Recent leaks suggest Rishi Sunak is going to cancel the HS2 link to Manchester. Given the intense speculation on HS2‘s future, the most obvious question on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg was always going to be ‘what’s going on?’. As ever, Sunak showed himself to be a man without answers:
#BBCLauraK: Yes or no, is HS2 coming to Manchester?
Rishi Sunak doesn't answer. pic.twitter.com/11rC0tAdLj
— Saul Staniforth (@SaulStaniforth) October 1, 2023
As reported by the Manchester Evening News, Sunak refused to answer whether HS2 will make it all the way to the North. To be specific, he repeatedly refused to answer. To make things even more awkward, Sunak is literally in Manchester right now for the annual Tory Party conference. Kuenssberg asked him:
We are sitting in Salford right next to Manchester. Yes or no: will HS2, high-speed rail, come to this part of the world?
Slippery Sunak responded:
Look, there’s already spades in the ground and we’re getting on with delivering it.
He didn’t elaborate on whether these spades were actually being operated. When Kuenssberg pointed out she hadn’t asked him about his shovels, Sunak answered as follows (that’s ‘answered’ in the loosest sense of the word, obviously):
I’m not going to comment on all this speculation. We’ve got a project, we’ve got spades in the ground, and we’re getting on with it but it’s right to focus on levelling up.
Prime minister, can I just stop you there? You are the Prime Minister of this country.
This is not asking you about speculation, you’re not a columnist, you’re not a backbencher with an axe to grind, you’re not someone from the rail industry, you are the prime minister of this country, this is your decision. Is this going to happen or not?
Sunak once again didn’t answer:
As I said, we’ve got space in the ground, I’m not going to comment on further speculation. But what I can tell you is we are absolutely committed to levelling up across this country.
Just today, we’ve announced a new plan, a long term plan actually, to focus on people in towns. More live in towns than live in big cities in our country and they don’t get the attention that they deserve.
And my view is we need to focus on the long term things that will make our towns better places to live, put local people in control and that’s why we’re backing them with a billion pounds of funding to help 55 towns across the country level up, better high streets, more security, less homelessness and making sure they protect civic assets
It’s somewhat less than reassuring that the guy in charge of the country can’t confirm whether he is or is not going to build a massive railway. This lack of clarity has no doubt shaped the public’s perception of ‘Wriggly Rishi’.
The voice of the people
In another uncharacteristically good move, the BBC asked members of the public what they thought of Sunak and turned it into a word cloud. Would you be unsurprised to learn that it was primarily just the word ‘rich’?
This word cloud for what people think of Rishi Sunak is brutal… pic.twitter.com/9udtFb6bNl
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) October 1, 2023
— Paul Frost (@paulfrost_me) October 1, 2023
To be fair, it wasn’t solely the word ‘rich’ – it also contained synonyms like ‘wealthy’, ‘greed’, and ‘Conservative’.
Sunak’s latest appearance gave people more to say about the man – none of it flattering:
Rishi Sunak is doing an excellent job on #bbclaurak of criticising everything done by a Government which has been in power for 13 years and is currently run by err Rishi Sunak 🙄
— dave ❄️ 🥕 🧻 (@mrdavemacleod) October 1, 2023
Look at the anger on Sunak’s face of being reminded that no one voted him in as PM apart from own party so factually no one voted for policies he is putting through or clawing back on. This is what democracy looks like U.K. #Fascism pic.twitter.com/X6vTh5Xtak
— Teri ☘️💚💙♿️ (@mettlesome_teri) October 1, 2023
One comment was unfair in the sense that dictators generally have some semblance of a plan; Sunak has all the direction of a weather vane in a tumble dryer:
Sunak doesn’t care nobody voted for him or his latest programme.
“Yeah because I’m doing what I believe is right.”
That’s the pitch of dictators #bbclaurak
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) October 1, 2023
Sunak’s ‘flip-flopping’ hasn’t been lost on the Tories’ big donors:
"Blow for Sunak as Iceland boss donor quits party over ‘flip-flopping’"
The truth is, voters' choices often feel like an illusion, with the real power lying in the hands of kingmakers – billionaires & business owners. #Sunakered #bbclaurak #TrevorPhillips #CPC23 https://t.co/p1ukoIt1Ty pic.twitter.com/m3mQ8GQKq1
— Brutal Echo (@BrutalEcho) October 1, 2023
At this point, Sunak is literally a laughing stock:
Jon Culshaw impression of Rishi Sunak: “Let me put through my prepared statements. Rishi Sunak – the closest thing you can get to AI while still remaining human. I’m not going to stop yet don’t ask another question – I’m keeping talking so you can ask less things”#bbclaurak pic.twitter.com/v8iHJB2ERk
— David (@Zero_4) October 1, 2023
A new BBC?
Who can say what spurned Kuenssberg to actually do her job. Maybe she was left embarrassed by Victoria Derbyshire, who filled in for her last Sunday and showed everyone what a competent interviewer looks like? Maybe her trip to Manchester has got her feeling ‘mad for it’? Either way, we wouldn’t expect more going forwards.
Kuenssberg didn’t go after Sunak because of a sudden desire to speak truth to power; she did so because Sunak is clearly PM in name only. How long he’ll hang on depends solely on how much he enjoys humiliation.
Featured image via BBC – screengrab
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