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    London Eye: Rishi Sunak sets out bravely uphill

    London Eye: Rishi Sunak sets out bravely uphill

    London Eye: Rishi Sunak sets out bravely uphill
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    By Sanjay Suri   IST (Updated)


    One way or another — or one way and another — some grassroots irritation is emerging already against both candidates — Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak — looking to replace Borish Johnson.

    The farewell to Boris Johnson from Parliament before it breaks up for summer, and before a new Prime Minister steps in was quintessentially British: kick a man out, and when he's leaving, give him a standing ovation. Also quintessentially British is the man's determination to continue to cast a spell now that he’s gone. That spell is against Rishi Sunak, even if it may do something to bring in Liz Truss as PM as a by-product.
    By one argument any support from Boris Johnson could mean the kiss of death given the mass ganging up against him by his own MPs. And Boris Johnson did declare early on in the contest to replace him, with more honesty perhaps than intended, that he didn’t wish to ruin any candidate’s chances by getting seen to endorse him or her. But the opposition to Johnson among party members may not be quite as extensive as it turned out to be among his parliamentary MPs.
    In Westminster loyalties have a way of shifting with extraordinary ease, to look at this sort of thing politely. Already some MPs who spoke against Johnson could prefer him back to either Truss or Sunak. Johnson has a winning manner, and it was not a long way between that and his vote-winning ways in the general election three years back. A perceived mess set up by his successor could catapult Johnson back in. That would be a perception many would seek to build energetically and not just Johnson supporters.
    One way or another — or one way and another — some grassroots irritation is emerging already against both candidates looking to replace him. Against Truss for staying loyal to him through all his publicly dubious record, against Sunak similarly for sticking too long with Boris. But also against Truss for refusing to declare Boris an honest man despite his support for her, and against Sunak for bringing Johnson down. Westminster politics has a way of making opposites all true.
    The odds against Rishi Sunak as declared by some are high enough through this shifting mess. By one poll, 68 to 32. Away from any close estimates, Rishi Sunak has acknowledged at the start of his campaign that he starts second. But it’s not just MPs who shift with ease. Members' views could change through the weeks of campaigning ahead, and it is certainly Rishi’s aim to seek to shift them.
    Rishi’s aim is to seek to erase prejudice with argument. The prejudice is obvious. Within the Conservative Party, it comes as a flood. The first choice, crudely put is between a candidate who is blonde and white, and the other who looks Indian, has an Indian name, and a wife who is an Indian citizen. For many, and it will be Rishi’s hope that it will not be too many, the point of choice begins and ends there.
    No one says it in so many words. But it is also quintessentially British to be driven by crude prejudice and then dress it up with talk that appears reasonable and even evolved. The confrontation between the two candidates offers a ready dressing to hand.
    Liz Truss has offered to cut taxes, to the extent of as much as 30 billion pounds if she were to be elected. The argument rides the cliché that high taxation would cut economic growth. That cliché does ride a truth often. Rishi Sunak’s argument is that it cannot when the country is fighting serious inflation. It’s easy, he says, to say "lovely things" and to offer "fairy tales" — but it is dishonest. Sunak is against any tax cuts until at least a year from now.
    Truss has taken the populist route to winning a poll, and of course, there will be takers for a policy that the party can then offer the people to win them over for the next election due 2024. But the two candidates are due to debate this out in public, with the first debate on BBC on Monday. Sunak’s hope is that he can offer the better argument that is so much better that those building the gap to the advantage of Truss will be won over. More than half of about 160,000 to 200,000 voting Tories will have to buy Rishi’s argument. To his advantage, it is a sound argument, he can offer it forcefully, and he has the credentials as former chancellor of the exchequer to back it with credibility.
    If Sunak can carry this through, the world will be looking at nothing less than a historic miracle.
    — London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
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