I see your plastic smile as the cameras focus in on you, your face desperate to convey pride and a sense of a achievement rather than the blind panic consuming you just under the surface. It’s entirely unconvincing, a child’s drawing of a happy man, a Turin shroud taken off the face of a corpse who actually wanted a promotion. It’s the grin of every husband who thought his wife’s suggestion of a threesome was Christmas come early, only to realise after she tears her best friend’s clothes off that he can’t get a look in sideways. You said yes, Rishi Sunak. The only thing you can do now is finish yourself off in the bathroom and pretend the whole thing was your idea.
Sajid Javid’s eleventh-hour resignation would be embarrassing for any leader other than Johnson, who’s been entirely oblivious to embarrassment ever since he was left dangling on that zipwire like a bunting-clad piñata stuffed with the sweet candy of false promises. Faced with the prospect of sacking his entire team in order to appease the whims of Dominic Cummings, Javid instead chose to walk away, creating a prince across the water mere weeks into the new administration. Bruised after Johnson’s backing of the HS2 project he’s always opposed it’s a clear return to victory for Cummings, who now has the gurning yes man he’s always wanted in the treasury.
A looser set of fingers on the drawstrings of the purse was the goal, with Cummings eyeing up investment as a means of shoring up the electoral foundations freshly laid among the ruins of Labour’s red wall. You’re the yes man and it’s time to step up, Rishi Sunak, your rise to Chancellor a truly meteoric one from your former position as Minister for blubbering “thankyou master” whenever one of the bigger boys gave you a Chinese burn. You’re bound to be as front and centre as you were as a debate stand-in, a smiling automaton hammering home the easily digestible soundbites. We’re levelling up, moving on, getting it done, the people’s priorities, et cetera et cetera. Soon we’ll all be drowned under the torrent of repetition. The messaging is now officially in a chokehold, with Number 10 already manoeuvring to deny press access to its critics.
That Cummings continues to be front and centre for every power play is telling. Johnson himself is being carefully managed, wheeled out only to buffer his way through the occasional thesaurus of inspirational words like a motivational dial-up modem. He’s being kept as far away from the spotlight of genuine scrutiny as possible, either because he’s been recognised as a total liability or because he really is as lazy and disinterested as everyone who’s ever known him says he is. It’s only been a couple of weeks and already we’re doing a cracking job of shaking off the undue influence of all those unelected bureaucrats.
As for you, Rishi Sunak? What a breath of fresh air it is to have a hedge fund manager mired in the associative bog of tax avoidance scandal in charge of the country’s finances. What a refreshing change this government is already proving itself to be. You’re a Calippo of frozen piss to a parched audience, all packaging and insulting content. You’re here to pick up the slack, punted centre stage, the assumption clearly being that even the greenest understudy must have had time to learn a three-word script like ‘get Brexit done’ by now.
You’re a cardboard stand-in, a frozen Hide the Pain Harold staring out into the stands, met only with the arched eyebrows of an unimpressed matinee crowd. I see you blink, Rishi Sunak, the corner of your fixed grin twitching, your eyes locked on the movement of one bored woman fanning herself with a cardboard programme. There’s no ovation here, no riot of applause, the occasional cough from the back the only greeting for your grand entrance.
Best of luck, you rictus meme of a man. Tread the boards as best you can and try your best not to think about the fact the whole thing is the platform of a gallows. In the wings Cummings is watching, his hand twitching on the lever.
I see you, Rishi Sunak. I fucking see you.