For my blog post this month I thought I would look at the announcements that I thought Rishi Sunak would deliver in the Autumn Statement and I actually got as far as putting finger to keyboard on this over the weekend – my brief thoughts are actually at the foot of this article. But then it occurred to me that there was something which I was much more interested in – where’s Rishi?
The rising star
There can be little doubt that across the Covid crisis there has only been one member of the government whose star has been in the ascendant. A very impressive performance in his first Budget speech last March followed by some appearances at the daily press briefings which were welcomed by many. Mr Sunak’s profile hasn’t been harmed by the Covid pandemic.
Of course, it is easy to be popular when you are spending money – just ask any parent! Sunak has spent billions in supporting the economy in various ways. Not everyone has been helped in the way that they would like – just ask any director of a “one-man company”, and there is speculation now that some of the spending may have been better controlled. I read over the weekend that some £3.5billion of the support given through the furlough scheme went to companies which didn’t need the money. Nonetheless his public performances have been calm and assured and have demonstrated leadership, qualities which seem to have escaped Mr Johnson of late (if he ever had them).
Watch TV over breakfast most days and you’ll be unlucky (or perhaps lucky depending on how you view it), if you don’t catch an interview with a government minister with Covid usually the subject. Of course, Health Minister Matt Hancock has probably appeared more than most but there has been a supporting cast of ministers, not all of whom are directly relating to the “Health” brief. Messrs Gove and Shapps appear regularly and even Business Minister Alok Sharma has pitched up on occasion – Mr Sharma making me wonder how it came to be that we could both be Chartered Accountants!
But no Rishi! No opportunity for anyone to listen, over their cornflakes, to the calm measured tone of the former hedge fund manager. No opportunity to swoon over his millionaire good looks as you eat your toast. Why is that? Surely if you want someone to deliver bad news, which is what we have heard most of over the last six months, there would be no one better. “Sure, we going into lockdown again but did you see the way he wore that suit”…
Bye, bye BoJo
For me, it’s pretty clear. You might think that the government have lurched from crisis to crisis, from U-turn to U-turn over the past six months or so without any semblance of a real strategy…and you might find that I would agree with you if you said that. But there is only one strategy that matters to the Conservatives. Who is going to replace Johnson?
The weekend papers were full of speculation that Johnson will resign in January 2021. Some say he wants to leave having got Brexit done in some sort of triumphant flourish (or alternatively before the fan gets full of the brown stuff). Others say that its just too much hard work for him, and his body language at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions as he was being mauled by Angela Rayner, certainly suggested that he was thoroughly fed up.
That dish is Teflon-coated
Whatever, the strategy is clearly to wrap an envelope of “Teflon” around “dishy” Rishi. Make sure that in this worst of years, nothing sticks to Sunak. Let him emerge from Number 10 in the early months of 2021, be-suited and smiling, waiving an order form for millions of doses of vaccines to end all of our worries, leaving the poor sap who inherits his job as Chancellor to deliver the bad news that it is time to pay for all of the support. Or maybe I’m just too old and cynical!
By the way, if you still interested in what I think that poor sap might have to announce as tax-raising measures, let’s just say that if you’re self employed and also looking to put money away for your retirement, I don’t think next year will be much better than this!