Back at the start of August, The New European published a list of 39 good reasons why Liz Truss would be a terrible prime minister, saying she had “the potential to be a prime minister who makes the Johnson era look like one of calmness and stability”. We were proven right more quickly than even we expected.
So, after last time’s list of Truss failings, here is a list of reasons that her successor, Rishi Sunak, will also be a terrible prime minister.
1. In a speech – on microphone and in public – to Conservative members in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Sunak boasted that as chancellor he had changed funding formulas to take money away from “deprived urban areas” to places like where he was speaking. Inevitably this was caught on a smartphone and leaked to the media. Not only was it the exact opposite of the supposed flagship levelling up policy, it made him sound like a Scooby-Doo villain revealing his evil masterplan. How could things get any worse?
2. Like this: In front of aides and a journalist from the Sunday Times, Rishi Sunak bounced his head from side to side and rapped: “Stop, collaborate and listen, Ice is back with my brand-new invention. Something grabs a hold of me tightly. Flow like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will it ever stop?” Please, make it stop.
3. Astonishingly, neither of these were Sunak’s most embarrassing public contribution, which instead came in 2001, when he was 21, and appeared on the TV documentary Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl. He said: “I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are working class… well, not working class.”
4. When attempting to arrange a photo opportunity to showcase his cut to fuel duty, Sunak was photographed filling up someone else’s car, and then was unable to work out how to use the card machine at the shop. He’s just like one of us!
5. Sunak was photographed toasting the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 final victory just as most of us did – down the pub, wearing a crisp white shirt, while drinking tea from a cup and saucer. He’s just like one of us!
6. The picture of Sunak doing this looked even weirder as it was taken from above. He is a quite short man, which is no flaw in itself – but is far, far too insecure about it, arranging photo opportunities with genuinely bizarre angles as a bid to mask his stature.
7. “As a backbench MP, I came up with the idea of freeports,” Sunak said during one hustings. He was a backbencher from 2015-18, and freeports were first introduced in 1984, when Sunak was in infant school, before being dropped as unworkable in 2012.
8. Rishi Sunak spent the first 18 months of his time as chancellor as a US green card holder – a designation that signifies you have the intention of moving permanently to the country. He only rescinded the status when it was discovered by a civil servant in the course of booking Sunak’s travel to the US.
9. Around the same time, it was reported that Sunak’s wife, who is worth around £700m thanks to her holding in her family’s Indian company, claimed tax-friendly non-dom status, including during Sunak’s time as chancellor.
10. Despite being part of the same household unit as his wife, being part of the top 0.01%, and simultaneously being in charge of the nation’s finances during both a public services crisis and a cost of living crisis, Sunak treated “attacks” on his wife – also known as questions about his family finances – as unfair and beyond the pale.
11. As a result of said “attacks”, and against long-established tradition, Sunak moved his family out of the No 10 flat, and only lived there himself part-time during his remaining time as chancellor.
12. Rather than help the restaurant sector in some more direct way, in August 2020 – before the UK had a working Covid-19 vaccine – Sunak launched and became the face of Eat Out To Help Out. The scheme was criticised for boosting the virus’s second wave, and that in turn hit the restaurant sector too as we entered further hospitality restrictions.
13. Not content with signing the policy in his own name – as if it were his money he was doling out, rather than taxpayers’ – Sunak was also photographed doling out food in restaurants to promote himself and/or the scheme, all while not wearing a mask. He also proceeded to deliver the food to the wrong table.
14. Sunak’s Covid furlough payments scheme for freelance workers left three million people with no access to support. This was raised immediately, but never addressed.
15. Under Sunak’s watch, the Treasury guaranteed billions in loans to businesses as part of a Covid “bounce back” programme – but did almost nothing to tackle fraud, which was effortless under the scheme. One man received £28,000 supposedly for his business but used it to buy a luxury watch and take out £10,000 in cash for himself. Others bought Range Rovers, buy-to-let properties, porn subscriptions and even flying lessons. The fraud is estimated to have cost £5bn – far more than benefit fraud costs the government, and more than the total the Treasury allocated for levelling up.
16. In March 2022, as the energy crisis was already obvious in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, Sunak pledged there would be no more help on cost of living before the autumn.
17. Sunak reversed himself on this by May 2022, announcing a much larger package of cost price releases – but then initially said that would be all that would be on offer.
18. As a leadership contender, Sunak is now saying that plans for further cuts to levies on energy bills by Truss “won’t touch the sides” – despite previously having pledged to do even less himself.
19. In his spring statement this year, Sunak announced very little new spending or support for public services despite already mounting inflation and even kept the new hike on both employers’ and employees’ national insurance – but said he would cut taxes in a year’s time, handily just before an election was expected.
20. At the start of his campaign for the leadership, Rishi Sunak condemned other candidates for reckless spending and stood as the candidate for “sound money”. As soon as he saw this failing, he immediately started issuing new spending promises of his own.
21. Sunak has also promised to reintroduce grammar schools, which have been shown to benefit children from richer families and harm those from poorer ones – the opposite of its supposed intent, and why they remain relatively unpopular with everyone except Conservative members.
22. During a husting for Spectator TV, Sunak appeared to suggest that thanks to his setting up a Treasury team in Darlington, he had developed a keen interest in Scotland and now visited there often. As social media users noted: Darlington is not in Scotland. It is not even particularly near Scotland: it is around a two-hour drive (and 100 miles) away from the border.
23. The first pledge of Sunak’s campaign to Conservative members – during a cost of living crisis, war in Ukraine, an NHS and ambulance service crisis, water shortages, and the police mired in scandal and ineffectiveness – was to say he was the candidate who would declare war on wokery.
24. Sunak would be Britain’s first ethnic minority candidate of the modern era (Benjamin Disraeli is arguable – he was born Jewish but converted to Christianity at the age of 12). During his campaign he promised to “refocus” the Prevent programme at Islamist terror as “the most significant terror threat”, despite the fact that at present – when police decide who to put on the programme – it deals with more people radicalised by the far right than Islamist terror.
25. Sunak also proposed that Prevent should deal with people with “an extreme hatred of Britain”, which raised some eyebrows – though he has (reassuringly?) promised that this will not encompass criticism of the government or its policies, which should come as a relief to opposition MPs.
26. Sunak has pledged to get rid of the Northern Ireland Protocol even if it means scrapping the trade deal we signed with the EU. Simultaneously, he says he will not get rid of the awful trade deals Truss did with Australia and New Zealand because that would mean ripping up signed international agreements.
27. When Liz Truss recently promised to review all existing EU laws that have been carried over to UK statute books by the end of 2023 and scrap those that were damaging, a long line of legal and trade experts queued up to call the plan completely unrealistic and unworkable. Sunak then promised to do the same thing, but in 100 days. He describes this as a plan to “keep Brexit safe”. Presumably, this means safe from scrutiny and safe from reality.