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Sunak Cleans Up The Convict’s Party Debris With A Bailout Package

The wine stains had finally been scrubbed off the walls of No 10. The puke-splattered bins had been thrown in the skip. The carpets had been steam cleaned. The last of the stragglers had been ushered out of the back door, away from the intrusive CCTV cameras.

Boris Johnson had fought off a hangover to stumble downstairs to thank the little people for all the work they had done. Though really it was an opportunity for the cleaners to apologise to Boris. The Special One. The Holy Man. They couldn’t believe how badly he had been let down by his staff and wanted to say sorry for being so slow to clear up the mess. Or that’s how Boris heard it.

Finally, 10 Bullingdon Street was ready to move on. Even if the rest of the country wasn’t. It was now just a question of tallying up the total costs of the No 10 parties – something that Rishi Sunak was preparing to do in the Commons as he delivered his latest budget. Most governments are happy to get by with one a year, but this chancellor is already on his third and we’ve not yet reached the summer. Give him a chance and there will be several more before the autumn.

The Convict bumbled into the chamber just seconds before Sunak rose to his feet. He looked dreadful, even by his current standards. As if he had just stumbled out of bed. Barely able to keep his puffy eyes open, the toddler haircut all over the place, his suit stained, his face blotchy.

If he ever caught sight of himself in a mirror, he’d plod for the hills. He could barely last the 20 minutes it took the chancellor to spend the money he didn’t know he didn’t have. As soon as Rishi had finished, he made a dash for the exit. Presumably to find a bin to throw up in. We and the Tories are so lucky to have him.

Sunak did not look in much better shape. Not that he looked ill so much as he looked vacant. The past few months have taken their toll as he has gone from leadership contender to an also ran. Just the very temporary incumbent of 11 Downing Street. Never a big man, he now seems to occupy negative space. Blink and you miss him. Not so much a presence as an absence.

Then again, you’d probably want to disappear if you knew the next hour would be a ritual humiliation. For weeks now, the chancellor has been insisting there was no money to help with the cost of living and that a windfall tax was unthinkable. It was unConservative. People who were struggling to pay their bills should just stop whinging and accept that there were limits to what they could expect from government. In fact, the poorest had a duty to die. Natural selection and all that.

Now though, Sunak had to explain that the Sunak who had said all that was a very different Sunak to the one in the Commons. He had had a prolonged out-of-body experience and had been possessed by an alien. Because the person who had said he didn’t give a shit hadn’t really been him.

Rishi tried to soften his expression. Late in the day, he had come to realise that he did care after all. He really felt for people who couldn’t afford the £10k to rent a helicopter to take them to a Conservative fundraiser. Though mostly he just felt for The Convict. Because no one was in any doubt he was really doing all this to save Johnson. If the government hadn’t lied its way through Partygate, there would have been no need for the distraction of the bailout package.

So here was the deal. Sunak was very worried about inflation. But unlike the Governor of the Bank of England, he believed he could do something about it. And what he was going to do was get the governor to do something about the thing he said he couldn’t control. Make sense of that if you can. There again, he said he was cutting taxes in the same breath as raising them. None of this seemed to fill any of his frontbench colleagues with much optimism that he knew what he was doing.

With inflation now under control, apparently, Sunak felt confident to lay out his package that was in no way intended to cover up the party debris. First he was going to introduce the windfall tax that wasn’t a windfall tax. And they definitely hadn’t stolen it from Labour who had been advocating such a tax for the last five months. The Tories had the idea for just as long. They just hadn’t known what to call it. So welcome to the world ‘The Temporary Targeted Energy Levy’.

Then there was the idea of turning the previously arranged loan into a grant. Tick. Another Labour plan hoovered up. It was as though the opposition had been given the chance to write the budget. Not least when Sunak went on to be even more generous than Labour had ever intended with a further £10bn of handouts, much of them surprisingly going to those who most needed them. The chancellor had no clue how he was going to pay for any of this, of course, but then he never had for any of his previous budgets. Perhaps something would turn up. Otherwise we were heading for a bigger inflation migraine.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves just stood up to take the plaudits. To say there would be no charge for nicking Labour’s copyright, but that now might be a good idea to hand over the running of the entire economy to her. And she wasn’t going to humiliate Sunak by saying how many U turns he had made. Well, maybe just this three times. The chancellor couldn’t look her in the eye. Instead, he kept his eyes on his shoes throughout. He was shrinking faster than the economy. It would have been kind if one of his colleagues had picked him up and put him in their pocket.

Of the Tory backbenchers, only John Redwood and Richard Drax registered any disquiet. The rest just sucked it up, maintaining their record for deep intellectual dishonesty, by pretending it was what they had always wanted and that they too gave a shit. If it had been a Labour government, they would have been howling cries of socialism.

Still, they will undoubtedly get another chance to rediscover their Tory roots. The current £15bn package will barely touch the surface of the cost of living crisis. Sticking plaster. Long before the end of the year, people will be going cold and hungry. Then we’ll see just how generous The Convict and Sunak are feeling. Odds on there will be some sleaze they want to cover up. So it will just be a question of guilt tripping them into doing the right thing.

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