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The problem at the heart of Sunak’s operation

George Osborne once told me how he came to realise as chancellor that the best thing about being in politics is spending money and making a difference for people who need help.


Yesterday was meant to be the fun bit of the job for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as he toured the north of England throwing out £2.1 billion-worth of cash handouts from the back of his No 10 car as part of his Government’s levelling up agenda.

It did not go quite like that, as my colleague Dominic Penna, who was with him, sets out for The Telegraph.
All PMs have good and bad days in office. Yesterday was a bad one.
I was the first to forecast here on Tuesday how Trussonomics is back. I did not forecast how quickly it would become the number one debate among Tory MPs. Suggesting that anyone arguing for tax cuts is an idiot was naive at best.
For me yesterday’s difficulties – capping a week when the Government scored an own goal over trans conversion therapy – goes to the problem at the heart of Sunak’s operation: for me he and the team around him appear to lack the political touch they will need over a bruising two year run-in to the general election.
They should ask themselves why it took former PM Boris Johnson in a brief speech last week at the Carlton Club to articulate what most Tories really want – tax cuts, or at least the promise of them. They are not idiots.
Stepping back, the political optics should have been in Sunak’s favour – with the PM in the North of England and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with the world’s elite in Davos.
Starmer even – unbelievably – said that he preferred being at the Swiss ski resort to Westminster.
Yet for some reason Starmer has emerged unscathed from a remark which would have been political suicide for him just 18 months ago. Instead he has made himself look more statesmanlike, rather than an out of touch north London lawyer rubbing shoulders with other very rich people.
The political momentum is very much with Labour. I interviewed the party’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting for Chopper’s Politics podcast this weekend. I can now see why he is so often talked up as a future Labour leader.
Painting his party as “a centre-Left party building a big tent” for “disaffected, upset, angry Conservative voters”, he told me: “I really want Telegraph readers, even those who are dyed in the wool, lifelong Conservatives to give change a chance and vote Labour.
“What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t feel that we’ve made progress and delivered on our promises after one term – boot us out.”
Streeting is attempting to de-risk Labour as an option for Conservative voters. And it may be – as Peter Mandelson told me on my podcast last September – that we have just reached a point in the political cycle when voters stop listening to the governing party and switch their attention to the other side.
There are still two years until the next election, but the Conservatives have to start punching back at Labour, and highlight the party’s plans for, say, wealth taxes, and – whisper it – Brexit.
Starmer is already in a battle over joining the EU single market with London Mayor Sadiq Khan which I expect to be a continuing open wound for Labour over the next two years.
Today in Davos Starmer had to say there was no “political case” for rejoining.
And polling shows that Sunak is more trusted on the economy than Starmer. All is not lost for the Tories. Why can’t the party demonstrate that it can see that too?

Published by Guestspeaker

A joint effort of several authors who do find that nobody can keep standing at the side and that “Everyone" must care about what is going on in today’s world. We are a bunch of people who do not mind that somebody has a totally different idea but is willing to share the ideas with others and to be Active and willing to let others understand how "today’s decisions will influence the future”. Therefore we would love to see many others to "Act today".

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