolving doors are painfully slow, Number 10 seems to have a new occupant every week.
Indeed, just two weeks ago, I wrote my reflection on Liz Truss’s short stint in office. And here I am again, this time with a verdict on Rishi Sunak: Britain’s new Prime Minister.
First of all, it is nothing short of political history for Britain to finally have a non-white Prime Minister. Not only that, but Rishi Sunak is the youngest Prime Minister of modern times. Aged 42, he trumps David Cameron and Tony Blair, who were both 43 years old upon assuming office. Having only become an MP in 2015, Sunak’s rise to power has also been remarkably fast.
Perhaps it is now time to address the elephant in the room with Rishi’s record-breaking raucous. Rishi Sunak is also without a doubt the richest Prime Minister of modern times, owing to his wife Akshata Murthy’s fortune. That amounts to around £730 million.
This has been the thorn in Sunak’s side ever since rising to influence as Chancellor under Boris Johnson. People say he is out of touch. People question how a multi-millionaire can possibly understand a cost of living crisis that is causing millions to suffer.
I actually see no issue with Sunak’s wealth, for two reasons. Firstly, he didn’t have the privilege of a silver spoon. He’s the son of Indian immigrants from East Africa who came to the UK in the 1960s, when racism was even more rife. Rishi’s parents set up a local pharmacy business, so his family were hardly rolling in money. What money they did have was the result of entrepreneurial graft.
Secondly, a person’s wealth does not prevent them from empathising with other people. Rishi is far richer than Liz Truss, yet he will not be scrapping the 45p tax rate, as Truss controversially did. In other words, you can be descriptively unrepresentative in terms of personal characteristics, yet still be socially and politically representative.
I’m hailing these supposedly moderate policies like they are manna from heaven. So, what exactly are they?
Well, that’s difficult to say, seeing as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has pushed back the mini-budget announcement by two weeks. This means some political predictions are in order.
If one thing is for certain, a Rishi Sunak premiership will not back fracking. This doesn’t require a crystal ball because, in his first PMQs, the new Prime Minister declared his intention to reinstate the ban on fracking in Britain, which Liz Truss had lifted. Whilst this is another case of wasting everybody’s time and effort – by changing regulations, only to change them back again – I believe this is the correct call. Unless the people of Lancashire fancy some fracking-induced earthquakes to spice up their lives.
Another big story is that the triple lock on pensions, which the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to protect, is undergoing a review in Parliament. This suggests Sunak may overturn this commitment, a move that could alienate a significant proportion of older Conservative voters. In a similar vein, the doubts over raising benefits in line with inflation threatens to alienate society’s most vulnerable – a cohort already disillusioned with the Tories.
The economics, then, is looking a little bleak. However, being a more moderate figure at the helm, Sunak will surely devise a more sensible plan than Truss’s right-wing radicalism. His persistent repetition of the country’s metaphorical credit card throughout the leadership hustings shows his head is screwed on when it comes to managing the ballooning national debt. The only concern is how to tackle the debt: tax rises and spending cuts would surely be suicidal in a cost of living crisis.
All that said, my hopes for sensible policy – and indeed Sunak’s pledge to govern with integrity – are rather overshadowed by some early mistakes.
‘Mistakes?’, I hear you cry incredulously. ‘How can there be mistakes already, only a few days in?’ – well, trust me, there are.
Firstly, the new Cabinet. Naturally, there was a significant reshuffle to reflect the reshuffle inside Number 10 itself.
Overall, this was sensible. Jacob Rees-Mogg was out as Business Secretary, along with Brandon Lewis, Simon Clarke, Kit Malthouse and Chloe Smith. In came Grant Shapps, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove (to the horror of some). This is clearly a balancing act of unity. Sunak has brought in his allies, whilst retaining some representatives from Truss’s Cabinet – such as James Cleverly and Thérèse Coffey.
And, as a stab at maximising diversity, it is a considerably larger Cabinet, too. The sort that you can’t fit through a door frame, or into an official photograph without a seriously wide-angled camera lens.
This is good.
But what other way to tear this apart than by reappointing Suella Braverman as Home Secretary. Braverman held the post under Truss, but was forced out after leaking confidential information via email. Within one week of a minister being sacked for breaking the Ministerial Code, the best course of action is obviously to reappoint them.
It’s not. All credibility appeared to have evaporated within a mere 24 hours of Rishi’s premiership.
Then, it got worse. The new Prime Minister was originally set to not attend COP27. Why the hell not? Why not attend COP to demonstrate your good intentions? Sunak has since changed his mind. But such a reversal was clearly not made easily. Why did he plan to not go originally?
And that, quite simply, is my conclusion: a mixed bag. If the Prime Minister were to rid himself of needless silly errors and reinstate his good intentions, I truly believe he could turn the polls around and give the Tories a chance in 2024. But that is quite a big ‘if’ to judge, two weeks into the job.
So, there we are. Rishi is a beacon of hope in so many ways, but he’s currently pointing his torch at the ground.
Image: Flickr / Number 10