Can Sunak be a Good PM?

Posted on October 25, 2022

So, in comes the next Prime Minister, unelected but crowned. The big question is, how will Rishi Sunak get on? Will he fail spectacularly, grovelling to the demands of the back bench crackpots, or will he take the party kicking and screaming out of the 20th Century and away from its imperial delusions?

The Positive of Useless Predecessors

The positive for Sunak is that he is following Liz Truss. Truss was the final act in a game where the Tories seemed determined to see if they could engage a worse Prime Minister than the last. Her mini-budget with Kwasi Kwarteng, bamboozled all but a few far-right crackpots and ended with a seven-week clusterfuck that would make Frank Spencer blush.

The other plus is that Sunak is not Boris Johnson, who apparently became Prime Minister to make bar stool bullshitters laugh whilst his friends and donors raided the treasury. Sunak appears like he might at least try to make Britain a better place. A low bar for a British Prime Minister but that is where we are at. Boris Johnson only cared about Boris Johnson, parties, backhanders, and his next shag.

The People or Wealthy Bankers?

The next test is to discover where Sunak’s priorities lie. Is he going to look to normal people and try and improve their lot, or as a former Goldman Sachs employee, will he protect his own first? Can he relate to ordinary people who earn average wages, rather than the millions coined in by hedge fund managers. What we do know, is that he functions in a world that 99.9% of the population can only dream of.

Does that make him ill-equipped to do the job? Not necessarily. There is a chance that having made his money, his one motive left in life is to make Britain a fairer place for all. There is also a chance that he has been turbo-charged into government to protect his own from higher taxation and tax avoidance. One of the biggest problems with Tories is their inability to see that they are in office to serve ordinary people, not themselves. In fairness, swathes of ordinary people inexplicably encourage them to do so through a rabid fear of non-existent commies.

Angry Right-Wingers

The fact that the right wingers are resigning or spitting feathers, would appear to indicate that Sunak is dragging the party back to the centre. It’s certainly a long way to travel from what Truss and her donors wanted. Her uncosted and populist low tax train wreck has gone, but not without leaving a lot of damage. Does Sunak dare to realign with the EU for trade, and start going after the super-rich to bring in revenue? The two do go hand in hand, that’s why very wealthy people funded Brexit.

It is estimated £35 billion a year is lost to tax fraud, evasion, and avoidance. Benefit fraud is around £7.5 million and is of course a bigger Daily Mail headline than tax avoidance (The Mail is owned by tax avoiders, you see). It is still a lot of money, but you can’t morally justify clamping down on one and leave the other alone because it might annoy donors or media allies. Donors have called the shots for too long and it needs to be stopped. So there, without thinking too hard, are two places where money can be called back in, and what about the £11 billion lost to Covid Fraud?

Public Services and EU Alignment

Making savings from public services, however, is a dangerous path to travel. Teachers, police officers and NHS staff are already struggling against inflation and are leaving their professions. To cut them further will end in discontent, further departures and strikes. Covid should tell us that those who keep us healthy and teach us to read and write, need to be ring-fenced and paid properly. Someone with a net worth just shy of a billion, won’t win any friends by starving out teachers and nurses.

It’s a tough gig and Keir Starmer might be wise to keep his head down and bide his time. Liz Truss has ensured there is not much wriggle room to play with and therefore, Sunak is balancing on a pin head. This could easily go spectacularly wrong for him. However, the reality of a 4% GDP boost and a surge in market confidence by aligning with the EU, must be becoming insatiable. Especially when it comes to an instant solution to the elephant in the room that is Northern Ireland.   

In the unlikely event Sunak went down that route, there would be a rabid far-right backlash that David Cameron (remember him) was so scared of. Sunak needs to be a brave PM and stand up to the crackpots. The alternative is to take more money from the magic money tree (The Bank of England). This could be spent on massive infrastructure investment in public services (roads, fibre broadband, hospitals, schools etc) to drive the economy and bring in taxes from businesses and workers. However, how do you achieve that without a labour force and no freedom of movement for immigrant labour? Oh dear.

Alleys Blocked by sunlit Uplands

There are plenty of alleys for Sunak to go down but most of them are blocked, often by the sunlit uplands of Brexit. I cannot see any way out of this without making the far-right back benchers incandescent. The fact that many of them already incandescent may well indicate where on the spectrum Sunak is heading. Shifting towards the centre is his only realistic choice after Truss’s ‘canary down the mine’ budget, blew up in her face.    

Don’t expect smooth waters ahead, but this could at least be the beginning of the end of this crazy experiment with nationalist populism. If Sunak embraces the end of populism, he could become a half decent PM. However, he will have to endure a lot of far-right abuse and defections along the way. If he doesn’t embrace change, he will leave an open goal that the Labour Party, even with their history of blazing it over the bar, would struggle to miss.

The truth is, we can’t go on funding a Tory heist of public money.

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