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British politics

Sunak’s strength isn’t competence, it’s moral fibre

Promoting Eat Out to Help Out as chancellor

“As a British Asian of the same generation, intense feelings overwhelm me when I see Rishi Sunak cross the door into 10 Downing Street,” says Janan Ganesh in the FT. “All that envy and bitterness will pass, though.” People hope he’ll provide a “restoration of competence”, largely because he understands the “folly of unfunded tax cuts”. But Sunak has “crammed a lot of misjudgments into a short career”. His Eat Out to Help Out pandemic scheme incentivised people to dine together when there was no vaccine in sight. And, unlike the Remainer Liz Truss and the opportunist Boris Johnson, he “believed with real fervour that Brexit was a good idea”. So how does he explain all the lost trade and forfeited government income?

Yet Sunak’s appointment is still a relief, if only for his moral rectitude. “Britain is a lot closer to US-grade civic rot than it realises.” Many MPs stood by Johnson despite his scandals; Truss undermined the Treasury and the budget watchdog; Theresa May, who now poses as an elder stateswoman, “ran a foul, judge-baiting premiership”. Labour, too, was under investigation for anti-Semitism as recently as 2020. Sunak, however, is “a creature of institutions, not a shaker-up of them”; he will not be one for testing Britain’s barely-there constitution. The UK, whatever the PM’s fiscal plans turn out to be, is a fading economy. “What it can still salvage is its democratic pride.”