Politics

Does it matter that Rishi Sunak parties like the millionaire he is?


If there is an upside to having a millionaire, ex-Goldman Sachs banker with his own hedge fund running the nation’s finances, it is that we could expect him to make us some money.

Instead, Rishi Sunak has so far cost us £280bn mostly misspent on the wrong bits of Covid-19, knocked £4bn off aid so he can spend £4bn more on war, and promised to give public services money they were already getting.

The economy has taken its worst kicking in 300 years not because of coronavirus, but because he handled the problems it caused so badly. He bailed out business instead of people, and even now, when failed businesses are dragging people down with them, he still argues in Cabinet for the needs of business to be put first.

Free school meals are too expensive. An extra £20 a week on Universal Credit is something you should be grateful for. Four million people need a pay freeze, because everyone has to suffer.

Do they, though?


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Sunak’s debts and cock-ups would make perfect sense, if he was a gambling addict who has his first pint at 10am and picks his nags only after finishing the fourth. Instead he is highly-intelligent, personally successful, and yet somehow still unable to compute that £3.4bn from a public sector pay freeze doesn’t constitute even a drop in the ocean of the money we don’t have.

A pay rise for them would make just as little difference, but it would at least mean that 4m people could shop.

People can survive the failure of a business, if they can pay the bills. People can set up another business. But businesses cannot survive without customers who have money to spend, and they certainly can’t magic them up when the dole queue is 2m long, or 4m public servants are counting every penny.

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Someone who has spent his life making money should have learned that. But Rishi’s problem is that he worked in the international markets, and has never had to count pennies.



“Multiply this billion by that billion, carry the one, let’s round up that hundred million, doesn’t really matter…”

When he worked as a waiter, it was “for fun” in the school holidays from private Winchester College. He went from Oxford to Goldman Sachs, and by the age of 29 was setting up a hedge fund with friends using start-up capital of £700m. He’s been lucky – but it’s bad luck that teaches the best lessons.

When I worked as a waitress, it was so I could buy a car. Helping the chef in the kitchen taught me how to calm down someone armed with a knife. Losing jobs gave me resilience, going freelance taught me book-keeping. At 29 I was getting divorced, developing epilepsy, and fighting to keep a roof over my head: and I’m one of the luckier ones.

Others less fortunate found no fortune in their bad luck. They’re still waiting tables, or furloughed on 80% of the minimum wage with 100% of the bills. They became ill, or their businesses closed.

When you have spent your entire adult life in global finance, recessions are localised blips you can move your investments out of. But when you’re Chancellor of the United Kingdom, you need to help people who cannot afford to eat out, and can’t move their money out of the jurisdiction.



“She’s not talking about us, is she?”

It’s not Sunak’s fault he does not know how to do that. And it’s not the Conservative Party’s fault it thought the bright, personable son of Punjabi migrants would make it look better. He arguably makes a great show of what a good job he’s doing. The problem is that it’s a show.

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There are 3m people excluded from help, while businesses are so embarrassed by the millions he’s thrown at them they’re handing it back. There are 4m told they’re worth less than inflation.

There are billions of pounds lost to fraud and theft, while the taxman has been given barely any help to claw it back.

Free school meals that cost 0.1% of what has been misspent on PPE are “too expensive”, while an extra £3 a day on £13 a day Universal Credit is called “generous”. People are either “economically inactive” or “unviable”.

Now consider the story of Natasha Hayes. She is married with four children, and devotes herself to charity work, giving her time for free to help others. She sounds like someone who lives in the Shires, with a Land Rover, and perhaps is an active member of the local Conservative Association.



Meet Natasha, and her 3 year old Joseph

In fact Natasha lives in a run-down part of Cardiff, her husband Carl lost his job a few years ago, and the family had to rely on supermarket vouchers from Save the Children for their food. They saved their pennies for a few treats for the children at Christmas, but had to raid the money tin during the pandemic.

She volunteers at her local community centre where she runs a donations shop of secondhand clothes and toys, so she can give something back by helping her neighbours. She sees the struggle, because she lives it.

Natasha’s family has no economic value. They’ve paid taxes in the past, and survive as much on charity as on benefits. And were Natasha made Chancellor of the Exchequer, you can be sure that businesses would not be given so big a bailout they were actually embarrassed by them.

You can bet your bottom dollar that schoolchildren would get fed, the taxman would be given the resources to hunt down thieves, and employment schemes would be up and running now, not in 3 years’ time.

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If Natasha had been luckier, she might have been able to make her family richer. The fact her life has been different to Sunak’s is not her fault, but then she hasn’t sought responsibility for running the country.

Sunak did. He, and those who recruited, promoted, and voted for him, thought his background as a millionaire married to daughter of a billionaire showed he knew how to make money.

But all it shows is that he doesn’t notice how outrageously overpriced his coffee mug is. So how could he see overpriced PPE, or the point of paying every adult £1,000 a month during a pandemic to prevent economic disaster, or that “unviable” people are precisely the sort many of us can’t do without?

It matters that he appears to have spent £1,800 to join a club he rarely visits. It matters that his wife wears £2,000 of designer clobber for an after-work drink. It matters that he set up his own business, but with such a vast cushion that he has seen no reason to help those without a safety net.

Had he enjoyed all his good luck, and still been able to see the best way to get help to the stragglers, he’d be a great Chancellor, and an “economically unviable” hedge fund manager. Had he ever struggled, feared, or fretted, he’d know how the 7m people he’s declined to help are feeling now, and he’d make a fine Prime Minister one day.

But because he’s a great banker, he’s a poor politician, unable to see the need for help never mind find the means of delivering it. He’s an “economically unviable” Chancellor, who still argues the pandemic matters less than profits even as we tumble into his debts.

If the man in charge of the purse-strings can party with millionaires while children go hungry, then he’s not up to the job of spending cash our wisely, or well. He puts on a great show, but that’s it.





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