IT comes to all of us… at that point you realize you are older than the prime minister. Although certainly not richer.
Without giving away enough personal details to identify my identity, I have a few months on Rishi Sunak who – at 42 and a bit – has just become the youngest Prime Minister since the Earl of Liverpool, Robert Jenkinson, in 1810.
Wikipedia tells me that Lord Liverpool was the first prime minister to regularly wear long trousers instead of knee-length breeches – a move golfer Payne Stewart apparently never accepted.
Fashion history is perhaps less kind to Mr Sunak, whose family fortune of £700million, however, compares somewhat more favorably to my £700 overdraft.
In 2021, as chancellor, the super-rich minister was famous – at least on Twitter – pictured wearing white socks and a pair of £95 Palm Angels ‘sliders’.
That is, expensive flip flops worn by young people.
The unfortunate photo was one of those carefully composed but intended to look casual pre-budget photos that politicians think kids will swallow.
Some of the kindest comments on social media cesspools have seen keyboard warriors telling Sunak to “look his age”.
Fair comment. However, the best way he could act now is as a grown-up Prime Minister for the whole country, given the time of undeniable crisis.
This may seem obvious to most people, given that this is the Prime Minister’s job.
But the last two, at least, ruled like morons – and we all paid the price.
In Boris Johnson, we had a narcissistic and reckless Chancellor who treated Downing Street and the power of the Prime Minister’s Office like his personal plaything, as I have said before.
In Liz Truss, we were led by a Prime Minister hypnotized by crackpot lobbyists, who played in front of the podium of a minority of Conservative Party members and in the process nearly brought the country down in record time.
Perhaps Sunak too will suffer from similar short-sightedness, due to the vested interests of the party whose MPs swept him to power, rather than the electorate.
But he’s not stupid. And hopefully the record of his two predecessors – not to mention Lord Liverpool, of which later – should serve as a warning.
In politics, a lot can change in a very short time, as Liz Truss would attest.
But it’s hard to see much long-term prospect for Rishi Sunak beyond stabilizing the ship.
Whether or not he succeeds as prime minister is likely to mean the difference between humiliation and honorable defeat for the Tories in the next general election.
That’s due in January 2025, unless Sunak bets on an earlier vote. But why would he, given Labour’s staggering lead in the polls?
Truss’ absence and the relief to many that Boris won’t be returning should be enough to close that gap somewhat in the weeks to come.
But if all else remains equal, the show of the self-interested Conservative Party for months now – focused not on the public, but on itself – is likely to live long in the minds of enough of voters to ensure that Labor maintains this lead. In the coming years.
Some polls in recent weeks have shown the Tories holding just a handful of MPs in the next election – and even with the SNP as the biggest opposition party.
Such snapshots can stretch plausibility. A significant portion of the population will always revert to their old loyalties at election time.
Many conservatives have privately conceded that Sunak’s task now — politically unenviable — is to roll the party back from near obliteration and shore up a solid electoral base to begin a period of opposition in 2025.
In a way, you could say he takes one for the team.
And whatever your politics – unless you’re a far-right crackpot – the appointment of a British Asian MP as Prime Minister is a welcome step in UK history.
Wealth can stop a lot of things – but not be the target of racial prejudice.
For that reason alone, the SNP will be suspicious of how they approach Sunak, far more than their unfettered bashing at Truss and Johnson.
The Nats – a party that often puts virtue above all else – will have a much harder time demonizing a British Asian PM than they did with, say, a selfish jester or a Margaret Thatcher robot impersonator defective.
The SNP press release on Sunday evening after Boris’ exit was a failed mix-up which stated that “with his ruthless austerity record of his time as chancellor, we know Rishi Sunak will be just as bad as Johnson the was for the people of Scotland”.
Given that Sunak is best known as the off-duty guy, this forward line might not be the most fruitful.
And, as bad as Johnson? Go on.
And unlike Truss, who famously said Nicola Sturgeon was ‘better ignored’ – and didn’t contact the Prime Minister once while in office – Sunak took a far less silly stance this summer when quizzed on how he would handle the SNP. leader, saying avoiding it would be ‘dangerously complacent’ and that it was essential to have a ‘laser focus on delivery for every part of our UK’.
Fairly obvious political reality – but something, remarkably, with which Ms. Truss failed.
Unlike the two previous prime ministers, Sunak is not a foot-in-mouth politician.
Unfortunately for us hacks, it’s actually a bit boring.
But one of his big vulnerabilities — other than his dysfunctional party baggage — is undoubtedly his own wealth.
Together with his wife Akshata Murhty, they sit on a fortune of around £730million.
A sum not to be overlooked.
But Sunak made no secret during the summer leadership campaign that he needed to tighten his belt after soaring borrowing.
And if he sticks to new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s approach and seeks cuts, his reputation as the man who opened the purse strings during Covid will quickly fall.
The cost of living crisis is simply not an issue for Mr. Sunak personally.
But, politically, his personal situation matters.
All government ministers enjoy a privileged position over the people they serve, by virtue of typical six-figure salaries and the power they wield.
But for someone of Sunak’s wealth and status, if his government turns the screws on the worst in society, he won’t be a hard target.
For his opponents, it will be like knocking on a barn door.
And it may be around 200 years old, but it would be worth Sunak leafing through the history books of Lord Liverpool’s record, a brilliant young Tory, to see what fate may hold for him now.
He too lived a privileged life, and he too was 42 when he came to power in 1812.
He was soon saddled with a massive national debt – sound familiar? – following the Napoleonic wars.
This has led to steep tax hikes, major disruptions and waves of violent industrial action.
If this all sounds a little too Sunak-like, that’s because it is.
Lord Liverpool, however, continued to manage 15 years in power.
If Sunak gets three, it will be remarkable.
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