Rishi Sunak has shown he’s just not a very good politician
In all the accusations about the Sunak family’s finances, one thing seemed, even by the standards of British politics, remarkably hypocritical. All political parties now rightly stand for equality. But as early as 1882, Gladstone’s second administration passed the Married Women’s Property Act, reversing centuries of English common law and a husband controlling his wife’s assets. Now, 140 years later, so-called progressives are attacking the Chancellor for not playing mid-Victorian paterfamilias and keeping control of his wife’s finances.
The absurdity of attacking Mr Sunak for the way his wife, who is not even a British subject, manages her considerable wealth only highlights the cowardice and stupidity of using it to undermine him: for he should to be obvious that he had dug his own political grave deep enough without his enemies arming him.
A lot goes not just with British economic management, but with the presentation of economic policy, and the responsibility lies with him. He helped other parties challenge the Conservatives’ economic record. Specifically, he has made it easier for those of his colleagues who wish to prevent him from taking over from Boris Johnson. It is rarely wise, if one has prime ministerial ambitions, to be heir apparent, as a number of failed former ministers will confirm. Mr. Sunak, unfortunately for him, became the last.
It is not advisable to be Second Lord of the Treasury in a party openly in favor of lower taxes at a time when the tax burden is at its highest since the days of Mr Attlee, when we had to pay for World War II. It’s no good presiding over public spending seemingly out of control – pandemic or not – to the point that your fellow Fraud Minister resigns because you show no desire to tackle £4.3billion Exchequer fraud caused by Covid loan schemes: not to mention £9billion written off for unnecessary personal protective equipment.
But perhaps worst of all – and this seems to have become the main card against the Chancellor – it doesn’t seem like a good idea to be a very wealthy man with an even wealthier wife at a time when, according to the news, some people feel they have to choose between eating and turning on their heating, and you just made a lot of them pay more national insurance.
Being extremely wealthy should not be a disqualification for holding high political office. However, the Chancellor’s public relations of late have been abysmal, especially for one who was previously so diligent (perhaps too diligent) in projecting an appealing public image. While he understands what life is really like for many of those he helps govern, he makes a poor showing by communicating that fact. Notably, a photo op he staged during the fuel tax cut last month only served to suggest his inexperience in filling up a car, leaving others to assume he has a man who pulls the toupee who does it for him.
Ms Sunak’s agreement to pay tax on her overseas earnings in Britain has been reported as a ploy to save her husband’s career. It’s probably too late. The Prime Minister, having seen the failure of many ministerial colleagues and backbench MPs to support Mr Sunak, can conclude that he could reshuffle him without too much harm. With all the talk about the Sunaks’ global property portfolio and that Mrs Sunak is richer than the Queen, Tory MPs are now openly saying he is too rich to be Prime Minister. Given what Labor calls “the cost of living crisis” and Mr Sunak’s lack of tact in handling his public image and policies, they may unfortunately be right.
In a meritocratic party, a leader must be chosen according to his abilities. Unfortunately for Mr Sunak, however, what has really undone him is that his talents are now in serious question. The fortune of his family, compared to this defect, is a secondary matter.