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Artillery Row

Rishi Sunak losing will be a blessed relief

The Conservatives should be put out of their misery

I used to enjoy elections. The first election I remember is 1997, when I was 9. I remember Tony Blair sashaying along Downing Street, shaking hands with his giddy supporters. I didn’t like him then and still don’t.

Spool ahead 27 years and another long period of Tory rule is collapsing around us.

It is in the nature of politics that every now and then the pendulum swings. But this time, it’s different. The Conservatives leave office with no achievements to their name. The economy is in tatters. Nothing has been conserved. In many areas, voters have transitioned from angry to forlorn. They simply can’t believe how badly they’ve been let down. To make mistakes is forgivable. To so obviously and arrogantly betray legions of decent people — and for what? — has to be punished.

But it was with a palpable sense of relief, rather than anticipation, that I watched a rain-sodden Rishi Sunak stand outside Number 10 and announce he’d decided to check his government into Dignitas.

“Bold,” was David Cameron’s one-word response to the news. The past week will no doubt crystallize the view amongst many Conservatives that the decision was another huge mistake. 

Putting it off, however, would have been like putting off dental surgery. The abscess merely gets worse. The tooth has to be extracted, the pus drained.

It’s a pity that the Tories’ recent election broadcast played into their current, fatal reputation for chinless wonder ineptitude combined with deception. Not only was the image of the union flag upside down, but the advert was peppered with untruths (what the ordinary punter might call “lies”). Small boat crossings have risen, not fallen. Waiting lists are ticking up. The tax burden continues to rise.

This kind of bullshit does Sunak, in particular, no favours, given he is trying to stand on a semi-Presidential platform of being the kind of honest, reliable guy who will tell you the truth, even if that truth is unpalatable. He’d be better off levelling with the country, and apologising for levelling the country.

Perhaps he’s given up. The decision to leave D-Day was more than a misjudgment, it was offensive. It revealed a Prime Minister and circle of advisors who simply don’t understand their own country. Particularly for dweeby men like Rishi Sunak and his “political secretary” James Forsyth — who, like me, have never spent a moment of their lives in physical danger — it should be an honour to be there. Not only is it an insult to the United Kingdom, it’s an insult to our allies, too. It’s an insult to history. 

The ugliness of the Tory campaign has been compounded by the blatant gerrymandering of their candidate selection.

The internal process has been, like all internal processes when they become inconvenient, set aside. Chairman “Ric” Holden is merely the latest cock to flap along the chicken run. Elsewhere, bad advisors are being forced on local associations, where — if they survive the bloodbath — they’ll refashion themselves as bad MPs.

For those of us who have decided they won’t — can’t — vote, there has at least been some amusement. Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner’s ongoing tiff. Sir Ed Davey reinventing himself as a children’s entertainer. Maladroit mini-Gove Sebastian Payne failing to get selected for his mentor’s seat.

But the Conservatives are, to use a psephological term, stuffed.

Number 10 has denied that Sunak originally planned to skip D-Day entirely. Unfortunately, his integrity is now so damaged nobody will believe it. 

And this problem — that nobody believes anything the Tory party says — will dog the rest of their campaign.

Perhaps Sunak’s sudden resignation, and the conspicuous clearing out of all the silly-ass dross around him, would save a few seats. I don’t think he is an evil man. He is a privileged man, privileged in a way that removes him completely from the life experience of virtually everyone, including those with conventional wealth. His political inheritance was atrocious.

But, in the end, both he and the country simply couldn’t go on. To paraphrase Yes Minister, paraphrasing Tennyson: “Cannons to the right of him, cannons to the left of him, into the valley of death rode Mr. Sunak.”

At least we only have 4 more weeks of this madness, then it’s all over for half a decade. The 5th of July can’t come soon enough. It will be a blessed relief.

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