The Guardian

Sunak’s latest ‘pledges’, Cameron in ermine – we’re in a time slip, paying for Tory rule

John Crace

It’s a variation on the old philosophical conundrum: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” If the prime minister makes a speech in Enfield and no one is there to hear it, has he actually made a speech? The resets, relaunches – call them what you like – come thick and fast these days. Scarcely a week goes by without the government making some new announcement. Usually one that demands total amnesia about anything that might have been announced previously. Because it’s odds-on to be contradictory. But every day is a potential Year Zero.

We’re in a time slip. One where the country is being punished for the Tories’ incompetence. Sunak knows it. And we know it. Which is why there were only a handful of people in north London to hear the prime minister make what was trailed as an “important” speech on the economy.

Sunak continued regardless. He’s no stranger to futility. Now was his chance to tell everyone how he had halved inflation. It was all bollocks, of course. He’d had nothing to do with inflation falling. But he was happy to take the credit and declare he was now ready to lower taxes. There was no admission that it had been the Tories who had wrecked the economy and imposed more than 20 tax rises.

“Er, is that it?” said the audience, when Sunak paused for breath. “Can we go home now?” Rishi looked desperate. Out came the old, familiar, tetchy prime minister. The one who can’t quite understand why nobody can see the sacrifices he has made to run the country. A little gratitude from the little people would be a start.

So, no, he hadn’t finished. Remember those five promises he made at the beginning of the year? Where he had only kept one? Well, forget them. He was going to make five long-term promises he would also definitely not keep. Cue a dash for the exits.

Meanwhile, in the Lords, one man was fulfilling his destiny. It was written in the stars that David Cameron would become Lord Big Dave and now that time had come. It’s Chipping Norton I mostly feel sorry for. The town has a bad enough rep as the epicentre for twats, and now Lord Big Dave has annexed it for his title. But Lord Big Dave looked perfectly at home in his new surroundings. Puffed up and plump in ermine. Just another perfectly normal day. When a former prime minister who had put the country through austerity and had carelessly inflicted the trauma of Brexit before running off to cash in with some dodgy lobbying was rewarded with a peerage.

Over at the Covid inquiry, Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser during the pandemic, was giving evidence all day. No frills, no flounces. Just the considered recollections of a man who was often the only serious person inside No 10. Take the prime minister. Boris Johnson. AKA a total halfwit. Someone who was unable to understand a simple graph. Couldn’t make a decision. Thought old people were better off being left to die in the streets. Somehow Vallance had to negotiate a path through the incompetence, disingenuity and dissimulation of Johnson, Sunak and Matt Hancock. The longer the inquiry goes on, the more you think it’s a miracle more people didn’t die.

Out came the old, familiar, tetchy prime minister. The one who can’t quite understand why nobody can see the sacrifices he has made