Rishi Sunak could be marketed as a cure for insomnia. In years to come, people will say, “I was having awful trouble getting to sleep and then I took a Sunak Statement, and within a minute or two it knocked me right out.”
The Chancellor’s calm, deep voice dispels the restless anxieties which keep us awake however tired we may be. “I will take care of it all, I am today launching a new microloans scheme, I understand how it works, you need not worry yourselves about the detail, leave it all to Sunak, rest your weary post-prandial head, you are working from home, you should make yourself comfortable, you can slumber in peace without anyone seeing you.”
To Anneliese Dodds, the new Shadow Chancellor, fell the tricky task of keeping us awake, or, as she put it, of pointing to problems in the constructive spirit which is now Opposition policy.
She was a vast improvement on her pious, self-regarding, ineffably silly predecessor John McDonnell. Dodds struck a note of genuine moral concern as she related that she had talked to “small business owners who’ve put their heart and soul into their firms”, and have now “got less than two weeks’ cash left”.
How much cash have you got left? There’s a question to keep you awake at night.
But soon we were back to Sunak, gracefully thanking her “for the constructive dialogue”, assuring us that the brand new Bounce Back Loan will be available from Monday, promising us that our system is “one of the most comprehensive and generous anywhere in the world”.
Even when he promised to “one by one fire up the engines of our vast UK economy”, no note of danger darkened the mood. One felt oneself entering a dream world where taking off like a rocket is the most natural, normal, comforting thing, for Captain Sunak knows how to fire up those engines.
Dodds was in the Chamber, but most of the other questioners appeared by videolink, looking like captives in their own studiously unpretentious homes.
None of them managed to penetrate the Chancellor’s defences in a way that might have been possible in the Chamber. This felt like a polite exchange of compliments rather than proper parliamentary scrutiny.
To Sir Graham Brady (Con, Altrincham and Sale West), the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sunak said, “I think he makes very interesting suggestions.”
He gave versions of this reply to almost everyone, regardless of what they asked. “Leave it to me” was the gist of it, but said so tactfully, with such modest self-possession, that it was impossible to object; impossible, almost, to stay awake.
And yet, as we examined this slim young statesman, it struck us that in his dark hair, a few more streaks of grey have appeared.