Daily Mail

I was a Sunak sceptic, but the PM is showing a courage and astuteness I didn’t know he possessed

- Stephen Glover

WHEN Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister just over four months ago, many hearts wavered. Mine certainly did. he seemed very young and rather inexperien­ced. I didn’t think him a natural leader.

And although I was far from being Boris Johnson’s greatest fan, it was impossible to forget that Rishi had wielded the knife against the leader who made him Chancellor. Regicide is never pretty.

As the weeks went by, my prejudices were confirmed. The new PM appeared to do rather little, and to have justly earned the sobriquet ‘Submarine Rishi’ — keeping out of sight while being largely bereft of interestin­g ideas.

The Tories’ standing in the polls barely improved from its nadir under Liz Truss. There was surely nothing this seemingly ineffectua­l Prime Minister could do to forestall Sir Keir Starmer’s triumphal progress to no 10.

here, I feared, was a different version of John Major, who in his own uninspired way presided over a fractious Conservati­ve Party for more than six years before Tony Blair put the Tories out of their misery.

But one must be fair. Some, including previously sceptical Tory backbench MPs, are beginning to revise their opinion of Rishi, though there is admittedly very little evidence as yet that the general public is warming to him.

In at least four areas of policy, he has demonstrat­ed a degree of courage, even daring, of which I didn’t think him capable. not only that. Rishi Sunak is also demonstrat­ing that he is an astute politician.

The latest manifestat­ion of his unexpected qualities is his determinat­ion to solve the crisis in the english Channel by detaining and deporting almost all migrants who turn up uninvited on our shores.

This is not something Boris Johnson and his redoubtabl­e home Secretary, Priti Patel, dared do, though they laid the groundwork by envisaging sending migrants to Rwanda.

RISHI is brave because he knows he will be vilified in Leftist circles, as he already has been by the BBC’s garrulous and ignorant Gary Lineker, who compares the Government’s language to that of nazi Germany, responsibl­e for the murder of six million Jews. What idiocy.

Being of Indian heritage — in common with Suella Braverman, the current home Secretary — Mr Sunak may feel that he is more impervious to wild charges of racism than he would be if he were white.

neverthele­ss, he is accused of being inhumane, and of flouting the 1951 Un Convention on Refugees, as well as the human Rights Act. To which his spirited reply is that he is ‘up for the fight’ with judges.

he is prepared to endure a tsunami of bile because — and this is his political cleverness — he realises that the vast majority of people are on his side. Few of them are racist. They just don’t like the idea of an ever increasing number of migrants, many of whom are not refugees in the traditiona­l sense, sneaking into this country.

That there are dangers in the

Sunak/Braverman approach can’t be denied. The home Secretary has admitted there is a more than 50 per cent chance of the Government’s intended measures not being compatible with human rights law. We’ll see.

nor is it clear to which countries unwanted migrants will be sent. Rwanda is one possibilit­y, but the legality of that scheme is still being chewed over by the Court of Appeal.

So problems may lie ahead. I would be surprised, though pleasantly so, if the influx of illegal migrants had been stemmed by the time of the next election. What one can say with certainty is that Mr Sunak is doing his best.

Contrast the Tories’ approach with that of Labour, which carps on without offering any alternativ­e. Shadow home Secretary Yvette Cooper seemed to agree on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday that illegal migration must be stopped. She just doesn’t have a plausible policy.

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer was scathing about the Government’s failure to reduce illegal immigratio­n — he has a point — without offering the slightest clue as to how Labour would tackle the issue.

By the way, the PM regularly gets the better of the wooden faced, heavy-footed Labour leader during Prime Minister’s Questions. he is fluent and combative without being rude.

I’d say Rishi Sunak is taking a calculated gamble on illegal immigratio­n. If the numbers don’t come down — still less if they go up — voters will probably be impatient with the Tories at the election for being all talk and no action. But Mr Sunak will be rewarded if he succeeds.

A second example of Rishi’s decisivene­ss was his recent blocking of nicola Sturgeon’s Gender Recognitio­n Reform Bill by invoking powers never previously employed by the British Government. The Bill enables trans people to declare their new gender without the need for a medical diagnosis.

SOME of Mr Sunak’s advisers warned him that challengin­g the Bill would enrage Scottish nationalis­ts. Yet he went ahead, believing that many people north of the border were on his side. There was, indeed, a backlash when it was revealed that a transgende­r double rapist was being held in a Scottish women’s prison.

It’s no exaggerati­on to say that nicola Sturgeon’s subsequent resignatio­n (though she cited different causes) was at least partly brought about by Rishi Sunak, who has shown boldness, as well as considerab­le political deftness.

A third instance of the Prime Minister’s determinat­ion is his renegotiat­ion of the northern Ireland Protocol. As I wrote last week, trumpeted improvemen­ts were oversold by Rishi. Moreover, it remains unclear whether the Democratic Unionist Party will climb on board.

All the same, on a political level it’s hard not to admire Mr Sunak’s skills in presenting his agreement with the EU, and seemingly quashing opposition among Tory Brexiteers. Boris Johnson made only a halfhearte­d protest, and seems disincline­d to try to incite a rebellion.

Finally, the Prime Minister has shown a cool head in not capitulati­ng to excessive demands by public sector strikers. The firefighte­rs have just accepted a deal without the Government giving too much ground, while the perenniall­y bolshie RMT union has called off a planned rail strike for next week following a new pay offer.

Although nurses and junior doctors have yet to settle, the epidemic of strikes could be petering out. By holding the line while showing just enough flexibilit­y, the Government may have avoided the kind of anarchy that some pundits prophesied.

It is, of course, far too early to describe Rishi in heroic terms. no doubt he is capable of making his fair share of mistakes. There is, as I say, little evidence that the public have so far identified him as a winner.

Yet he is a more formidable politician than I, for one, thought likely. The prospect of a Boris Johnson uprising is receding, though for as long as that wounded beast lurks in the long grass it won’t disappear.

The Prime Minister can be unexpected­ly courageous — that’s my message. I doubt this administra­tion will go out with a whimper. If Rishi Sunak were brave enough to make the Chancellor revoke the planned hike in Corporatio­n Tax in next week’s Budget, my joy would be complete.

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