Farrukh Dhondy | Are days already numbered for Hedgie Sunak? Third cheer soon

The Asian Age.  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

Already the unions, railway workers and medical staff, including 80,000 nurses, have declared that they will go on strike. Apocalypse soon?

British PM Rishi Sunak. (Photo: AP)

“Beauty is in the mind of the beholder

The eye has no capacity to judge

Pride doesn’t seem to precede a fall

That fall always needs a decisive nudge…”

From Isthri ki Histhri, by Bachchoo

There was understandable rejoicing in Punjab when Hedgie Sunak was nominated by his (lava) Tory party to be Britain’s current Prime Minister. Was there rejoicing in Gujarat when Priti “Clueless” Patel was appointed as home secretary in the previous Uncle Tom’s Cabinet; or did Goa raise a Russian spliff when Leaky Sue Braverman (or Cruella) was appointed to the same post by the short-term PM Liz Truss, and then get reappointed by Hedgie?

I, for one, mean-minded as ever, didn’t rejoice when these fellow Indian immigrants assumed their positions, though I shall certainly uncork a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc when, as is inevitable, they stumble and fall.

Clueless has already gone. One cheer. Cruella’s career is, for the second time, heading steadily for the iceberg. Two cheers. And as for Hedgie? He has sought, fought for and inherited an unsustainable position. It’s only a matter of time before the third cheer is called for.

Whatever the reasons — partly the Covid-19 pandemic, partly the energy crisis caused by the Hitlerian invasion of Ukraine, but mainly Brexit — the British economy is in a precarious state.

Inflation is up to a record 10 per cent. The cost of food and fuel is, some estimates say, up by anything between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. Government borrowing has hit a record high, the price of property has taken a dive, mortgages have gone up to unaffordable heights for some…

I could go on, but will pause as some of the indices and disastrous consequences I read about require specialist economic expertise, which I don’t have.

Neither did Liz Truss or her short-lived chancellor of the exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng. They outlined their financial plan for “growth”, which led to a total economic crisis and finally to their swift, ignominious resignations.

Hedgie and his chancellor have to now grapple with reducing the national debt and steering the economy back into some semblance of viability. They’ll publish their budget later this month, on November 17.

They have already indicated that everyone’s taxes will have to rise and government spending will have to fall. The manifesto on which the party was elected should, through any respect for democracy, be adopted and adhered to by an unelected, appointee Prime Minister. That manifesto promised wages would keep pace with inflation. There is no way that Hedgie and his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, can deliver on that promise.

Already the unions, railway workers and medical staff, including 80,000 nurses, have declared that they will go on strike in pursuit of this demand. Apocalypse soon?

Despite the threatening clouds, the pollsters still tell us that the public trusts the Tories with the economy. It’s possible that this poll result, flying in the face of all the disastrous evidence, relies on the perception of Hedgie as a banker and hedge-fund gambler.

There is of course counter-evidence as to his acuteness with economic truths. In 2016, as a keen campaigner for Brexit, he publicly announced that leaving the European Union would immediately save £20 billion. Alas, the Office for Budget Responsibility has now calculated that leaving the European Union has cost Britain £80 billion pounds each year. So Hedgie had better polish that crystal ball.

And then there is his reputation for being a clever politician. Really? A week ago Hedgie’s office told the press that he would not be attending the COP27 climate conference to be held in Sharm-al-Sheikh, Egypt, this month as he had too much work to do. This implied that other world leaders, such as the Presidents of the United States and France, for instance, had no pressing affairs to deal with in their respective countries. It was insulting and ill-judged and the media said so. Then BoJo’s associates announced that he would attend COP27, though as an MP without any Cabinet responsibility, he wouldn’t have the authority to represent Britain.

Hedgie’s crystal ball began screeching its alarms. BoJo would go there and upstage the UK’s PM. So, of course, Hedgie made his first U-turn and agreed to represent the country at COP27. Politically acute?

And then there is his attempt to bring the right wing of the party into his coalition by reappointing Cruella as home secretary. She said she dreams of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. Under her stewardship, a facility designed to house 1,600 asylum seekers while their claims to enter the country were being processed, has been forced to cram 4,000 men, women and children into its prison-like former airbase. They are accommodated in makeshift tents, are sleeping on floors with inadequate food. Disease and disputes have broken out in these cramped conditions.

Cruella, speaking in Parliament, said the country was being “invaded”. Her deputy minister was forced to apologise for her intemperate language and the pressure from the Opposition and the media for her resignation increases by the hour.

There is, gentle reader, one “Indian” MP, now out of the Cabinet, called Alok Sharma, who has made some sensible interventions lately. He had called for Hedgie to attend COP27. Now he’s demanded that Hedgie impose a “windfall tax” on companies such as Shell which made £8.2 billion in profits as a result of the worldwide energy crisis. Opening divides in the Tory party? Third cheer getting closer?