Home » latest » QUENTIN LETTS: Rishi wasn’t giving us Project Fear but Project Keir – zero in on the clunker….
quentin letts rishi wasnt giving us project fear but project keir zero in on the clunker
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QUENTIN LETTS: Rishi wasn’t giving us Project Fear but Project Keir – zero in on the clunker….

Advance briefings suggested Rishi Sunak would give us Project Fear, trying to spook voters in the way Brussels did before the EU referendum. Actually, this speech was more fun than that. Mr Sunak was enjoyably rude about the Labour leader, depicting him as a slippery trimmer who switched his principles as often as some of us change our razor blades. ‘Keir Starmer’s gone from embracing Jeremy Corbyn to Natalie Elphicke, all in the cynical pursuit of power at any price.’ Not Project Fear. This was Project Keir. Zero in on the clunker. Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap. At PMQs last Wednesday, Sir Keir accused Mr Sunak of being ‘smug’ and ‘a dodgy salesman’. If you dish it out, you can’t complain about return ordure. Mr Sunak, voice still thickened by the cold he caught last week, no longer bothered to call his opponent ‘Sir’. It was just ‘Keir Starmer’, said with a novice’s contempt. Rishi is not a natural at sulphurousness. He needs to take lessons from Suella or from that mean hombre Oliver Dowden, the Lee Van Cleef of Hertsmere. Conservatives suspect that ‘Sir’ makes Starmer sound more decent than he is. Labour people also omit the knighthood – they fear it makes their man sound posh. It might just be easier if the honours committee stopped giving knighthoods to politicians. The venue for this speech was a small, boxy room at London’s Policy Exchange think-tank. A few Tory MPs and peers were there to clap feverishly. The PM was introduced by the outfit’s director, Lord Godson, nowadays as snowy and plump a figure as Father Christmas. When I first knew Dean Godson he was a wasp-waisted obituarist who did cheeky impersonations of editorial colleagues on the Daily Telegraph. Now I bet his colleagues do impersonations of him. Mr Sunak stood at a lectern made from the sort of wood used for cheap coffins. The last two years have left him greyer at the temples. The voice has lost some of its naivety and he does not do that begging-eyebrows thing so much. He flew straight to electoral considerations. The general election would not just be Tories v Labour and Sunak v Starmer. ‘I remain confident that my party can prevail. We will be the only party talking about the future.’ Oh, and we were ‘at a crossroads’. Political speech-writers love crossroads. A dead-end or a roundabout might be more accurate, given that there is a chance we may be driven back whence we came. ‘I feel a profound sense of urgency,’ said Mr Sunak. Being 30 points behind in the opinion polls can do that to a man. It was around this point in the speech that a bluebottle hove into view. It did a few circuits of the room, as if stacking over Heathrow, and then engaged in mild aerobatics. Had Boris had been making this speech he would possibly have tried to swat it. If the chameleon Sir Keir had been present, he could have shot forth his limber tongue and gobbled down that fly in one. David Lammy can do the same with Maltesers, one hears. There was plenty of Brexit in this speech. Leaving the EU had seen us become the world’s fourth biggest exporter. Not for the first time, Mr Sunak undertook to place national security above any commitments to Strasbourg on human rights. A woman whooped. ‘The next few years will be some of the most dangerous yet the most transformational our country has ever known,’ said Mr Sunak. Dangerous is a good political word. Transformational is not. Transformational is a word used by policy wonks and mandarins when praising a minister’s dull idea. It is not a word you hear in pubs. Sky News’s Beth Rigby, that Celia Johnson de nos jours, asked one of her fragrant questions. Rishi hadn’t a clue what she was on about. ITV’s Robert Peston limited himself to a mere 40 seconds. Is he losing his touch?

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