I finally got a Brexit benefit. Not really. But first, the journey.
For someone trained at Goldman’s and The Children’s Investment Fund, Sunak is notably lacking in ruthlessness. He had a great opportunity to present himself as a clean break with the vulgar and shameful interests of the Boris years. For example, he could put the ethics adviser on a statutory footing, give him the right to launch investigations without being asked, distinguish himself from his predecessors and put brakes on Labor’s ability to misbehave while in government. Labor could hardly refuse their support. Hell, he could have done exactly what Boris did when he became Prime Minister and got rid of those who didn’t share his vision (or at least have some sense of self-preservation). But instead of discarding some of the more obviously useless and/or resisting members of the previous regime –
- He re-engages Suella Braverman who manages to combine honesty, incompetence and a lack of ruthlessness in a way that is decently unpalatable to anyone, no matter where you are on the migration debate. As a result, the Home Office is losing migrant children. childThis requires us to guess who has been trafficked for purposes that cannot be contemplated.
- Gavin Williamson – a man at the back of the class who plays with his tarantulas and makes raffia baskets – was given a post and soon left, as was inevitable. Did Simon Case (we’ll come to him later) forget to suggest to Sunock that there is no real constitutional requirement for a Chris Grayling type in the Cabinet?
- Nadeem Zahavi has been appointed as the chairman of the party. Why? Even the most damning investigation would have raised so many red flags that they could be peddled at a conference of Corbyn fans. Fluent and capable as she is, if Zahavi were to appear in an Agatha Christie play, you’d be just that i know Unless he’s a true villain, he’s no good.
- Dominic Raab has been made Lord Chancellor again, despite being at worst against some pretty useless recent competition. He faces 8 separate bullying investigations. His Bill of Rights came back a second time. It is a sign of how little he is regarded that even the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee cannot hide its disdain for the absurdity of the bill, even in the title of its report (“The right to bring home, then send back“, “There is no case for the bill“, “Undermining human rights protections“, “An overwhelming lack of support“)
Then we have Simon Case, who, for all his education and experience, seems to have no understanding of what a conflict of interest is, how to avoid or mitigate it, and how to avoid the problems that undermine, what harms, the civil service. It is beyond the moral foundations of government and creates endless problems for government. 5 months after Boris left, stories abound about how he, helped by the case or not stopped by him, has tarnished every independent institution and process and embedded Epictetus’ quote in the heart of the Tory party and government – “Each animal is not attached to anything like its own self-interest.” Case’s chief achievement is, like Cressida Dick, her vice-like grip on her work. God knows what we will uncover when he is gone.
Partygate, Russian money, government roles given to party donors and their wives, abuse of honorariums, fast-track VIP channels for lucrative deals for friends of Tory MPs, highly prized credit lines given to the Prime Minister without transparency, casting of friends and colleagues in roles, taxpayers’ legal fees Taking for granted, endless lies, harassment of journalists asking questions,Only a few people pay taxes” When the Tories raise taxes to levels not seen for decades – the stories come so fast it’s hard to keep up. It’s almost numbing. It shouldn’t be. We can be – and usually have been – better than that.
Does Sunok accept this? Does he not see that it harms him? Or is he so weak that he can do nothing about it?
But look at the bright side. Our politics and public life have become positively European. It is difficult to know which country we resemble. I am for Italy – a mixture of rotating leaders, financial corruption, personal morality and a stagnant economy living on past glories – a “A series of cultural clichés connected by motorways” (in Grayson Perry’s excellent phrasing) – positively Italian. But there are many European countries to choose from: Hungary, Ireland, France – and even the EU itself, no stranger to morally dubious behaviour. When it comes to rejoining the EU – or some other less formal arrangement – we will have no difficulty demonstrating that our public morality is of a European standard.
Hooray! Brexit benefits at last! Not divergence, but convergence. I expect my handwritten thank you letter from Jacob Rees-Mogg to be delivered by Postillion someday.