Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Rishi offers light amid gloom for Tory Party

Rishi Sunak is to be congratulated. After the psychodramas of Johnson and Cummings, Truss and Kwarteng, some semblance of normality has been restored to Westminster.

Normality – Rishi Sunak

Yes, there are still noses in the trough; but at least the pantomime antics are at an end. With Sunak and Hunt, the grown-ups are in control and – at last – it’s all about policy, rather than personality. It makes you wonder how the Daily Star will fill their front pages.

That’s not to say there’s no longer despicable behaviour. Matt ‘Coco’ Hancock is doing his best to undermine trust in politics. Not content with trousering £400,000 and being tutted at by Boy George – if only the grieving Covid relatives had had it so good – he’s busy laying the blame for his failures on care home staff.

While he was snogging his aide, ruining his marriage and sending his mates up the VIP Covid contract lane, workers in care homes were risking their lives. Many agreed to stay for prolonged periods of time, not seeing their children or families, to reduce the risk of Covid transmission. Hancock ate a camel’s penis and was paid handsomely. Go figure.

Having grown-ups in charge – Hancock, it might be said, is neither – doesn’t bring to an end the Government’s problems. A bruising defeat in the Chester by-election, the decision by young and experienced MPs not to stand for re- election – bye, bye Sajid, you were one of the good guys – shows which way the wind is blowing. Labour have a mountain to climb, but the Conservatives have become their sherpa.

As we head into winter, there’s a culture clash between the owning class and those who rent or work for others. The dividing lines are simple. The owning class is getting super rich. The others can’t afford the central heating. That means the enmity between unions and politicians/business owners has reached new peaks.

The Government is banking on the general public getting fed up of train drivers, postal workers, nurses, criminal barristers, firefighters, teachers, lecturers, transport workers, security workers, cleaners and others, and siding with it. Even Shelter staff are on strike, as they worry about becoming homeless themselves. What the Government fails to realise is this – those workers ARE the general public.

Spoiling for a fight with essential workers who helped us through Covid is likely to backfire. Our letters may be late – but the postman can’t afford school uniforms for his kids. Meanwhile, fewer people will rely on trains, such companies as Currys have dropped Royal Mail and the economy continues to tank.

There’s a counter-argument that not cutting people’s wages contributes to the inflation that’s making us all worse off, though try explaining that to a mother of two who can’t pay the rent and who’s reading headlines about the profits made by water company owners, energy firms and more.

The thing is, the companies making the big bucks aren’t playing the game. They’re not in it with the rest of us. So more than half a million households who are already in debt have had prepayment meters installed in the past year. That means their charges are higher and it’s more difficult to get help under the Energy Bills Support Scheme.

The rhetoric that the Conservatives are the ones to trust on the economy has been exposed as a nonsense – which begs the question: what else have they got up their sleeve?

Migration policies aren’t working, and are widely viewed as cruel and inhumane; Brexit is having a more negative economic effect than Covid and leaving UK growth trailing other EU member states, including Italy, France, Spain and Germany. Industrial relations are at a low ebb and our advocacy for green energy targets seems to get thinner with each passing week.

Bullying, bigotry and other poor behaviour is rife in our public services – and those who speak out are damned as being ‘woke’. The levelling up agenda has died a death.

So while it’s heartening that the grown-ups are back in charge, there are no easy answers to a growing range of issues at a national, regional and local level.