Rishi’s Road to Redemption

“Rashid Sanuk is now the prime minister,” said Joe Biden at a White House gathering last week to celebrate Diwali, an important festival in the Hindu calendar.

Not long afterward, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, arguably the worst living embodiment of politically correct public appointments, added that “President Biden looks forward to speaking with minister Sanuk Sanak in the upcoming days.”  

Both Joe and Karine must have meant Rishi Sunak.

If they did—and this is not at all a given—they transitioned, presumably against his will, Britain’s brand new prime minister to just a minister and from a Hindu (Sunak) into a Muslim (Rashid) and, from there, into a brand of comfy sandals.  

Indeed, Sanuk.com was founded in 1997with one simple goal: to make people smile.”

And smile we did!

Whether consciously or not, the American administration has relegated the entire British government from reality to a rumor.

Given Joe Biden currently occupies the Oval Office, it is most likely to have been an unconscious solecism. This would, of course, be much worse.

An unintended insult is much more wounding to its target than an intentional one.

Indeed, the well of contempt in the current U.S. administration for her supposed ally must be so deep that its content burst unwittingly onto the public stage, revealing the true nature of our “special relationship” for all to see.

Rishi Sunak wanted the top job.

Having long planned Boris Johnson’s removal from office, he now has the position.

But if the reaction of the American administration is anything to go by, the omens for his and his party’s survival are not good.

Rishi Sunak is well-educated, sharp, and diligent.

Currently, however, he has no real mandate, no electoral footprint, and little recognizability.

In short, he doesn’t have real legitimacy.

Pedants, who refuse to see the writing on the wall, might talk about the fact that the United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy to justify the electoral crime that was just committed.

Johnson, it is worth remembering, won a vote of no-confidence in June, only to be ousted by no more than 15 percent—a fraction!—of the Conservative members of Parliament in July.

They had threatened to change the 12-month “no leadership challenge rule,” designed to make the shark-infested waters of party politics workable.

With the help of a hostile media and powerful interest groups, this small clique bounced the United Kingdom’s prime minister out of office—and with it, dismantled the entire credibility of our electoral system.

Rishi Sunak’s team might try to convince itself that it did the right thing. If the polls and the reaction to his rule so far are anything to go by, however, the broader electorate remains unconvinced—quite rightly.

Now that the deed is done, though, Sunak has only one road to redemption and just one shot at keeping his position.

Without the broad appeal, the charisma, and the election-winning reputation behind him, he only has competence to sell.

Competence, though, is a dangerous word.

There are two definitions of the term in our political universe.

The first one is defined by the leader’s ability to fit into the five-decade old orthodoxy of abiding by the precepts of international law, rules, and regulations.

This type of competence might be rewarded with better but ephemeral news coverage, particularly from irredentist outlets like The Economist, the BBC, and the Financial Times.

It might also stabilize the financial markets in the short term, although the current dislocation has much more to do with the insane inflationary policies of lockdowns, artificially (and absurdly) low interest rates, and quasi-infinite money printing.

It would involve pursuing outlandish and deeply unpopular policies such as “net zero,” mass immigration, and “gender politics,” among others.

The second type of competence would imply focusing, laser-like, on delivering for the British population the things that matter to them.

That would imply tearing down decades of a deeply seated habit of telling the electorate “what it wants to hear” but doing exactly the opposite.

The crux of the dilemma is that international law and domestic priorities contradict one another. They are not and can never be compatible.

One is a product of powerful special interest groups working together for their own self-interest on a global scale; the other requires the implementation of policies that focus on what the electorate itself thinks is important.

For over five decades, most of our leaders have followed the former model, not the latter.

The jury for Rishi Sunak, while still out, will not be long in coming back with its findings.

In his first prime minister’s questions, Sunak reintroduced the ban on fracking, having told the Conservative Party membership he supported the activity only a few weeks ago.

However, a spokesman announced that Sunak would not attend the COP27 climate summit in Egypt next week due to “other pressing commitments.”

What are we to make of that? Is he a “net zero” nut, or is he a skeptic?

It used to be said that “by their deeds, ye shall know them.” And so we should.

Here, we stand witness to a man saying one thing and doing the exact opposite—in line with most of his predecessors.

Another sign that Sunak will choose international orthodoxy over national common sense is that out of a Cabinet of 28 ministers, nearly 60 percent are “remainers,” and, by definition, believers in the concept of international law trumping domestic considerations.

It was perhaps inevitable.

But what he must know is that the electorate wants competence in delivering for them according to the issues they consider the most important.

That is to say: real control of our borders; ending the imposition of gender and race-based policies across all departments of state-funded organizations; realigning the focus of the police towards fighting real crimes from burglaries to rape gangs and dropping thought crimes; rebuilding an energy independent United Kingdom with a broad energy mix, making use of all of what has been bestowed on us by fate—that is to say oil, gas, coal, nuclear as well as alternatives; concentrating on food security, and dealing with our long-standing financial incontinence.

Sunak has a choice to make. He can choose to please a small group of powerful interest groups or the British people. If he does the former, Biden and Jean-Pierre will have been right: the name of our prime minister will be forever an irrelevance. 

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About Alex Story

Alex Story is a senior manager at a London brokerage. He represented Great Britain in rowing at the Olympic Games. In 2016 he won the right to represent the people of Yorkshire and the Humber in the European Parliament but didn’t take the seat.

Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images