Rishi Sunak is: Barbie 💝
What Was He Made For?
The Tories are already sitting on the green Opposition benches, judging by how they speak to the media, parliament and even to themselves. The airwaves are filled not with ministers’ on-message soliloquies to Conservative policy success, focused attacks on Labour weaknesses and tomorrow’s ambitions, but confused lamentations on institutional failures of the state, and frictional socio-cultural politics that appeals to an ever-shrinking base. Like 2023’s eponymous Barbie, Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives seem to be asking 'What Was I Made For?’
The party is convulsing under a chronic identity crisis. It campaigns for low taxes, while governing under the highest tax burden since the Second World War. It’s not pursuing any realistic policy to build more houses, and is even implementing the opposite, while saying we need to build more houses, while also saying that we shouldn’t.
The party campaigns against the nanny state and for personal freedoms, while seeking to terminate end-to-end encryption to listen in on your private conversations, risking Apple and Meta leaving the UK market. It’s a pro-business party, but Britain hasn’t seen productivity or income growth in nearly two decades, and businesses are more interested in courting the Labour Party, which is actively listening to them, not lecturing and hectoring.
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The party is pro-HS2, but also against it. It’s the cause of the project’s high costs per mile with its restrictive planning policies, but it’s also against it costing so much, but it’s also for the project if it’s scaled back — in the process reducing its utility while adding to redesign costs for less capacity — which it then campaigns against, because the project will no longer be as useful and will cost more. It champions, introduces, and calls for the hastening of implementation of the ULEZ low-emissions policy in London, then showers London residents with anti-ULEZ leaflets in by-elections.
The party campaigns against the ‘woke’ institutions that it governs and funds. It’s tough on crime while it oversees the decline and decay of the criminal justice system. It was pro-austerity during the early David Cameron years, before loudly jettisoning the policy under Theresa May. It’s pro-family, except childcare costs in Britain are among the highest in the OECD. It’s rhetorically anti-immigration, but it presides over the highest legal migration figures in history, which, post-Brexit, it now has full control over1.
The party is pro-fiscal responsibility when it comes to ‘inflationary’ nurse pay, but it hands out above-inflation ‘non-inflationary’ increases in the triple-locked state pension to its grey-haired votemasters. It’s pro-nuclear power, while it lets the British nuclear industry atrophy into obscurity. It’s pro-renewable energy, but it oversees an effective ban on onshore wind. The treasury effectively campaigns against the infrastructure spending backed by its own government. The party’s Deputy Chairman, Lee Anderson, is not fired for openly stating government policy is failing.
It’s all so fucking tiresome.
All this while suffering under one of the largest parliamentary majorities of the postwar era. So much power, and so little to show for it. It’s like the curtain cord has been pulled and revealed Sunak as the Wizard of Oz, frantically pulling at golden levers and putting on a show, while achieving little for his theatrics.
It is said that the main difference between first-past-the-post (FPTP) and proportional voting systems is that under proportional systems, coalitions are formed as governments, after an election. Whereas under FPTP, the coalition is formed well-beforehand, in the form of big-tent, centre-left or centre-right, catch-all parties, that span varied ideological traditions, but stand a decent chance of being elected to form majority governments.
Being part of one of these big tents is the only way to achieve elected office, while disunity, famously, prevents election wins. The incentive to stand together, and march onwards as brothers in arms, is inherently strong in a non-proportional, winner-takes-all Westminster system. It encourages national conservatives to link arms with a ragtag bunch of progressive libertarians, gammons, One Nation paternalists, high-Anglican traditionalists and radical liberals. This usually works, as evidenced by the Conservative party’s extraordinary historical record of success.
What is there to unite over right now, though? Usually, progress, growth, achievements — a strong, inspirational leader — these all paper over the yawning ideological cracks between coalition factions. The reason for this oppressive sense of opposition from within the governing party is there is nothing to unite for. Far easier to oppose the very adverse outcomes that you’ve accidentally campaigned for, voted for, and implemented, than actually defend them.
But instead of moving on, the country is temporarily stuck in a marriage of convenience. We must count down the days and months until an election — solely to satisfy Sunak’s desire for a personal legacy, and to delay the Conservative Party its electoral fate, which at this point is already a foregone conclusion. The couple remain together in the marital bed, but the sheets couldn’t be colder. What a waste of everyone’s time, and Britain’s potential.
Dominic Cummings wrote recently of Sunak:
He spends his time wading through endless detail and spreadsheets on fifth order matters because it’s psychologically easier than doing the PM’s actual job which he doesn’t know how to do nor wants to do.
Officials obviously prefer him to Boris or Truss. He reads the papers diligently and is neither a crook nor a cretin. But the old hands know it’s roughly the Brown failure mode: a workaholic, the PM’s office a massive bottleneck and can’t sustain focus when the news shifts, the smartest MP but can’t build a team or lead etc etc.
No10 is so politically lost that OFFICIALS suggest ways the PM can achieve his priorities faster and his OWN SPADS say ‘no too aggressive’. The fundamental reason for the boats failure is choices by the PM’s political team and a reluctance by Sunak to face unpleasant reality, not deep state resistance.
This is it, at least until the next parliament. Fiddling with the minutiae, and GammonFM culture war caterwauling, as Britain limbers up to enter its third decade of productivity and real income stagnation. No first-order strategy, just vibes, fifth-order tweaking, and policy announcements that won’t even come to fruition.
We all know what’s coming at the next election. They know too, as they confirm they’re not standing at the next election in their droves, ashamed of their own lamentable record. It’s just a shame we have to wait for it.
Did you enjoy this post? You might enjoy this one about what Rishi Sunak stands for here (hint, it doesn’t seem to be much):