Yesterday, Rishi Sunak delivered the “best-constructed and best-delivered” conference speech by a Conservative prime minister since David Cameron, says Martin Kettle in The Guardian. “That may not be saying very much”, given the competition consists of “spluttering Theresa May, blustering Boris Johnson and a self-destroying Liz Truss”. But at least it had a coherent theme: an attempt to “redefine the party of government for the past 13 years as the government of change”. The problem is, Sunak was speaking to a deeply divided party that doesn’t believe he will be around to implement any of his eye-catching policies. “The audience could have greeted his speech with a chant of ‘One more year! One more year!’”
The Conservatives may be a mess, but “Sunak is to be commended”, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. Cutting HS2 shows he has grasped, “sooner than other world leaders”, that governments everywhere are about to experience a “terrible fiscal reckoning”. This is because it is becoming much more expensive to borrow, thanks to the “mad money printing” of the Covid years and Joe Biden’s “absurdly expensive” green new deal. The UK government now has to pay a 5.1% interest rate on 30-year borrowing, the highest it’s been in more than two decades. The rate paid by the US government is at a 16-year high; in Germany, a 12-year high. In these three countries, as elsewhere, a greater share of public spending will need to be allocated to paying debt interest, “leaving a lot less money for other things”. The end of the era of free money will act as a “great cleanser for our politics”, flushing out “cakeist politicians”. By focusing on cost-cutting above all, “Sunak is ahead of the curve”.