I guess I could muse on the least-taxing passage to No.10 for 15 years, ever since Tony Blair passed the poisoned parcel to Gordon Brown. Indeed, I could wax lyrically on the smashing of Labour’s Identitarian narrative of poor little oppressed minorities needing university-educated white folk rushing to their ignorant aid now that a practising Hindu has reached the pinnacle of political power without a contest even being staged. I could also ponder on the fact Sunak’s rise to the top contradicts the Left’s conviction that Britain today is a rampantly racist society on a par with Apartheid-era South Africa, due to the fact that most people couldn’t give a flying f*** about the new Prime Minister’s ethnicity; that’s the last thing that concerns the majority at this moment in time, no more than Disraeli’s Jewish identity bothered Victorian voters. The former Chancellor’s financial affairs – particularly his marriage to a billionaire’s daughter who enjoyed tax-free non-dom status until exposed – appear to be more of a pointer to his detachment from ‘the man in the street’ than his racial background; at the same time, it’s worth recalling the eloquent reply of Sid Vicious when asked if he sang for ‘the man in the street’. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ve met the man in the street, and he’s a c***.’
The controversial rewriting of the rulebook when it comes to selecting a new Tory leader – in order to accommodate the unique circumstances of the moment – has undoubtedly facilitated Rishi Sunak’s speedy relocation from backbench to Downing Street; but disgruntled Conservative Party members cancelling their memberships in protest at being denied a say need to remember they had their say in the summer – and look what they lumbered us with. Sure, none of the process that enabled Sunak to become an overnight Prime Minister smacks of anything remotely democratic; but another drawn-out interregnum of the kind we endured between Boris and Truss just wouldn’t have been appropriate right now. Sunak was fortunate that he acquired the necessary 100 backers in 24 hours and the only other candidate – Penny Mordaunt – came nowhere near; we were informed in advance that if only one candidate had the required 100 nominations come the Monday deadline, he or she would be the winner. Sunak duly achieved this and therefore, he’s straight in at No.10 with a bullet.
Along with Penny Mordaunt’s failure to reach the threshold of 100, Boris Johnson’s decision to pull out – a first for Boris; Boom! Boom! – presented Rishi with a clear path to power, and it’s been hilarious to watch prominent Tory creeps and crawlers chopping and changing their allegiances in the hope of keeping their Cabinet posts. Over the weekend, Nadhim Zahawi – the five-minute Chancellor who publicly called for Boris to quit a couple of days after Johnson had appointed him – was suddenly a born-again Boris groupie, tweeting his support for the ex-PM to return to office; and then, when it became apparent Boris couldn’t secure the numbers – or lost his bottle – Rishi was immediately installed as the man to unite the Party and save the country in the eyes of such desperate, fair-weather careerists. Here was the most blatant example yet of how these self-serving cretins shamelessly put personal interests ahead of Party (let alone country), and gave us official confirmation that all should forevermore be treated with the utter contempt they’ve earned.
It’s worth remembering there was a time – brief, granted – that Rishi Sunak was seen as the golden boy of British politics. Mid-pandemic, there was no escaping the fact that he radiated a confident, healthy glow that made him resemble a male model when stood beside shabby, flabby Boris; I seem to remember comparing them to the before-and-after images in an ad for a slimming aid. And, even though wise men recognised the Government paying the idle workforce what amounted to lockdown benefits meant a costly day of reckoning would strike sooner rather than later, the furlough scheme Rishi acted as salesman for came as a welcome financial injection to millions struggling because earning a living had been put on ice. Yet by last spring, when a damp squib of a budget combined with revelations of his missus’s tax affairs and a fine for lockdown-breaking, Sunak’s star was descending rapidly; swept up in the whole ‘Partygate’ scandal that engulfed Boris’s administration, it seemed Rishi Sunak was destined to join George Osborne as a Chancellor earmarked for an eventual move next-door that never arrived. And then he was portrayed by Boris disciples as the reincarnation of Michael Heseltine in the reboot of the Thatcher drama, masterminding the PM’s downfall to seize the crown for himself. Boris was dragged from No.10 and Rishi battled it out with Liz Truss, the Johnson-ite choice seemingly selected to fail once installed in Downing Street so that the Messiah could stroll back in again. Well, these are bad times for a betting man, for nothing lately has gone according to the form book; Boris is not returning, and Rishi Sunak has grabbed the top job without even breaking sweat beneath the bright lights of a leadership debate.
As the grandson of Indian immigrants from the pre-partition Punjab, Rishi Sunak’s effortless entrance into 10 Downing Street has naturally been received well in ‘the old country’. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered congratulations and tweeted ‘As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues…special Diwali wishes to the living bridge of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.’ Back home, whilst reluctantly paying tribute to Sunak’s achievement through gritted teeth, uniformly white opposition politicians have instead focused on the new PM’s immense wealth as the stick with which to beat him; the usual social media suspects may already be implying Sunak is ‘the wrong kind of brown person’ due to the fact he doesn’t adhere to the rule that all non-whites have to be left-leaning, but in the rush to counteract the characteristic racism of ‘anti-racism’, ignorance still abounds on the other side. Wee Nicola Sturgeon deleted a tweet describing Sunak as the UK’s first ‘ethnic minority PM’ when the origins of Benjamin Disraeli were pointed out to her.
Mind you, a lack of research is hardly restricted to Sunak’s ethnic background; claims he could be the first Prime Minister not to live ‘above the shop’ are contradicted by the fact Harold Wilson neglected to move back into No.10 during his second stint as PM from 1974 to 1976. But why let facts get in the way of a headline? Anyway, whether or not Sunak decides to call upon Pickfords, there was still the matter of the current tenant moving out. Before her farewell audience with Brian, Liz Truss indulged in a brief final lectern speech; as she struggled to think of her administration’s ‘achievements’, I couldn’t help but be reminded of an early exit from a reality TV show as a contestant’s ‘best bits’ montage set to a dreary Dad Rock dirge take up all of a minute’s screen-time. The speed of the handover from Truss to Sunak was necessary given the circumstances, yet it also seemed to emphasise the staggering failure of Rishi’s immediate predecessor; even the embarrassingly small removal van parked outside Downing Street suggested Truss’s chattels could’ve been packed into an overnight bag, so brief was her tenancy of No.10.
However, the fact the country’s youngest Prime Minister in 200 years is the first since Clement Attlee not to have served under Queen Elizabeth II in a way says more about where we are now than Sunak’s ethnicity. His rise to power is not so much a comment on how things have changed over the past half-century, but how they’ve changed over the past couple of months. This has been a remarkable period to live through in terms of history happening before one’s eyes, and even the breathing space of two years before the next General Election – and it will be two years – doesn’t mean the fat lady has started singing yet.
© The Editor