It never rains… Rishi Sunak must have been hoping for at least one day when his home secretary didn’t dominate the headlines. He could just about cope with her being malicious and vindictive. What he hadn’t banked on was her being hopeless with it.
So there was no chance for Rish! to plan ahead for his day trip to Cop27 next Monday. Not that he needed time to mug up on climate change. He’d already made clear he had little interest in that. No, his main concern was that he got more photo ops with other world leaders than his arch rival, Boris Johnson. Hint: that just wasn’t going to happen.
Even though Macron, Biden and co know The Convict is totally amoral, they’d rather spend time with him than with a no mark like Sunak. Someone who couldn’t be counted on to still be in office by Christmas. The UK is now officially a world laughing stock. Here’s the thing. While there may be any number of Tory multiverses where manifesto promises are both kept and broken, there are none in which the government is even halfway competent. A connecting synapse in cabinet is a wish too far. We have gone from full on Trussterfuck to completely Sunakered in a heartbeat.
As it was the firefighting in the Home Office restarted on Wednesday night and continued throughout Thursday. First immigration minister, the baby-faced five-year-old Robert Jenrick, announced that there would be a judicial review into his department’s handling of the refugee crisis as the Manston processing facility was not being run illegally. You’d have thought not breaking the law was the minimum requirement for a home secretary. But we live in unusual times.
Then came the news that the Home Office had driven a mini-bus of 11 refugees in flip-flops up to Victoria station and just dumped them out in the street. Sayonara losers! Weirdly, a departmental spokesperson had said the refugees had not been dropped off in error. Which rather suggested they must have done so on purpose. It’s a look. Finally another clarification. The refugees had said they were being met by family and friends and no one had thought to check if they were telling the truth. Why would you? It’s not as if the government has a duty of care or anything.
Leaky Sue chose not to apologise. Rather she came out fired up to make life even more miserable for asylum seekers. She was fed up that her £200m and counting plans to export undesirables to Rwanda had so far delivered precisely no one on to the streets of Kigali. So she now briefed the rightwing tabloids that she was going to try out the same trick on Paraguay, Peru and Belize. Surely they wouldn’t mind. Except it turned out they did. Belize was horrified at the thought of taking refugees who had ended up in a third world country like the UK. A place where diphtheria, scabies and MRSA were rampant. The foreign minister insisted Braverman must have got the wrong end of the stick. It was the UK that was the designated recipient of people Belize didn’t want. People like Lord Ashcroft. There was only so many tax exiles a country could take.
By now Rish! had had enough. Leaky Sue was sent down to Kent to do a tour of Manston. She took a helicopter from Dover to the facility. Just in case she met any refugees who had broken out. Quite what he thought the visit might achieve was anyone’s guess. But he had to look as if he was doing something. Braverman remained tight-lipped throughout. She couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Surely it was a sign of how well things were being run if a facility designed to hold 1,600 people for 24 hours was taking 4,000 for a month or so? She refused to meet the media and take questions, so that insight died on her lips.
It wasn’t just the asylum system that was failing. Not to be outdone, the police service was also falling apart on the Tory government’s watch at the Home Office. And so the newly demoted – and never was a demotion more earned – junior Home Office minister, Chris Philp, was forced to come to the Commons to explain why a recent report had found widespread failures of misogyny, sexual misconduct and criminality in police vetting procedures.
Philp didn’t have a lot to say. What could he? The report had been both damning and depressing in equal measures. It rather looked as if the only defence was that for more senior roles in the police, vetting procedures were rather more stringent. To become a superintendent you needed to have been convicted of aggravated burglary as a bare minimum. All the minister could do was apologise and insist that the three recommendations made to the Home Office would be acted upon. If only there was a precedent for the department obeying the law.
At lunchtime on Thursday, Leaky Sue could breathe a little easier. The focus was off her for a while as the Bank of England announced it was raising interest rates by 0.75% to their highest level since 2008. Inflation needed to be battled and the UK was heading for a two-year recession. And after that we could only look forward to barely noticeable bottom-feeding growth.
It was about now that Jeremy Hunt regretted making his comeback as a replacement chancellor for yet another failing Tory prime minister. You only know you’ve hit the bottom of the barrel when the splinters begin to show. The first few weeks in the job had been the easy bit. Just undoing everything that Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng had proposed. You or I could have done that and looked competent. It was undoing the last 12 years of Conservative economic mismanagement that was more tricky.
Hunt gave a brief TV interview. It wasn’t a Tory-made disaster. It was just a disaster the Tories had made. And the really great thing about this recession was that it had happened on the Conservatives’ watch. Because the Conservatives could be trusted with the economy. If the same recession had occurred when a Labour government was in power then the country would be totally screwed.
“Er…” said the chancellor. It was all going to be tough. Especially for the prime minister who stood to see millions of pounds wiped off his £730m net worth. So we should all Pray for Rish!. “Will that do?” asked Hunt, desperate to get away. It wouldn’t. It really wouldn’t. But it was all we were going to get. Welcome to Breadline Britain.