For the last few days and weeks, the political news from Britain has been unremittingly grim. But Rishi Sunak in No10 represents a new start – but before he starts, it is worth considering the case for optimism for his premiership. Here goes:-
- At a time when market-literacy is at a premium, we’ll have the most market-literate PM in history. Sunak has a clearer grasp of finance than anyone to sit in No. 10 or No. 11. Gordon Brown was regarded as a details man because he read original academic papers. Sunak, a Goldman Sachs alumni, had a Bloomberg terminal on his desk to follow the metrics from which such papers are drawn. Treasury officials make the same joke about him: no matter how detailed the briefing, he was more on top of the issue than they are. We need that right now.
- Sunak was ill-suited to campaigning because he likes to under-promise and over-deliver. But we also need a bit of that after unfulfilled hype of recent months.
- Sunak genuinely fought lockdown, almost alone in the cabinet. He lost, but at least he fought – and gave a candid interview to The Spectator about that fight. No one else would have given an interview like that because no one else fought it. He has proven his ability to stage, if necessary, a one-man fight against wrong received wisdom He not only has the mental tools to defy a false orthodoxy but the willingness to use those tools. We need that now.
- As I argued in last week’s Daily Telegraph, he may make fewer tax hikes than Jeremy Hunt was planning for in his (hopefully soon-to-be-cancelled) 31 October Halloween budget. Hunt was putting together a fiscal tightening package of some 1.4 per cent of GDP out of a panicked sense of what ‘the markets’ wants.