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Ready for Rishi? We’re not and never will be

Failing to address the cost of living crisis was just a part of Rishi Sunak’s terrible past record. Here’s everything bad the Tory politician has done.

03 May 2022

Rishi Sunak’s carefully constructed image seems to be falling apart faster than you can say “Dishy Rishi”. After years of trying to fool us with his tepid jokes and attempts to be relatable (who can forget hoodie-gate), it seems that underneath the facade, he’s just another Tory. 

Admittedly, it came as a shock to a country that widely viewed the Chancellor as infallible, his vague aura of sincerity concealing his inner right-wing leanings. Over the past two years, Sunak has basked in praise from the media: the BBC depicted him as Superman in a video that was later removed, while The Times adorned him with a halo and GQ cast him as “an unlikely style hero”. Sunak’s endlessly positive coverage culminated in him being dubbed the “rising star” of the current administration. 

After Covid-19 exposed the failures of capitalist Britain, Sunak’s budget at the time – including acknowledging that the vulnerable need more help – could well have said: ‘bring on the socialism, baby! So it’s no surprise that after the furlough scheme and Eat Out to Help Out, the Chancellor ended last year as the most popular politician in Britain.

Yet his crafted image is now ripping apart at the seams. As one of the richest MPs in the House of Commons, whose image has been built on social media presence and appearance alone, we should have seen this from the start. 

In April, it was revealed his wife, Akshata Murthy, has non-domicile tax status, meaning she is under no legal obligation to pay tax in the UK on income earned abroad. What’s more, Sunak has called for firms to pull out of Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, but his wife maintains a 0.91% stake in the Russia-related Infosys, a telecommunications company founded by her billionaire father that is still reportedly operating from Moscow. Her share is estimated to be worth more than £500m, and Sunak himself appears to have trouble justifying it. 

To top off a disastrous few weeks for ‘Brand Rishi’, he received a fine for flouting lockdown rules at a gathering in Downing Street.

But it is the spiralling cost of living crisis which is really exposing Sunak for who he is. After 12 years of government incompetence, negligence and corruption, the Chancellor has flat-out failed to address the biggest fall in living standards on record. 

Sunak may have come to symbolise the acceptable face of the Tories over the pandemic, but ultimately, vulnerable people and those from marginalised communities will always bear the brunt of his legislation, which ignores their lived experience. It’s time we looked beyond the surface and examined his record for what it really is.

Pandemic response

  • In August 2020, Sunak was the mastermind behind Eat Out to Help Out – a policy so popular he adorned Number 11 with its sticker. But it was also a policy that contributed to between 8% and 17% of new Covid-19 infections that month, according to researchers at the University of Warwick.
  • While we’re on the topic, catch-up funding for schools over this academic year was little more than one month allocated for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. 
  • The UK’s Statutory Sick Pay, which doesn’t cover the value of the real living wage (£346 per week), is one of the least generous in Europe and in 2020 was found to breach EU law. As rates of Covid-19 surged, low sick pay forced people to choose between self-isolating and putting food on the table. Despite this, Sunak staunchly refused to increase sick pay for Britons. 
  • Sunak has overseen the largest amount of fraud of any Chancellor – nearly £9bn of PPE and £4.3bn in Covid-19 fraud have been written off. Yet the Conservatives still curiously maintain that there is no “magic money tree”.
  • In his 2022 Spring Statement, Sunak promised to provide support to those who need it, echoing his words at the start of the pandemic. But three million self-employed people have not received anything since the pandemic began and were excluded from the furlough scheme.

Economic policies

  • Sunak has introduced more tax rises in two years than in Gordon Brown’s chancellorship over almost a decade – tax rises that are aimed at low- and middle-income families. 
  • There’s been no growth in funding for state schools, but Sunak’s donated more than £100,000 to his old public school. All hail the meritocracy…
  • Sunak’s reaction to the energy crisis rendered him less of a Superman and more of a Chancellor reigned by Wonga. Let’s compare: in France, the government has limited energy bill hikes to 4%, forcing the state energy company to bear a £7bn loss in value to protect its citizens from rising costs. And in Norway, the parliament voted to extend its energy subsidy scheme, which allows the state to cover 80% of energy bills when prices rise above a certain level. In Britain meanwhile, despite households facing bill hikes of £600 this year, we have what is effectively a £200 loan (although Sunak has strongly defended his scheme). 
  • In March, Sunak announced he would cut fuel duty by 5p a litre to try and ease the burden of the cost-of-living crisis. And in an effort to further the impression of himself as an “ordinary guy”, Sunak decided to use a Kia Rio for a photo op. Except the car isn’t his – it’s owned by a Sainsbury’s employee. In reality, Sunak owns four cars, including a Range Rover based at one of his homes in Yorkshire.
  • Sunak’s legacy is largely characterised by inaction: in 2021, he did not stop the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit, the largest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security in Britain since the second world war. In December, instead of helping businesses in the hospitality industry, Sunak jetted off to California, where he also holds a green card despite being a serving official of another country.
  • Speaking to Labour MP Angela Eagle in March, the multi-millionaire described how he was “comfortable” with the choices he’d made as Chancellor – choices that have meant plunging 1.3 million people into poverty in the midst of the biggest drop in household income on record, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Voting record

  • On the eve of the Spring Statement, ministers voted to give bankers a tax cut worth £1bn a year. And this isn’t an isolated incident: Sunak has consistently voted against higher taxes on banks, which comes as no surprise from a former banker.
  • As any good Tory, Sunak has voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits (between 2015-2016), and against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.
  • Sunak has generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights, including voting in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act in 2016.

On the environment

  • Between 2016 and 2020, Sunak largely voted against measures to tackle the climate crisis. He was against a vote to require a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry, and against a motion calling on the Government to launch a “green revolution”. 
  • In 2021, company filings revealed fossil fuel giants Shell and BP had failed to be taxed on North Sea oil and gas profits for three years. Meanwhile, in February, fellow fossil fuel company Exxon Mobil lauded its most profitable year in seven years, having received £360m worth of subsidies from the UK government.

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