Rishi Sunak has ascended power atop an estimated fortune of £730,000,000 (that’s around twice the estimated wealth of King Charles III). His coronation preceded that of his poorer royal colleague and arrived after months of complete silence from the forty-two-year-old.
It’s difficult to get your head around those numbers. To put that in context Enough is Enough has calculated: “Sunak’s estimated wealth is £730 million. A worker earning the median wage (£31,772) would need to have been working since the Stone Age 22,976 years ago to amass the same. And that’s without tax. Remember it when he tells you to tighten your belt.” Politics Joe calculated that Rishi Sunak would still be a hundred-millionaire if he gave every person living in poverty in Britain £50 of his own money.
He faced no scrutiny or questions – no ballot other than his MP colleagues – and said nothing during the debacle of Liz Truss’s short time in office. In fact, on his arrival today he barely said anything either, staring off into middle distance …
Rishi Sunak’s speaking style makes Liz Truss look relaxed and fluid. pic.twitter.com/lCD1Wolh74
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) October 24, 2022
The glee on the faces of the Conservative MPS yesterday as they welcomed back Rishi Sunak to save them from the disaster they had imposed on themselves and salvage them from the economy they have wrecked and the geopolitical disaster they have created, was palpable. At last, someone to save themselves from whoever has been in charge of this godforsaken country. Sunak’s followers have conjured more revisionism than his Johnsonian colleagues: re-writing Eat Out to Help Out as a huge success; remembering the Furlough as an act of strategic generosity rather than reluctant inevitability; and eliding over the ex-Chancellor’s Green card scandal (he kept his US green card for six years while an MP, including 19 months as chancellor). They’ve forgotten he cut Universal Credit and pensions as Chancellor, and they’re quiet too about his investments too.
Sunak has previously avoided publicly declaring what companies or funds he holds investments in and where these investments are held. His spokesperson would not say what jurisdiction his holding was in, nor when his “blind management arrangement” was set up. It is likely that still holds stock in Theleme, the Cayman Islands-based hedge fund that he co-founded. But nobody knows, and nobody really cares.
In late April he brought in tax breaks to benefit fund managers who are non-doms. In fact, the whole qualifying asset holding companies regime is likely to be used by people who work in his former industry. In late October he became PM.
We have gone from a Prime Minister who we didn’t know how many children he had, to a Prime Minister who we don’t know how much money he has.
The Tories may have breathed a huge sigh of relief as they bundle Truss out the back door and sweep Sunak in, brushing all under the carpet and claiming, ‘nothing to see here’. But the notion that this is a re-set, back to default settings, that the past *checks notes* twelve years is some kind of aberration s a comforting fantasy. The problems that beset our society, not just in Britain, are so vast and challenging that we need leadership and new forms of organisation that are barely imaginable. Instead, we witness the pretence of business as usual – with a veneer of bland diversity rhetoric – as we watch the Tory Cult inheriting twelve years of their own mismanagement of the country.
As James Butler has written (‘Short Termism‘):
“The spectacle of fringe libertarianism crashing and burning on contact with the real world would be funny if we didn’t have to live through the consequences. It isn’t clear what Conservatives think conservatism is any longer: what aspect of actually existing British society (rather than ersatz Victorian fantasy) they seek to conserve, or even what they think the roots of the country’s problems in fact are. The easy, nonsense answers – Remainer fifth columnists, decadent critical race theorists and debauched metropolitans – have their idiot adherents still, some of them sincere and dangerous rather than merely cynical. But they are fictions that won’t stand up to the very real problems of the winter now bearing down on us. The kind of serious reflection that’s needed is better done in opposition, which is one reason it’s vanishingly unlikely to rear its head in the coming week, even if there were anyone capable of it in the party’s ranks.”
Today Sunak stood in front of No 10, with a tone hovering somewhere between Playschool and Primary 7 Assembly, and paid tribute to Liz Truss and Boris Johnson’s ‘incredible achievements’.
He intoned hard work and integrity, as if these were incredible, mythical concepts alien to humankind.
While the Tories are presented as a brawling mass – divided over Europe, culture wars, austerity and fiscal strategies – in reality they are united on tax avoidance for the rich and a punitive benefit system, a hard Brexit, and Austerity 2.0.
Sunak – the man who is so in touch he thought Darlington is in Scotland – is our 57th Prime Minister, the 10th Tory PM Scotland didn’t vote for.
While Sunak’s campaign video highlighted his family’s wonderful opportunity to come and live here – while at the same time his government is actively stopping other people doing the same thing. It’s staggering hypocrisy. As Labour’s Zara Sultana has said: “So Rishi Sunak – the richest MP in history – is going to become Prime Minister, with plans to cut funding for public services and slash workers’ wages. This Tory class war will be waged with no mandate, without a single vote being cast.”
The media is already full of chastisement for anyone who brings up Sunak’s vast wealth and background as if it’s an irrelevance. Make no mistake the serious tone he projects is because he knows exactly what’s ahead. In reality, he embodies Britain in 2022, rule by the Super Rich over mass-poverty. When he bravely talks of “difficult decisions to come” we all know what he means and who he represents.