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Artillery Row

Pathetic fallacy? Pathetic government

Sunak’s sad announcement was miserably symbolic of Conservative failure

Perhaps Rishi Sunak thought announcing the election in the rain would make him look tough and resilient. He wasn’t going to speak in a nice dry room, like Keir Starmer. Who does that? Some kind of pussy?

For journalists, the temptation is to reach for the pathetic fallacy. The rain symbolises the Conservative government — wet and underwhelming.

True enough, but it is an example of something else — bizarre stupidity. Nothing compelled Mr Sunak to make his announcement in the rain. Either he and his advisers are so bewilderingly silly that they thought “drowned rat” would be a good look or he’s so checked out that he doesn’t care.

It would be unfair to address Mr Sunak as if he is responsible for the last fourteen years of Conservative governance. When he says that the British economy is doing better than expected, he isn’t lying. But for a Conservative politician, “somewhat better than expected is simply not enough”. The fact that Sunak’s list of his accomplishments ended with his plans to phase out legal smoking doesn’t just speak volumes, it speaks oeuvres.

“I hope that my work, since I became prime minister, shows that we have a plan,” Sunak said. I hope that I become a millionaire and buy a golden boat. Hope is cheap. His record is not going to help him here.

Just today, the Financial Times reported that the government is backing away from its idea to reform the graduate visa route. Sam Bidwell and Luca Watson have already written on why it should be done. But it also sums up how bad the Conservatives have become at politics. Announce a controversial policy, riling up your opponents, and then shrink away from it, annoying your supporters.

Labour “have no plan”, Sunak declared. Well, that’s arguable. Certainly, I happen to think that Labour have bad plans. But they are reigning and ruling in the polls because the country don’t seem to care. The voters have a plan and it’s to get the government out.

Sunak dripped back into number ten, like a young football player who has just been rained on for ninety minutes en route to a big defeat, to drape his sodden socks over the radiator. The best that he can hope for from that visual is not respect but vague sympathy.

Yet it wouldn’t be deserved. He’ll be fine. It isn’t his fault that he’s super rich, unlike all the MPs and staffers who will be quietly and miserably updating their CVs, but it makes it hard to sympathise. As does the fact that none of it needed to happen. The Conservatives are not victims of circumstances a quarter as much as they are victims of themselves.

Pathetic fallacy? Pathetic government.

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