Wednesday 4 January 2023

Rishi Sunak's Can't-Be-Arsed Speech

It turns out Rishi Sunak was keeping his powder dry re: the NHS crisis, because he had a major speech scheduled for today about his vision. We got a preview over night as several papers led on his big idea: force everyone to study maths up to the age of 18. There might be some merit in doing this, and some of the base would be clucking with approval and painfully demonstrating to their spouses that they still know their six times table, but it's not exactly the answer to the crisis-on-many-fronts currently consuming his government. Big problems require big answers, after all. Did the Prime Minister's speech address them?

No, it did not. Nearly all of it was pure piffle. Lots of stuff about "change", about having positive mindsets (did the speech writer read Matthew Goodwin's awful article?), of the importance of innovation. There were words about reinvigorating high streets, tackling anti-social behaviour, and strengthening education (maths!). Add in a dashing of family-focused policies and how the NHS is important to him - though he still refuses to be drawn on whether he uses it or has private health cover. Changing the country for the better requires hard work but, drawing a line under his disastrous predecessors, he pledged to be honest about the difficulties and that "I won’t offer you false hope or quick fixes, but meaningful, lasting change." Who could he possibly be talking about?

It was classic vacuity from Sunak, but wait! There were some concrete promises in there. Five to be exact. He promised to halve inflation inside a year, grow the economy, get national debt falling again, reduce NHS waiting lists, and tackle small boat crossings in the Channel. Pretty small beer stuff. Inflation, for example, has been forecast to fall whether Sunak goes full Keynesian or spends the next year playing tiddly winks. What matters here, which none of the establishment journos are picking up, is even if it does halve that is more price increases on what they are today. They will not drift back to what they were this time last year. Therefore the cost of living crisis won't be going away, and judging by the content of the speech there is nothing, nothing here suggesting Sunak plans to do anything about it. Likewise growing the economy and reducing debt, left to their own devices one will grow and another will shrink in due course. Though it's worth noting in real terms the latter is shrinking already: inflation, and particularly inflation spikes reduce the value of debt. So if the OBR's inflation forecast is correct, it follows that Sunak doesn't have to do anything to shrink it. Call me cynical, but these are very easy "wins" that don't require much in the way of effort.

How about hospital queues? Again, leave it long enough and the scenes of carnage and lines of ambulances at A&Es will reduce in time. As we move into the Spring, the flu will die down and Covid might recede (before the next inevitable wave of infections anyway). Imagine going into the May local elections and Sunak trumpeting about how the NHS is through the worst and that having to wait hours for an ambulance is so many percentage points down on its January peak. See, maths skills do come in handy. Again, this basically entails Sunak doing nothing. And lastly, one of the "people's priorities" is, apparently, stopping asylum seekers from reaching these shores from France. A Tory party priority, certainly, but not really anyone else's. Still, it fires up the base and gives them a wedge issue as they try and claw back some of that toxic Brexit populism. Which is exactly why Sunak reappointed Suella Braverman as Home Secretary. Getting the necessary legislation through the Commons shouldn't be much of a problem. There are definitely no Tory rebels on this issue. But if those boats keep coming, and they will, Sunak has set the Tories up for more pain and might offer an opening to the otherwise irrelevant Reform UK.

In all, this speech sounded like it was something to fill a hole in the calendar, to assure people that Sunak was still there despite ducking out of sight when there's trouble. But surely no one, not even the most loyal brief case Tory could be inspired by this slog of sound bite and slipperiness. Indeed, Sunak himself said the government will deliver on its promises ... or it won't. Convincing stuff. Without treading yet again on the Prime Minister's political strategy, paring down his programme to a dismal set of promises is consistent with his class politics of doing nothing. Except for that to work, it does require leading Tories to at least look the part and act concerned. Judging by this New Year address, it appears Sunak can't even be arsed to do that.

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Ken said...

Force everybody to do maths up to the age of 18! Has the man any experience of schools outside the private school bubble?
(Note to self, stop asking obviously rhetorical questions.)
There are not enough maths teachers already.
There are not enough coming forward in teacher training to fill these gaps.
Maths teachers can find new jobs outside of teaching relatively easily.
What will 16 year olds choose to do if more maths is foisted on them?
I think that teaching statistics should be compulsory. Particularly focusing on “How politicians lie/mislead”, where the use, or misuse, of graphs indices and so on is widely understood.

Old Trot said...

Utter soundbite empty crap from Sunak indeed ! What happened to his Big Idea of turning the UK into a 'cryptocurrency global hub ' ? Oh, yeh, the cryptocurrency Ponzi bubble has just burst for the umpteenth time -- so better just sidle away from that one. He seems to be not pushing so openly the long-discredited neoliberal bullshit of 'freeports' quite so openly now though either . But lots of these deeply damaging criminal enterprise zones ARE still coming to the UK all over the place.

Sunak is actually little different from Liz Truss in his free market madness ideology, just slightly less manic about it. He comes across , not as a very bright person , as he basically must be purely academically with his qualifications - but as an over-sheltered immature rich boy, with no commonsense nous at all. If only genuine political 'adults in the room' were waiting in the Labour wings to save us all. Unfortunately the now totally back in control Labour neoliberals are just as personally corrupt as the Tories, just as beholden to Big Business privatisers, and just as totally bought-in to the bogus ideology of globalised neoliberal economics and social engineering. And the new Gen Sec of the TUC, by his latest comments, seems fully onboard the Starmerite/Blairite express to ever greater austerity for the majority of us ("Labour can't just turn the money taps on" apparently !) .

Politics in the UK today are a deeply dispiriting place for socialists to be trapped in . Laughing at multi millionaire ex hedge fund wonk , Rishi Sunak', crap slipperiness and policy vacuity is OK for a brief moment, but the bigger picture is very grim indeed .

1729torus said...

A maths curriculum designed for 17 year olds who plan on going to college to study subjects such as Social Sciences, Business, Law or the Humanities is going to be quite different from one intended for 17 year olds who plan on doing vocational education. Has Rishi thought this through?