People often complain to me that “you’re all in it for yourselves” or “you can’t trust a word an MP says” or “your vision only lasts as far as the next General Election, but what we need is long-term planning”, and similar cliches. (Versions of which are as old as politics and statesmanship. I am sure that the ancient Greeks suffered similar views.)
Well, I personally think that Rishi Sunak’s immensely impressive and visionary speech on the final day of the Tory Conference confounds most of those easy and ill-thought-through criticisms. He is personally wealthy, and therefore quite plainly not in it for himself. If he were he would doubtless be a CEO of some High Tech company in Silicon Valley (like Nick Clegg, the former Lib Dem Deputy PM!). His vision for a better politics addresses some of those concerns, as must his readiness to take difficult (and perhaps unpopular) decisions.
I have always opposed HS2 as a waste of money, and of little benefit to the West Country. Lockdown has changed our way of working, and train access to the North of England is no longer as essential to the Nation’s economy as may have been thought before that. So I welcome the cancellation of the Northern leg with the £36 Billion saving being reallocated to transport needs across the nation. That may be unpopular with some of the ‘red wall’ seats; but it is the right thing to do. We are seeing some of the money from this being invested locally, specifically to the A350 (Chippenham By-Pass), the electrification of the line between Chippenham - Bath - Bristol TM and £2.8billion promised on resurfacing roads to end the scourge of potholes.
As a product of the Scottish system of education, which has a broader ‘highers’ prospectus than the traditional English “A-level” one, I also welcome the news about the changes to the education system, the ‘Advanced British Standard’ which will be introduced over the next decade or so (no short-term thinking there.) A broad education, including English and Maths among 5 or 6 subjects seems to me to provide a good broad education, with greater specialisation thereby being delayed until University.
And the progressive introduction of a ban on buying cigarettes and vapes must be the right thing to do, albeit unpopular with the tobacco companies, true libertarians and with young smokers alike. You get hooked at an early age, and then cannot stop as so many people have discovered. It’s the right thing to do, albeit coming in over many years, and unpopular in at least some quarters.
The same applied to his softening of some of the mechanisms towards Net Zero by 2050. He will still achieve that vision but will do so in pragmatic and economically less damaging ways. His solution to the intractable problems surrounding Northern Ireland post-Brexit; his approach to Ukraine; and so many other areas all demonstrate vision, an attention to detail, a readiness to do what he believes to be right for Britain, and calmly and quietly to explain it to those who- for perfectly good reasons- may well disagree.
Surely that kind of approach to so many areas of Government policy is exactly what we need. A quiet, visionary yet pragmatic, professional way of addressing our Nation’s problems. I suspect that more and more people are coming to realise that ‘Sunak-ism’ is exactly what we need.
PS. I was delighted to welcome my third grand-child to the World on Tuesday - Francesca to join Fred and Nina, and glad to report that Mother and daughter are both fine.