Rishi Sunak wants to be your friend, at least he wants to be somebody’s friend.
Last week he posed for pictures at a pub on the very day he increased taxes on your favourite tipple. He claims it’s a public health measure, protecting us from ourselves. It means almost another £1 on a bottle of spirits and the largest increase on a bottle of wine for 50 years. Strangely, it doesn’t apply to champagne, hardly the people’s drink, but good news for all those social occasions and sporting events which attract old school friends.
Not everyone is convinced by the public health claims. Some think it’s just tax raising. The PM first planned this as chancellor in 2021 when he was still claiming the economy was in good shape. His plans were interrupted by Kwasi Kwarteng, who wasn’t his friend and promptly quashed them. Kwasi who? I hear you say. He’s that man with his own special place in history who, as Liz Truss’s kamikaze chancellor, almost bankrupted our country.
If the PM can’t be friends with those who like a tipple, he’s decided to try motorists. He says he’s their new best friend. Difficult to believe, when you recall all those helicopter flights or him struggling to fill up a car he borrowed for a photo op on a petrol forecourt. He’s announced a review of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). Seems he’s forgotten he was the chancellor who provided the money for such public health initiatives which local authorities were encouraged to introduce without consultation, using Covid legislation. He’s also declaring war on clean air charges. They were introduced as a public health measure by his old friend Boris Johnson.
The problem with trying to make friends in desperation is that it rarely works. As someone who was involved when Labour introduced the smoking ban, I’m for clear health messages that can’t be confused with revenue raising and if it’s best to drink less, surely it’s also wise not to poison our children’s lungs with contaminated air.
The problem with this PM is, he sounds too much like a fair-weather friend.