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Unfair Situation: Rishi Has Only Himself to Blame
‘Now he had to be paraded in public as the man who led his party to a historic defeat.’ Photograph: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

Sliding doors. It had been a while since Rishi Sunak had had a decent night’s sleep. Even when he did manage the occasional few hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness, his dreams were even more terrifying than reality. Always the same thoughts running through his head. Why had he done it? Why had he talked himself into going for a July election when he could have waited another six months? When he could have at least enjoyed the summer. Two years in Downing Street would have looked so much better on his CV.

Round and round, the same circular ruminations. He thought he was being so clever by doing the unexpected. But all he had succeeded in doing was wrongfooting his own party. Hell, he had even taken himself by surprise. He should have known it was a terrible mistake from the enthusiasm with which Oliver Dowden had greeted the idea. Oliver’s one talent was an unerring instinct for his own self-destruction. In a fairer political system, natural selection would have done for him long ago.

If Rishi was honest with himself, he would admit that a large part of the reason he had called an early election was because he couldn’t take the waiting any longer. Knowing things would probably get worse. His decision had come from a place of weakness rather than strength. A desire to get the whole thing over and done with. To break the Tory party and let someone else pick up the pieces.

What he hadn’t anticipated was how much he would miss the trappings of power. He thought he was above all that, but now his life felt empty without dozens of special advisers and No 10 staff hanging on his every word. Never having to open his own car door. Or helicopter door, for that matter. Most of all, he missed those three words. “Yes, prime minister”. No one ever said no to him.

Rishi felt this especially keenly on Wednesday morning as he saw the photos from Keir Starmer’s trip to Washington. It could – it should – have been him on that plane surrounded by lobby journalists hanging on his every word. Look how easily Keir had fallen into the role. He was loving every minute. Making easy bants about the football semi-final. Everyone on the trip appearing to have fun. Come On You … Come On You … That was it. Come on you Southamptoners.

It was all so unfair. And he had no one to blame but himself. He would have loved the Nato summit. Hanging out with other world leaders. Even if he was the lone beta male among a horde of alphas. Now he was just a lone beaten beta male. Left on the sofa at home, surfing the news channels. Hoping that Starmer would screw up. Yet knowing that he wouldn’t. His staff wouldn’t allow it.

There would have been the bilat with Olaf Scholz. Come to think of it, that one might have been tricky. Having to explain why he had done a runner from the D-day commemorations before getting to meet Olaf and the lads.

No doubt Scholz would have a few gags at his expense. “Hi Rish!,” he would have said. “If you’d left the troops behind on the beaches like that back in 1944 then Germany might have still won the Normandy campaign.”

And he would have laughed nervously and joked, “For you, Olaf, the war is over”. Then they would have shaken hands, agreed that they were now all friends and that the situation in Ukraine was terrible. Because that’s what they always said.

Joe Biden would have been a breeze. Because he wouldn’t even have remembered that they hadn’t met back in June. So no awkwardness there. Otherwise it would just have been a lot of back-slapping and mutual congratulations. You’re marvellous. No, you’re marvellous. Why are we here? I’ve no idea.

These international summits were, for the most part, a piece of theatre. A waste of everyone’s time. But they allowed the in-crowd to feel special, and it hurt that he was now off the invite list. And dinner at the White House was to die for. He could have been a contender.

Rishi turned the TV off. There was only so much of Starmer enjoying himself that he could take. He went to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. Another humiliation. Normally there would be someone to do that for him. He was beginning to think that it might have been better if he had lost his seat in Richmond. Because that way he could have got all the hurt in at once. Just got out of the country as fast as possible. It wasn’t as if he needed the £90k salary.

Now he was expected to DO THE RIGHT THING for the Tory party. AKA making his own life a misery. Because now he had to be paraded in public as the man who led his party to a historic defeat. To sit in the Commons as the interim leader of the opposition while the Labour benches couldn’t believe their luck. To be gracious when he just felt like curling up in a ball and hiding under the duvet. Oxford hadn’t prepared him for this. He was only used to coming out on top.

Worse still, he had even had to go through the entirely pointless exercise of chairing a shadow cabinet meeting. I mean, what was there to discuss. He had made the Conservatives an irrelevance. Their only function a comedy act to see how far they could self-destruct. And he had to sit through Kemi Badenoch droning on and on about how rubbish he had been and how she had been the only person with any vision.

No one could fault her delusion or narcissism. She could start a fight with her own reflection. If she was the answer, then the Tories were finished. She had even managed to brief her favourite journalists about her monologue and insistence that cabinet meetings should not be leaked. How most unlike Kemi to leak her instructions not to leak. Normally, a model of restraint.

Rish! didn’t need this. Hell, there was no reason why he should take all the blame for the current state of the party. What about David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss? They had been just as useless. Compared to many Tory MPs, he was relatively sane.

And now he was being asked to address the 1922 Committee. A waste of everyone’s time. What was there to say? Sorry? Again. He’d done enough apologising. Then there would be the half-hearted banging on the desks and foot-stamping. Almost worse than silence. You could touch the pity in the room. He had no idea how he was going to get through the next few months.

Source: The Guardian