The Leaders Slug It Out, The Country Outside Pays No Mind mdi-fullscreen

Is the soubriquet “Inaction Man” really going to last the distance? The Labour benches gave its debut a great shout of welcome just now, as though it was kicking off the general election campaign.

But is “inaction” the word that springs to mind when we think of our busy elf of a PM? He darts, he jabs, he occasionally runs rings around his opponent (“Prison escapes were 10 times higher under Labour!”) He has all the facts, most of the arguments and enough of the footwork when the facts or arguments abandon him. He is, if anything, hyperactive.

Isn’t the PM better characterised as Busily Ineffectual Man?

As Keir and others pointed out, whatever Rishi has said he’s doing about it, the small boats keep coming, violent criminals are still released early, Wandsworth prison is so dysfunctional it ought to be shut down, public buildings are crumbling with leprositic concrete, there’s no real strategy to deal with our vast opponents in the East, the national grid is in no shape to electrify our energy system, cancer waits are measured in geologic time, and HS2 is simply out of control and beyond the reach of any mortal.

The theme of Keir’s critique is: “The prime minister failed to heed the warnings and is desperately playing catch-up.”

There may be some truth in this.

The fact is, we’re going through a cultural change that politics is powerless to affect. The great public services are making unilateral declarations of independence and are fighting to the death (mainly our deaths) for more money, more time off, less supervision, and no neo-colonial, quasi-fascist directives to turn up at the office.

No matter how active our leaders are, they can’t make these people, these public servants, do anything they don’t want to. Keir will be just as a great an example of uselessness, as and when his time comes.

Towards the end of PMQs we had some delicate indications of Rishi’s new thinking around the single greatest issue for the West – that is, climate change. Both sides agree on its apocalyptic potential. One side sees humanity being incinerated in an atmospheric bonfire – and the sensible, conservative side sees the destruction of western capitalism and the collapse into anarchy, poverty and extinction of the most successful culture in world history.

What side is Rishi on? While he lets us know he is passionately committed to Net Zero, he claims to be committed to allowing people to do what they want. When asked whether he was about to “ignore his climate advisers” and allow the expansion of Luton airport. He said, “My approach to Net Zero is not one that requires people to give up things they enjoy doing”.

That feels a little undercooked for a Sunak analysis. The lack of detail suggests a lack of thought. And if he hasn’t thought it through, the machinery already in place will continue to grind away, producing ever-greater restrictions, prohibitions and costs.

He can’t allow it to do so. If he does, it will result in the greatest apocalypse that Westminster can imaginatively encompass: everyone will lose their seat.

mdi-tag-outline PMQs Sketch
mdi-account-multiple-outline Keir Starmer Rishi Sunak
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