Cumbria Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Roger Winterbottom
Features Writer
1:00 AM 16th December 2023

The Sunak Identity

Cartoon: Richard Trinder
Cartoon: Richard Trinder
In The Bourne Identity, a man finds himself adrift, unable to recall who he is and how he came to be there. He then spends his time trying to recall details of what happened in his past to lead him to this point, with only sudden flashbacks of memory and half-remembered glimpses of the truth.

In totally unrelated news, Rishi Sunak made his appearance at the Covid inquiry this week.

Despite the government regularly describing the Covid crisis as the greatest challenge the country has faced since the second World War, Sunak was apparently unable to remember anything that happened at the time, repeatedly saying that he “did not recall” whatever he was being asked about. Never mind trying to function as prime minister, has Sunak considered finding a good neurologist? (Not on the NHS obviously. Have you seen the waiting lists?).

Sadly, Sunak couldn’t even rely on contemporaneous records to remind him of what had occurred since—in a quite unbelievable piece of bad luck—all his WhatsApp messages from the first six months of the crisis had mysteriously not been backed up. The fact that he would have had to make a special effort for this to happen is entirely coincidental.

Sunak also claimed that he “was not told” to keep his messages, suggesting that he can’t recall the ministerial code either.

To lose one set of WhatsApps may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like complete bullshit. But then that’s what the government would have us believe as Boris Johnson similarly claimed that all his messages from the time had also mysteriously vanished. I wonder if anyone has thought of asking News Corp to retrieve them? They’re good at getting messages off phones.

“It looks as though it’s something to do with the app going down,” Johnson testified under oath, “and then coming up again, but somehow automatically erasing all the things between that date when it went down and the moment when it was last back up.” Indeed, indeed. It’s good to know all those tech lessons with that kindly American lady weren’t wasted. I forget her name now (which was also what Johnson tried to claim at the time).

It’s remarkable that the Cabinet Office spent a huge amount of public money fighting (and losing) a legal case in an attempt not to hand over the messages. They could have saved a lot of time and expense by simply admitting that “the app had gone down” and there was nothing more to be done.

Back in the days when the government had important things to do, like trying to distract everyone from No. 10’s lockdown party fines, they came up with a completely batshit idea about deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda. In a delightful moment of serendipity, Sunak and Johnson were busy with their Covid inquiry memory loss in the same week that that the Rwanda plan continued its inexorable doom-loop. It’s hard to believe that Sunak has staked his reputation on this nonsense when even he surely realizes it’s never going to, er, get off the ground.

Still, it’s been an edifying spectacle to see the Rwanda plan presented all over the front pages of the newspapers as being about the internal struggles of the Conservative Party rather than, I dunno, the lives of actual human beings. It’s always nice to see that sense of perspective. Maybe we could try electing some human beings into government next time – ones with empathy and basic humanity would be a start.

Instead, we have the spectacle of numerous groups of Tory MPs squabbling over which can be the most deranged. The various groups have collectively called themselves the Five Families, which apparently doesn’t refer to Boris Johnson’s private life. Only those with a somewhat unique perspective would name themselves after a bunch of Mafia crime families and think that was a Good Thing.

One of the groups, which includes Lee Anderson and Jonathan Gullis, is the Common Sense Group. No, really. Please stop laughing at the back. Who says there’s no such thing as right-wing comedy?

With Sunak struggling to get the Rwanda legislation through its second reading, he appears to be ever more in hock to the increasingly extreme demands of his fractious party. It’s as though the lunatic fringe—and I’m not talking about Michael Fabricant’s hair—has taken over the asylum policy.

Things have got so bad that even Sunak’s own MPs have taken to complaining that Sunak is “bad at politics”. So bad, in fact, that he’s nearly as bad at it as he is at telling the truth at inquiries. Wouldn’t it be better if he could just forget it all?