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Hello. Will Rishi Sunak go to the COP27 climate conference, or will he miss it? It’s in the air. (Whether he’s going or not, I mean. The conference is in Egypt.) Some thoughts on that in today’s note.
You’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes then you’re no, you’re in then you’re out
Will Rishi Sunak finally go to COP27? The Prime Minister ‘opened the door’ to a possible U-turn after his decision to miss the summit was criticized by backbench MPs and Alok Sharma, the Conservative MP and chairman of the UN COP26 climate summit . A Sunak ally told the Financial Times that “it depends on progress”, adding that his newspaper was dedicated to dealing with national challenges.
Sunak will hear a lot from his side about the importance of not straying too far from the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto. He made a kind of stick in the back by talking about the mandate entrusted to him by the leadership race.
One problem with the manifesto, as Sunak knows all too well, is that it was full of grassroots proposals that dissolved on contact with the government. You can’t increase the amount given to basic public services – police, hospitals and schools – have a tough exit from the EU and keep the UK’s debt down while avoiding across the board tax hikes . (I know the specific commitment was to keep income tax, value added tax and national insurance flat or down, but let’s be real here: the promise, as far as it matters, is “we won’t raise taxes in a way that you’ll notice”.)
One of these promises — at least! – must flex. Under Boris Johnson, Sunak chose to let that fiscal promise falter, with dire consequences for his own hopes of Conservative leadership. This led to the short-lived government of Liz Truss. She has attempted to let the debt pledge ease, with disastrous consequences for her premiership and most likely for the long-term prospects of the Conservative Party as a whole.
But whatever you can reasonably say about whether or not the 2019 manifesto was deliverable, one thing you can’t take away from it is that it was an almost perfect synthesis of the center of British politics. Given that his climate commitments are one of the few parts of the manifesto that Sunak can deliver without massive spending, it seems to me a direct error to even suggest that he might not go to COP27.
While I think it’s highly unlikely, to say the least, that Sunak will suffer any real political damage in the dispute, it brings to mind a striking fact about Britain’s new Prime Minister: that his natural instincts push him to govern against the preferences and priorities of the parts of the country that value him most.
While nearly every UK voter cares about climate change, it matters most to the L-Liberal Low Voters, the L-Liberal Democrat High Voters and the Remainer Voters: precisely the groups of voters who love Sunak the most.
Now it may be that the Prime Minister’s appeal to these groups will allow him to achieve remarkable political success, persuading these people to vote Conservative again while governing in the interests of small C-Tory voters, big voters C-conservatives and left-wing voters. . Or it could be that the rubber band snaps and Sunak ends up pushing away the voters who love him most while losing the support of those who backed the conservatives in the last election.
Now try this
I tried to understand what I feel The Banshees of Inisherin, a film that I admired a lot but did not particularly like. Thankfully, this schism also appears to be playing out on the FT’s film desk. Here’s Danny Leigh’s review, which in my head is all right, while my heart is with Raphael Abraham.
Top stories today
Talks on the train | Rail operating companies and the UK rail infrastructure manager are due to hold talks with unions this week to avoid further strikes. RMT union members working at train operators and Network Rail are due to go on strike on November 5, 7 and 9.
Government powers over city rules | Rishi Sunak is on a collision course with City of London regulators after the government confirmed it would pursue new ‘power to intervene’ to allow Treasury ministers to overrule watchdogs.
Rate hike expected | The Bank of England’s monetary policy committee will not have full details of Sunak’s medium-term fiscal strategy – which are due on November 17 – when it unveils its interest rate decision on Thursday. Here are four things to watch out for.
Heavy price | Capital spending and Liz Truss’ plans for ‘investment zones’ are among areas facing cuts in the government’s autumn statement, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt calls for public spending cuts and increases taxes of up to £50 billion a year.
Can’t hack it | Liz Truss’s phone was allegedly hacked when she was Foreign Secretary, the Mail on Sunday reported, calling for a government inquiry into the potential national security breach.
Lula’s Return | Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s journey from a prison cell four years ago to winning Brazil’s highest office for a third time is a story of political comeback like few others. He claimed victory in Brazil’s presidential election yesterday, beating incumbent right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro by less than two percentage points after a hard count that went to the wire.
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