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We’re all born naked and the rest is drag

December 8th 2023

It takes charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to become Prime Minister, normally. It also takes ambition. You have to really, really want it in order to get it. The hoops through which you will have to jump, the colleagues you will have to trick and persuade, the pressure you will have to endure - if you didn’t desire, desperately, the top job then you would never put yourself through the rigmarole of getting it in the first place.


But what happens if, once you’ve won the greatest prize in British politics, you realise that you absolutely hate it? And that you’re really not very good at it. And that every day is a grinding, tortured torrent of horrible choices, bad outcomes and a chorus of ungrateful mockery about everything you do, say and wear? And that your personality means that you can’t bat all of that away or ignore it or do anything about it?

That is the situation in which Rishi Sunak now finds himself. He worked hard to get to the top and, now he is there, he visibly, palpably despises everything about it. Witness his churlish, snippy press conference this week as he lost control of his party (and lost one of his only actual friends from his Government). This was not a man enjoying the trappings of his power. It wasn’t even a man attempting to press his case. Instead, our Prime Minister petulantly demanded that Labour tell him what their plan would be whilst blaming the Rwandan Government for his own refusal to countenance leaving the ECHR. Everyone else was to blame for the mess in which he found himself. It was a vaguely pathetic performance and, for many of us, it elicited a flicker of sympathy for the man. What it did not do was give the impression that this clearly very stressed and irritated person was in control, either of events or their own destiny.

It is not unreasonable to point out that the Labour Party doesn’t have a particularly clear policy on illegal immigration. But one might question the political logic of ranting about that on the telly when you’re a) the actual Prime Minister and b) in charge of a famously failed plan that has cost a quarter of a billion pounds and achieved… nothing.

Rishi Sunak can’t stop scratching this wound, clearly annoyed at what he perceives as some cosmic unfairness in his being held accountable for breaking promises that he chose to make. But every time he does so, he simply reminds the public that he doesn’t have what it takes to deliver the goods. He is making it worse for himself and it is unclear why those around him - who, presumably, would prefer it if he either won the next election or at least lost it with a bit of dignity - aren’t telling him this. Perhaps they’re worried that their boss lacks the character and fortitude to take honest advice.

Is Rishi Sunak going to be booted out by his party? Probably not. But the fact that such a question is not an absurd one to pose is telling in and of itself. He appears to have alienated every wing of his MPs – in part because he tacks from right to left and back again without any apparent rhyme or reason and in part because he is interpersonally inept. He lacks any obvious constituency in the country or in his party. He doesn’t have a narrative - or, rather, he has several mutually contradictory narratives that no-one understands.

When drag royalty Ru Paul sets contestants on his Drag Race a challenge, he leaves them with one overarching instruction: “Don’t f*%k it up.” This was the week when it became definitively clear that Sunak has failed completely to follow this wise advice. That makes it more likely that he will end up going to the polls earlier than he has to. Because he hates his job, is bad at his job and therefore is not able to hold his Government together or get anything done. We could be just months from the moment when Rishi Sunak sashays away. And, based on events this week, many in his own party look likely to be as relieved about this outcome as their opponents will be.