HomeLifestyleQUENTIN LETTS: Rishi angrier than Cromwell's wart over Tory infighting
QUENTIN LETTS: Rishi angrier than Cromwell's wart over Tory infighting
QUENTIN LETTS: Biffy Rishi was angrier than Oliver Cromwell’s wart as he addressed the latest Tory infighting at an emergency news conference
There is something rather liberating when a polite technocrat loses his rag. Boy, Rishi Sunak was cross. Normally tolerant to a fault, the Prime Minister called an emergency Downing Street news conference to address the latest Tory infighting. He. Was. Seething.
The intention this week had been to follow Monday’s impressive legal migration crackdown with an end-of-week announcement of the ‘toughest anti-illegal immigration law ever’.
Robert Jenrick’s departure on Wednesday night threw an almighty spanner in the works. Principled resignation by Mr Jenrick or treacherous attempt to scuttle the Government? Hard to say.
Plain to all, however, was Mr Sunak’s exasperation. But for some goose-stepping and a horizontal forefinger under the nose, it was of Basil Fawlty proportions. Dishy Rishi, long regarded as the most Zen guy this side of the Himalayas, became Biffy Rishi. In the words of the Liverpool poet Adrien Henri: ‘I’m just about at breaking point,’ he snapped.’
Rishi Sunak speaks to the media during a press conference at Downing Street following the resignation of immigration minister Robert Jenrick
There is something rather liberating when a polite technocrat loses his rag. Boy, Rishi Sunak was cross. Normally tolerant to a fault, the Prime Minister called an emergency Downing Street news conference to address the latest Tory infighting. He. Was. Seething
Rishi was snappier than raw celery, angrier than Oliver Cromwell’s wart. I have only once seen him like this, after the Supreme Court’s judgment against his Rwanda policy. It was impressive then and it worked here, too, because it was authentic. When Mr Sunak does his normal I-feel-your-pain routine, it can feel fake. This wrath was real.
READ MORE: Fears Rishi Sunak could be forced into snap election as Tory infighting rages on Rwanda plan
Referring to the small boats, he raged: ‘We play by the rules, we put in our fair share, we wait our turn. Now if some people can just cut all that out, you’ve not just lost control of your borders, you’ve fatally undermined the very fairness upon which trust in our system is based.’ He was ‘entirely confident’ his proposed law would solve the maddening legal obstructions.
Mr Jenrick, alas, does not share that confidence, and says that is why he quit. It is possible the Tory Right will now refuse to support this Bill.
Reporter: ‘Will you throw them out of the party if they defy you?’
Mr Sunak: ‘No.’ But they were daft to think the Bill could be made any tougher, because that would lose us Rwandan co-operation. Words flew out of him at a hundred miles an hour. He bit on his lower lip, bellowed his bullet points, bristled at naysayers and said ‘blocked’ seven times, con forza, as he ran through the loopholes his Bill would close. Not being a lawyer, I admit they sounded pretty good to me. But The Law is unto itself.
To be sunk by the small boats? There would be a certain grim irony in that. No wonder he was a-boil.
Raymond Chandler once wrote of ‘a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window’.
The transformation here was of a different magnitude. Gone was the doe-eyed Rishi who sees every side to an argument. Absent was the gloopy empathy, the ivory smiles, the ‘you guys’ and ‘hey, everybody’ approach of the Silicon Valley executive. He spat out his words and kept saying ‘right? right?’
Robert Jenrick’s departure on Wednesday night threw an almighty spanner in the works
He glowered at suggestions he might no longer have the numbers to get this Bill through Parliament. Steaming? Too right he was steaming. He was steamier than a Cantonese wok. Steamier than a French prop’s jockstrap.
Irritation geysered out of him. As he raced through his speech and took media questions, he threw his head to one side repeatedly, woodpeckering his arguments. ‘You’d better believe it!’
He scorned the pathetic, opportunistic Labour party for having no policy. ‘I’m not hearing from anyone else that they’re got a plan.’ The public wanted the small boats stopped ‘and I share their frustration, right? My patience has worn thin.. I’m absolutely committed to this. We’re about getting stuff done.’
With which, after 20 dizzying minutes, in which we had seen signs of a party leader who might truly energise voters, he went striding from the room, as if assailed by a sudden jet of the most appalling dysentery. Or by a desire to seize the nearest frying pan and bring it down, hard, on Suella Braverman’s head.