Wednesday 8 November 2023

Laundering Sunak's Reputation

It keeps coming up and I'm sick of seeing it. Suella Braverman says something outrageous ... and Rishi Sunak is criticised not for sacking her, but for being too weak to do so..

Yesterday's exchange at King's Speech questions are a case in point. Criticising the light agenda of the coming year's legislative programme (it's almost as if an election is due), Keir Starmer mocked Braverman for dubbing homelessness "a lifestyle choice". He then goaded the Prime Minister, suggesting her posturing was driven by her future leadership campaign, and this reflected poorly on the government. Summoning his internal headmaster, Starmer told Sunak off and said neither the government nor him were "serious". The look on Sunak's face did suggest the criticism had punched a bruise. Immediately afterward, Yvette Cooper and sundry others took to the Twittersphere (Xsphere?) and immediately jumped on the "too-weak-to-sack-her" train..

It's time, once and for all, that this idea went to landfill. Because it's wrong. That all cabinets and shadow cabinets, from council chamber to Commons have to strike a balance between the factions sitting on the benches behind them is a truism of politics. Woe betide those who disregard it. But suggesting Sunak can't sack Braverman because she might cause trouble is ridiculous when you consider how slight her support is. The 2022 leadership election had Braverman on between two and five per cent of members polled - behind Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, and Tom Tugendhat. Not to say Truss and Sunak. In the first ballot of MPs she got 32 votes, which fell to 27 in the second. And her popularity hasn't improved since. Sunak doesn't need her to shore up his position. Despite her ambitions and sense of aggrandisement, in parliamentary terms she's a minnow..

No. Sunak appointed Braverman within a week of her originally resigning as Home Secretary not because she is super competent and was what briefcase Toryism needed. It was to inflame, stoke up tensions, and say racist things. The Tories want a populist Brexit-style substitute to glue an electoral coalition together, and the dominant school of thought thinks going hard on reactionary tropes is the way to do it. Braverman is a megaphone for this politics. She does it so Sunak doesn't have to. He has a "reasonable" brand and a socially liberal vibe to protect, and he won't want the stain of overt racism spoiling his shiny suits as he circulates among Silicon Valley people after the next election. If you need more proof of his intentions, then why on earth did he appoint the thug Lee Anderson as deputy chair of his party if it was not to provide distance between himself and the strategy of engineering wedges?.

In other words, stop letting Sunak off the hook. Saying he's weak and has to suffer Braverman is giving him an alibi. Instead, the attacks on the homeless are his as much as they are the Home Secretary's. As is the Rwanda plan, the dangerously authoritarian rhetoric about Palestine solidarity, the gross abuse of trans people, and the thousand and one shitty things his government have done this last year. Responsibility rests with him, and it's a failure of the duty to oppose to launder his reputation in this way.

1 comment:

Sean Dearg said...

He's worse than weak, he's complicit. He's using he to say all the things he thinks will bring in votes, while looking down or rolling his eyes as if to say "she's nothing to do with me, gov". The worst sort of manipulation and mendacity, but all part of the contemporary politicians toolkit. Starmer has his pet gammon basters, such as Wes Streeting or Rachel Reeves, who say the things he wants said, but not by him.

Principles, integrity, honesty? Who needs them? Everything you say will get twisted around and taken out of context anyway, so better a) say very little, b) say what you know the chief twisters will like or c) get someone else to say it. Option d) say what you believe and stand by it, requires you to have some beliefs, and to stick with them. That's never going to work in a world where facts are what the loudest voices want them to be, and news is controlled by a small coterie of self-obsessed billionaires, or their fawning hangers-on.