There is something quite liberating when an educated technocrat loses his rag. Wow, Rishi Sunak was angry. Normally tolerant to a fault, the Prime Minister called an emergency Downing Street press conference to address the latest Tory infighting. He was. Boiling.
The intention this week had been to follow Monday’s stunning crackdown on legal immigration with an announcement at the end of the week of the “toughest anti-illegal immigration law ever.”
Robert Jenrick’s departure on Wednesday night was a big hurdle. Mr Jenrick’s principled resignation or treasonous attempt to sink the Government? Hard to say.
However, Mr Sunak’s exasperation was clear to all. Except for some goose-stepping and a horizontal index finger under his nose, he had Basil Fawlty proportions. Dishy Rishi, long considered the most Zen man this side of the Himalayas, became Biffy Rishi. In the words of Liverpool poet Adrien Henri: “I’m about to break,” he snapped.
Rishi Sunak speaks to the media during a press conference in Downing Street following the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick.
There is something quite liberating when an educated technocrat loses his rag. Wow, Rishi Sunak was angry. Normally tolerant to a fault, the Prime Minister called an emergency Downing Street press conference to address the latest Tory infighting. He was. Boiling
Rishi was more acerbic than raw celery, angrier than Oliver Cromwell’s wart. I have only seen him like this once, after the Supreme Court ruling against his policy in Rwanda. He was awesome then and it worked here too, because he was authentic. When Mr Sunak does his normal “I feel your pain” routine, it can come across as disingenuous. This anger was real.
Referring to the small ships, he fumed: ‘We play by the rules, we contribute our fair share, we wait our turn. Now if some people can simply remove all that, they will not only have lost control of their borders, they will have fatally undermined the very justice on which trust in our system is based.’ He was “totally confident” that his bill would resolve the infuriating legal obstructions.
Jenrick, unfortunately, does not share that confidence and says that is why he resigned. The conservative right may now refuse to support this bill.
Journalist: ‘Will you expel them from the party if they challenge you?’
Mr Sunak: ‘No’. But they were foolish to think that the bill could be tightened further, because that would lose cooperation between us and Rwanda. The words flew out of him at a hundred miles an hour. He bit his bottom lip, shouted his cartoons, raged at naysayers and said “blocked” seven times, forcefully, as he raced through the loopholes his bill would close. Not being a lawyer, I admit that they seemed pretty good to me. But the Law is in itself.
Being sunk by small boats? There would be a certain dark irony in it. No wonder he was furious.
Raymond Chandler once wrote about “a blonde who made a bishop punch a hole in a stained glass window.”
The transformation here was of a different magnitude. Gone is the doe-eyed Rishi who sees all sides of an argument. Absent were the grim empathy, the ivory smiles, the “you guys” and “hello everyone” approach of the Silicon Valley executive. He spat the words out of him and continued saying ‘right? good?’
The departure of Robert Jenrick on Wednesday night was a major obstacle to the process.
He frowned at suggestions that he might no longer have the numbers to pass this bill through Parliament. Steamed? Very well, he was furious. She was steamier than a Cantonese wok. More vaporous than a French prop’s jockstrap.
Irritation welled up in him. As he continued his speech and answered questions from the media, he tilted his head to the side repeatedly, analyzing his arguments. ‘You better believe it!’
He despised the pathetic, opportunistic Labor Party for not having a policy. “No one else has told me to have a plan.” The public wanted the small boats to stop ‘and I share their frustration, right? My patience has run out. I am absolutely committed to this. Our goal is to get things done.”
Whereupon, after 20 dizzying minutes, in which we had seen signs of a party leader who could really energize voters, he left the room, as if assaulted by a sudden rush of the most appalling dysentery. Or the desire to grab the nearest frying pan and force it down onto Suella Braverman’s head.