Just a couple of weeks ago, Rishi Sunak was the clear bookies’ favourite in the Tory leadership contest. He had the largest parliamentary support and was set to top every round of MPs’ voting. He had 20,000 volunteers, a well-organised team, a slick launch – and (he thought) all of August to convince party members that he was the real deal. His strength, his supporters argued, was a firmer grasp of policy and better verbal dexterity than his opponents.
‘We don’t need another hero,’ sang Tina Turner back in the sexy-greedy 1980s. How times have changed. These days we have Superheroes Are Everywhere, a children’s book written by the Vice-President of the USA, Kamala Harris. Puffs tell us that ‘the book teaches that superheroes can be found everywhere in real life, from family members, to friends, to teachers at school and college’ and that it is an ‘encouraging, uplifting book [which] inspires kids to recognise the super-heroes all around them and promise to be, like them, brave, kind, helpful, and more’.
The morning after the first one-on-one Tory leadership debate, Rishi Sunak came to 22 Old Queen Street to speak to Charles Moore for SpectatorTV. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.
CHARLES MOORE: Rishi Sunak, welcome to the offices of The Spectator. Just a preliminary – because you mentioned it first in the debate last night [Monday] – David Trimble died and you paid tribute to him. Almost the last thing he intervened on in public life was on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The latest trend among the scions of Generation Z – those born between 1997 and 2012 – is posting ‘throwback videos’ on TikTok. Talk about a snake eating its tail. Having reached the ripe old age of, say, 11, Generation Z is digging through their archives to offer a wan critique of that embarrassing haircut they sported in the dim and distant past of, say, 18 months ago, or reminiscing with friends about ‘Snapchat filters we all used to use’.
The Chinese Communist party can congratulate itself on another sign of its rise: for the first time it has become a factor in deciding the fate of British politics. During Monday’s televised leadership debates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak tried to appeal to Tory members by outdoing each other on their commitment to protect our national security, economic prosperity, data privacy and values from the CCP.
They both referred to Chinese theft of our science and technology, but the problem is much, much wider than that.
I would be the first to admit that the NHS has done a lot for my mother this year. It gave her the emergency blood transfusion that undoubtedly saved her life, followed by several iron infusions and umpteen scans and tests. It has treated a series of infected leg ulcers and provided consultations with senior medical figures and countless more outpatient appointments. It has supplied her with swanky new hearing aids and nursed her through Covid.
Many of us daydream about escaping into an imaginary parallel universe. The good news is that Britain has its own genuine, and literally parallel, universe that we can escape into at any moment. It’s the National Cycle Network that threads its way quietly and meanderingly over, under and alongside our gridlocked main roads and our daily lives.
Once you try it, you’ll fall in love with supposedly ‘broken Britain’ all over again.