Beleaguered Rishi Sunak on a wing and a prayer – and now a fasting regime | John Crace

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Nearly halfway through the weekly 36-hour fast and tempers were fraying. First the news that the Iceland boss, Richard Walker, had jumped ship to Labour and then an endless series of complaints from rightwing Tories about plans to ban disposable vapes and introduce an age limit on buying cigarettes. “FFS,” said Rishi Sunak. “Just for once, I was trying to start the week with a good news story. You’d have thought that trying to stop young people from killing themselves. But no. Turns out there’s no pleasing some people. So we’ve just ended up with more Blue on Blue action.” “No need to get so tetchy, Rish!,” said Liz Truss. “I’m not bloody tetchy. I just want things to go right for a change. One day where it looks like the Conservatives are united behind me.” “Well, I’m sorry. Look, you know I reckon you’re the ideal leader for times like these. Imagine having someone competent and charismatic? What a waste that would be given we’re going to lose the general election anyway. So far better to have someone naturally mediocre. “But even I have standards,” she stressed. “We libertarian morons must stand together. Look at it this way. If it’s OK for me to trash the economy and increase everyone’s mortgage payments, we can’t really stop kiddies smoking themselves to death.” “Count to 10 before answering Rish!,” squeaked one of his teenaged special advisers. “Don’t let her get to you. She’s not worth it.” “… Seven… Eight… Nine… 10…,” said Sunak, breathing heavily. “I AM NOT ANGRY WITH YOU, LIZ. DEFINITELY NOT ANGRY. Now can you just shut up and listen to me. The one thing the public doesn’t mind is a good old smoking ban. And you’ve gone and wrecked it. Now the Tories just look like a rabble and we’re going to have to rely on Labour votes. Well, I personally can’t wait for the day when the first 54 year-old gets busted for selling tobacco to a 52 year-old. But while you’re all here, has anyone else got a problem? Something that will make us all look really stupid.” “Er, yes,” answered the former science minister, George Freeman. “Actually I have. Something so halfwitted, even I can’t believe I’ve done it. You see, I’ve written a Substack saying the reason I resigned as a minister was because it left me too broke. I just couldn’t get by on £118,000 per year. Every month I struggled to pay the mortgage. Then there was the fiscal drag. That was a killer. Sometimes we could only afford to give the dog dried food. I blame you, Liz.” “Well, I’m not apologising,” snapped Radon Liz. Inert, but still a gas. “The country was lucky to have me.” “So let’s get this straight,” shouted Rish!. “You actually wrote that you couldn’t get by on the best part of £120,000 due to the Tories having wrecked the economy? “You are getting ratty now, aren’t you? Have a sandwich.” “FOR THE LAST TIME … I AM NOT RATTY. As I said, I just want something to go right. One thing. Is that too much to ask? And now I’ve got to deal with a complete deadbeat. I thought we’d reached the stupidity bar with Lee Anderson, but you’ve just lowered it still further. Look. I know that £118,000 is teetering on the breadline. I couldn’t get by on it either. But the whole point of the Conservatives is to convince everyone that £25,000 is untold riches. The junior doctors will never settle now.” Freeman started sobbing. “You just don’t understand,” he croaked, wiping his eyes. “I was at my wit’s end. The thing about being a minister is that it’s so much harder to be on the take. I mean, make. At least being a backbencher, you can crack on with any number of freelance gigs. “Hell, Liz regularly gets paid over £50,000 for speeches on how to bankrupt a country. All I’m asking for is for an in on a deal like the Teesside development. Imagine being able to buy an acre of land for £1 and to make £124m in two years without investing a penny of your own money. And it’s not even corrupt!!! Fancy that! That’s definitely my kind of work.” “I think you will find there’s a long queue for those types of jobs, George,” said Rish! snippily. “In the mean time, why couldn’t you try and do something useful with your life? Like signing up to be an army reservist. Last week, I couldn’t move for Tories claiming they were going to enlist. Now you all seem to have gone rather quiet about it.” “L/Cpl Boris Johnson reporting for duty!” “Now I’ve seen it all,” said Sunak. The recruiting sergeant looked doubtfully at the superb specimen of humanity that stood before him. He must be able to run three miles in at least a couple of hours. The type of man who saved the free world at Tobruk and D-day. Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler? Cometh the hour, cometh the man. “I’ve long dreamed of serving my country. To give something back …,” said Boris. “Well, you’ve done your best to destroy it so far. Maybe you could now direct some of your negative energy to our enemies. Any criminal convictions? Ah … Of course you have. Children? Shall I just put down, ‘Can’t quite remember’? Now, do you have any special talents we should know about?” “I’ve done some cold weather training. I once hid in a fridge for 10 minutes. So I might suit the SAS on special ops in the Arctic.” “Actually, I might have just the thing for you. We need more precision weapons for taking out the Houthis in Yemen. You would make the perfect Human Bouncing Bomb. A low run over the Red Sea and then over the shore and straight into the drone launching centre. It would be a one-way mission but we are looking for men like you.” “Um, perhaps not,” said Brave Sir Boris. Meanwhile in the Commons, Kemi Badenoch was, as ever, otherwise engaged – “I am definitely Team Rish!” – so it was up to the junior business minister, Kevin Hollinrake, to explain why his boss had fired the Post Office chair two days earlier. It was like this. When they had appointed Henry Staunton they had wanted someone who wouldn’t do much about the Horizon scandal. Now the ITV drama had raised people’s awareness, that was no longer an option. And Kemi had needed to look tough the day before doing a TV interview with Laura Kuenssberg. Or that’s what he meant to say. He actually had to pretend it was nothing to do with Horizon and that the timing was coincidental. Still, at least there was almost no one in parliament to hear Kev’s excuses. MPs are no longer that bothered about the Post Office. That was last week’s scandal. Not even that heroic champion of the post office operator, Lee Anderson – who once spoke for 20 seconds about the scandal two years ago, was there. Perhaps he was too busy, like Freeman, trying to earn an honest bob from his second job as a GB News presenter. He too struggles to make ends meet on £185,000. This is no way to run a country. The UK is no longer serious. Or credible.

This content was originally published here.

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