Now, however, I’m beginning to wonder if Sunak’s impressive appearances at Downing Street’s daily press conferences are a coincidence from their first appearance. Most of his older colleagues grew up in movies and comics that glorified or still celebrated WWII – beating the bestial Hun – so it’s no surprise that they are stuck in the state of spirit of the coronavirus as a battle to be won. An enemy to beat.
The Chancellor does not come with any of this luggage. He was not even alive when the first Star Wars film was released and was only two years old when ET was released. His childhood battles were largely experienced through light sabers and phasers. His cultural credentials belong to a different generation from those who raised him in Jerry. In short, he can speak human of the 21st century.
It is also fair to say that Rishi must have grown quickly. During his six months as chancellor, Sajid Javid was unable to deliver a single budget. In just under two months, Sunak is now on its fourth. The first was the Brexit budget, which was largely a complete fantasy work designed only to reassure many members of the Conservative party that everything would be fine once we left the EU. Then came the first coronavirus budget for those on PAYE. Then the second for the independents. We now have a third for the charitable sector. Do not further exclude in the coming weeks groups which he realizes are still forgotten.
Not that Sunak could claim he was doing more than a modest bailout. The charitable sector was hit by £ 4bn losses and many layoffs, and all the Chancellor had to offer was a relatively modest package of £ 750m for those on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus. But at least he was clear about what he was doing. Not the slightest claim that it could save every charity or every job. He even talked about the new spirit of people who depend on each other. Kindness and decency. Words that would have had the almost invisible Priti Patel and the too visible Iain Duncan Smith choking on their drinks early in the evening.
Although he insisted that he had been moving at a decreasing rate from the start, the reality is that the government has spent the first two months doing almost nothing and has been playing a desperate catch-up game ever since. No amount of showing the same slide at every press point on how fewer people were using public transportation would change that. Sunak’s three coronavirus budgets have glued plasters at best. The very expensive ones.
The first misstep occurred when Sunak and the two health advisers tried to pretend that Professor Chris Whitty had not said that testing had been the key to the much lower death rate in Germany. He had. Me and millions of others have heard him say just that. So try to imply that the Germans cheated a little bit by testing so many people and that the death rate in the UK could be just as low if we had done as many tests as we felt lousy. All of a sudden, Rishi, who was speaking frankly, didn’t seem so outspoken. And he was also happy to let another minister announce that the foreclosure would not end soon. He was just there for the fun stuff.