The envelope came with a spoiler “From the Prime Minister” it trumpeted, self-importantly. It appears that a certain Rishi Sunak has been sending out a bulk mailing asking what we think should be his political priorities. Good of you to ask, I thought. Then I read it.
The letter was addressed to me and my husband, jointly. Our surname, which is Irish, was incorrectly formatted. We were saluted by our first names: an unwarranted and unwelcome assumption of informality.
Dear Rishi – since we’re besties now – tells us he’s going to ask what we want to prioritise for Britain. Except, he doesn’t ask any such thing, really. He just wants to tell us what he’s decided are our priorities and have us tell him how fantastic he is. It’s a fascinating document, notable for its omissions, factual creativity, inaccuracies (some might prefer the word ‘lies’) and straight-faced statements that defy credulity.
Rishi’s alternate reality
In an entertaining introduction, he condemns the short-termism approach of previous politicians across the board “for decades” and pledges to put all that in the past, seemingly blissfully unaware that he’s been in a position (several positions, actually) to do something about that for quite a while now. If only someone had told him.
His solutions to “the aftereffects of the pandemic” – displaying a breathtaking lack of self-awareness of his own culpability during that particular period – are to cut taxes and reduce debt. That would be the debt that has been on the increase for the past 13 years of his party’s rule and has surpassed £1tn, would it? And the debt that includes over £1bn in wasted public money transferred into private pockets from unregulated suppliers delivering unsuitable PPE? But, even with his proposals (national insurance reduction, living wage increase, training aid) to help ‘hardworking people’ and ‘hardworking families’ (sit down lazybones, it’s not for you), the OBR says this won’t start reducing debt until 2028/29.
Even less credibly, Rishi rushes to take credit for the decrease in inflation, which every other source suggests had 99 factors, but a Rishi wasn’t one. Economically, I’m not sure I’d trust Rishi to come back with the right change from a tenner having spent a £1 at Poundland (if he even knows what that is).
‘No matter what happens’
More contorted back-patting follows as Rishi assures us of the extra roles that have been filled on his watch within the NHS. Sadly, he fails to point out the prior cuts and political decisions (including Brexit) that led to those jobs falling vacant in the first place. Or that this will still leave the NHS workforce far, far short of adequate numbers of permanent staff. I’ve seen some of the emails that get sent to bank staff (contract workers) within the NHS. They go on for pages, seemingly every shift scarily short-staffed: it makes for horrifying reading.
He claims to want our children to rely on the NHS “just as we do”, which seems highly unlikely (excepting emergencies). Still, at least the message seems to have got through that the current state of NHS waiting lists is a political time-bomb, so here are pledges to build hospitals (wait, haven’t we heard this somewhere before, recently?) and to create a long-term workplan.
What this will amount to in detail remains to be seen. It could be a type of contractual servitude, but is more likely to involve private companies sub-contracting into the NHS. Because one thing that is surely not going to be given up is the desire to continue privatisation, and one thing that doesn’t appear on any political manifesto is privatisation of the NHS. That’s why it always has to be done by stealth, whilst maintaining an outer façade of loving and cherishing our greatest institution.
Most ominous of all is the conclusion “… our NHS will be there for generations to come, no matter what happens” (emphasis added) which sounds very much like the type of threat growled by the villain in a low-budget gangster film. This, of course, provides the wriggle room that lets him carry on privatising the NHS until it’s just a heap of dry bones and health insurance has been normalised to the unwary public.
Nobody mention Rwanda
Naturally, the attached survey sheet focuses narrowly on the points raised (but of course, it’s your priorities he wants to know about – he must have forgotten to provide a space for you to list them) and only in the most generic (positive to him) terms.
For instance, in one section Rishi claims to want to understand more about the people they are representing. So, they ask who you voted for in previous elections. But you can also tick a box to say if you’d prefer Rishi Sunak, Kier Starmer or No Preference as prime minister. In this scenario, my vote would have to go to No Preference, when in fact None Of The Above might be more realistic. Heavily manipulated options might give the illusion of choice, but when none of the options represents your actual view – what’s the point in answering? Or perhaps that’s the idea.
Most notably, given how heavily it’s featured in recent months, there’s not a single word about immigration (even though all those lovely NHS vacancies aren’t going to fill themselves). Not a sniff of Rwanda, not a small boat bobbing precariously on the horizon.
Britain, Rishi wants to assure us, “is in a much better place”. Compared to what, he doesn’t deign to detail. Yet everywhere around me are bus and train services falling apart, roads heavily congested with endless roadworks, retail dying a lingering death, the social contract failing despite the best efforts of those working on shoestring budgets to hold all the loose ends together. I’m not sure where he’s been looking, but it’s not the view from my window.
Editor: we’ve been contacted by a number of readers about this article, querying whether the letter is funded by the government (with public money), or whether it’s funded by the Conservative Party. We can confirm that the letter is from CCHQ. It includes a pre-paid return envelope, so readers who have received this letter may wish to respond and this cost will be covered by the Conservative Party.