Whoopeedoo. Our friends at AOL are reporting that the unseasonably warm weather in October has probably saved our glorious government 260 million smackers: monies that would have gone out to the Great (Undeserving) Unwashed to cover heating costs. Rishi and the team will no doubt crack open a coupla bottles of something half-decent to celebrate.
I may have missed the stories about how a #WindfallTax on the energy giants – plainly a legitimate, popular and equitable solution – would have fixed this particular inconvenience. And I may have been distracted when the unanswerable arguments for taxing the super-rich were pumped out, along with the other urgent stuff about Strictly, Meghan’s make-up and the new Three Lions vid. Forgive me for being so lax, you AOL-peeps.
260 mill is obviously a smidge of a deficit – or bonus – when we do the Whole National Math. (I get that most of us never do and are indeed ill-equipped to do the Whole Math, but yaknowhattamean?) Even dumbos like me understand that the Brexit-sized, post-Truss-&-Kwarteng-sized hole we’re in is a fucking monster. Interest rates, food prices, fuel going or gone scarily up: political choices heavily squeezed. A time for good, responsible government.
Fat chance. Rishi may have rather skilfully been positioned as the gentleman-who-knows-what’s-good but with his personal powerbase and charisma negligible and his party still in the throes of a weird, exceptionalist and deeply nasty ideological mud-wrestle, sustained careful steering seems unlikely. Sunak (the Impossibly Wealthy One) may have a wee bit of credibility amongst those gullible enough to associate his working experience with financial competence but he’s also, patently, another obscenely privileged toff. The plebs may easily turn.
The PM does have the advantage of not being as crass as Truss and Kwarteng. He’s less noisily, stupidly strident, ideologically, and probably less stupid, all-round. He will allow himself to be guided, to be considered, you suspect, in a way that his predecessor and her oddball Chancellor shunned. They were consumed by a sharp, masturbatory, Tufton Street-curated frenzy; Rishi is too well-groomed, too self-aware for that. He’s quietly mad – Freeports, hedgefunds, that depressing ease around Market Forces – as opposed to barking and under-equipped, like Liz and Quasi. Despite the pitiful incompetence of a succession of Tory governments, Sunak is likely to seem okaay… and to close the yawning gap in the polls, over time. Incredible-but-true.
‘People’ (or enough people ) may forget Partygate, Dido H and the systematic looting of the Covid resources. Despite both being offenses of a contemptibly filthy nature; despite that almost shocking, ‘un-British’ stench of corruption and deceit. Some are already either forgetting or have been consistently beguiled by the amoral clown that is Johnson: let’s put it on the record, the worst and most grotesquely shallow Prime Minister ever to have smooched with the dispatch-box. It will be fascinating and probably cruelly depressing to see how ‘things settle’, in Sunak’s favour, as the various oven-ready catastrophes fade into history.
Large swathes of the media will obviously either make it their business to distract, or somehow acquiesce to the endless protection of the great families, the shadowy elite, the Establishment*. Johnson and Harding are unlikely to face justice. The roster of palpably hopeless and/or careerist Ministers of the Realm escaping scot-free with a pay-off will be noted but then slung in the chipper with the rest of the old news stories. Politics of a sort will resume.
This may be a difficult period for Labour, depending upon how the execrable mob still labelled The Government can handle the next few months. Starmer has, understandably to some extent, been a non-protagonist throughout the chaos: no doubt advised that it’s wiser to keep his counsel re- Brexit, immigration, even the modest redistribution of wealth. He’s both failed to lead – been a kind of silent passenger – and chosen not to. Some of us find that abdication-by-focus-group depressing and unwise. Not only does it feel a dereliction of duty to allow politics itself to become bland to the point of meaningless; it also deprives the country of hope.
When a succession of appalling Conservative governments shamelessly and endlessly allude to (and deliberately conflate) race/immigration/’invasion’, dragging the discourse into the swamp, it must be the job of the Opposition to oppose, articulately and with moral force.
Currently Braverman is an obvious national disgrace – as was the Johnson/Cummings campaign before her – with regard to that lowest common denominator, racial signalling. Sadly, bigotry, so heavily supported in the national press, appears to draw as much positive agency as revulsion. But people understood that there was something powerfully wrong about Partygate. Then something cruelly cynical about unlimited bankers’ bonuses and tax-breaks for the rich. So there is a measure of decency out there. A Labour Party that proudly champions things that are right and just and explains the rationale in terms the population can understand is a) fulfilling its purpose and b) (probably) grabbing hold of the political narrative.
Those of us who sympathise with the centre-left understand Starmer’s cool determination to win. We see the barriers. We suspect, however, that any movement needs leadership; that if Sunak gets a smooth ride – remains essentially unchallenged – things will conspire towards restoring a general faith in Tory competence, however ludicrous that may seem.
A final thought. With philosophical discourse drowned beneath either a general disillusion or the acidic rants of the Twitterverse, there is a worrying vacuum. There are dangers here, which bots and Press Barons might be/have been quick to exploit. On the plus side is there not the possibility that a single individual with manifest decency, integrity and appeal (horrible word but…) could transform this vapid/wretched environment?
If any one of the progressive parties could find such a voice, in such a void, surely people would fall-in, and an Alliance Against Xenophobia and that other Nasty Stuff might begin to heave us all back towards civility and a certain level of social justice?
You may (I hope) have names in mind and agree with my good self that this feels like a job for some cross-party cooperation? Beyond Labour I can’t help but think that in Sturgeon and Lucas – very much ‘for example’ – we have people who could make a contribution.
But who else… and how?
*Some folks argue that the likes of Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Truss, Farage, even, are too right-wing, too bursting with fervour to be of the Establishment. Cobblers. They are all cosseted, all protected; they all reek of money, exceptionalism and privilege.
Pic (I think) is from Spectator, Australia. Forgive me if wrong.