Analysis: We're Governed By Salesmen Who Have Run Out Of Ideas To Sell

Rishi Sunak’s downbeat tone speaks to a Conservative Party devoid of optimism.
Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps
Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps
Treasury / BEIS

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when frontline politicians try to act like normal people, they end up looking even more bizarre.

The latest instalment of ministerial cringe comes from Jeremy “Mr Bean” Hunt who has been rinsed for a video in which he uses coffee cups to explain inflation.

Hey, if the chancellor job doesn’t work out for him, Hunt can always work the party circuit doing close-up magic tricks.

Aha! Jeremy Hunt explains inflation with cups.
Aha! Jeremy Hunt explains inflation with cups.

It rather feels like we are being governed by a cabinet of Barry Scotts: “Bang and the dirt is gone!”

Take Grant Shapps, the most prolific salesman in cabinet. As transport secretary he was mocked for wearing hoodies in videos, cringey clips about rail spam and a bizarre skit with Michael Portillo.

As business secretary, he released a Christmas video in which he used Elf on the Shelf to explain how he was cutting down his energy bills.

In true salesman style, he even filmed a clip in which he made an “elevator pitch” for the business department.

But you know what? They do not care a jot if we snigger at their Alan Partridge-style videos.

They have one purpose: to sell you their message. Poke fun all you like, if that message eventually seeps through, it’s worked.

Take Matt Hancock, most of us would rather be sucked into a giant hole and never seen again after that bum-squeezing photo.

Not our Hancock, the man relished an opportunity to publicly munch on a camel penis to promote his message about dyslexia [sell a book].

As Boris Johnson’s chancellor, Rishi Sunak was the slickest salesman in government.

Throughout the pandemic, he pumped out glossy videos, his own branding and personalised graphics complete with his squiggly signature.

Johnson was apparently so impressed he poached Sunak’s director of strategic communications, Allegra Stratton.

And, to their credit, it is important that ministers reach out beyond the Westminster bubble and social media is a brilliant way of doing that.

Matt Hancock "cries" on Good Morning Britain.
Matt Hancock "cries" on Good Morning Britain.
Good Morning Britain

However, something has changed in Sunak. His videos are gloomier and lack optimism.

The prime minister’s new year message was noticeably downbeat, warning that 2023 will have its “challenges”.

It was almost as if the PM’s team realised how utterly miserable he looked in comparison to Labour leader Keir Starmer’s message and the next day they released another video of Sunak saying he just wants people to “feel hopeful” and “better times lie ahead”.

However, Sunak’s tone speaks to a Conservative Party devoid of optimism.

The PM started the new year with an exhausted party tanking in the polls, riven by factionalism and lacking vision.

Tory MPs in key marginal seats now say they are being told to shun the jolly Johnson phrase “levelling up” – a flagship policy that helped win the 2019 election.

They told The Times they have been advised by party staff to use phrases such as “stepping up”, “gauging up” or “enhancing communities” instead.

To be fair to Sunak and his team, they have been left a grim clean-up operation following the Liz Truss disaster bomb.

Rishi Sunak speaks to the nation in a video clip
Rishi Sunak speaks to the nation in a video clip
Downing Street

He has very little time to make a dent in the areas that really matter to the public, such as the NHS and the economy, before the next general election.

Ministers are no longer selling sunset, and little is currently being offered in its place.

It’s really starting to feel like we’re being governed by salesmen who have run out of things to sell.

Labour frontbenchers know this and that’s why you can expect them to start showing some leg in 2023.


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