Over the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow, seats are blue

“Stick with the plan that is starting to deliver!” Rishi Sunak was addressing voters in Accrington. He looked considerably more excited than they did. Perhaps they’d seen helicopters before. Or perhaps they felt that if after fourteen — fourteen! — years in office, your plan is only just now starting to deliver, it might not have been a very good plan in the first place.

If that was how they felt, then the prime minister had a dire warning for them. “The alternative is Keir Starmer, who would just take us back to Square One.” Back to Square One, eh? This was presumably 2010, a time when you could see a doctor, send a parcel to France without filling in a form, and walk down the street without passing rough sleepers. Who would want to return to such a terrifying hellscape?

He often seems to suggest that his Year Zero is October 2022, when he took over from the Wicked Witch of the Hot Mess, Liz Truss

I’m not being fair. You’ll recall that the key issue in the election that cost Labour power was the exploding level of government borrowing. When Labour left office, Britain’s national debt had risen to a horrifying 76% of GDP. After 14 years of careful management, the Tories have got it up to a much easier to remember 100%. That plan really is starting to deliver.

It’s possible Sunak means a different “square one”. He often seems to suggest that his Year Zero is October 2022, when he took over from the Wicked Witch of the Hot Mess, Liz Truss. He’s got a point, too: the country really was in an awful state. Everyone will have their own lesson to draw from this, and the one the prime minister is hoping voters will go for is: Tory governments are safe so long as Tory members don’t get to pick the Tory leader.

Anyway, “stick with the plan” is the Conservative election slogan, and who knows, perhaps it still will be this time next week. It keeps changing, and they never settle on one, possibly because the slogan they really want to use is “Britain is Broken. Don’t Let Labour Fix It.”

Sunak moved onto his talking points. There was the NHS. “We’ve virtually eliminated the people waiting the longest,” he said, and I guess that is what will happen to sick people if they can’t see a doctor, though it’s not an ideal solution.

There was personal finance. “We’re now in a position where we can cut your taxes,” he said, waving his arms for emphasis. Behind him, the people of Accrington looked unimpressed. Perhaps word has reached Lancashire of fiscal drag.

There was the Post Office scandal. “These things started a very long time ago,” he said. “People should know that we are on it. The Justice Secretary today is meeting with the relevant ministers.” Perhaps, just perhaps, the government should have got onto this without the help of a TV show, but that may be expecting too much. As things stand, people with an urgent problem they need ministers to address are advised to lobby the ITV Drama Department.

As long we don’t call the election, it exists in a state of being both won and lost

And there was Starmer. “He’s been leader of the opposition for four years now,” Sunak complained. “And in that time, he hasn’t said what he would do differently.” This was damning criticism indeed. There are few things worse you could say about Labour than that they’re going to do the same things as the Conservatives. The prime minister went on: “That’s because he doesn’t have a plan. He just snipes from the sidelines instead.” It’s always fun when people in government complain that the opposition haven’t changed anything, although ministers get upset when you point out that there’s an obvious solution.

It’s very confusing listening to Sunak. He exists in a kind of quantum political space where he wants credit for things the Conservatives did before he was even an MP (school reform) but not blame for things that happened while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer (pandemic handling). Keir Starmer might or might not have a plan that would take us back to Square One, which might be April 2010 or might be November 2022. I hope you’re keeping up.

This stuff is hard to get your head around. There are a few laws: the faster a prime minister’s helicopter moves, the more he’s weighed down by his party. And Sunak’s Uncertainty Principle states that you can know either the event the prime minister is referring to or whether he thinks it was his responsibility, but never both at the same time.

Still confused? Let me try and explain it a different way. Imagine, if you will, a ballot box containing a dead cat, and millions of votes. As long we don’t call the election, it exists in a state of being both won and lost. Until we open the box, we can’t know the result. Except that, let’s face it, we really can.

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