It was a three-pipe problem. Rishi Sunak sank back into a creaky armchair and waited for the morphine to take hold. He picked up a violin and began a painful threnody. Over on the other side of the room, Dr Dowden kept his peace. Downstairs, Mrs Hudson prepared breakfast.
Eventually Sunak broke his silence. He spoke with a dull rasp. “You know, Olive,” he said. “This is the most difficult case of my entire career. Of far more consequence even than that fiend Moriarty. No less than the future of the entire Conservative party is at stake.”
The Curious Affair of Robert Jenrick. How could it ever have come to this? How could the most vacuous, most empty-headed MP of his generation – the one who throughout his time in parliament had said or done anything to further his career – have turned out to have a principle after all? The whole purpose of Honest Bob was to believe in nothing except himself.
Now it turned out that his immigration minister – make that former immigration minister – did have a line in the sand. And that was because he could not support the government’s batshit crazy (TM James Cleverly) Rwanda policy. Not because it was batshit crazy. But because it wasn’t batshit crazy enough. It didn’t completely degrade Britain’s legal standing in the world. So now he and Suella were the darlings of the Tory right. Waiting to pick up the pieces when he lost the next election.
“There’s only one thing for it,” said Sunakered Holmes. “We must hold a press conference. That should show the country I know what I’m doing.”
“Good plan,” replied Olive. “Nothing shouts strong and stable government like a last-minute, panicky presser. Though maybe now is not the time to go on about integrity, professionalism and accountability. There again, you haven’t mentioned them for a while anyway.”
So at 11am Rish! marched purposefully into the Downing Street media centre. Maybe it was just the morphine comedown, or maybe he was just tired. Either way he came across as tetchy and entitled from the start. By the end he was having a full-blown toddler temper tantrum. A complete meltdown. Unable to accept any reality but his own. Railing against a cruel and unfair world that has treated him so badly. No one has suffered more than Sunak. Down to his last £700m. At the very least, the country could show some gratitude for all that he had done.
Rish! began with a short statement. He was proud to be the child of immigrants. But you know what? Sometimes you can have too many of them. And that time had long since come. God knows, it had reached the point where he even hated himself. So enough was enough. The country deserved better than this after 13 years of a Tory government. His ability to shape-shift into an alternate reality is breathtaking. Almost as though his Conservative party is a totally different party from the one that has been running the country for well over a decade. That the Sunak who was Boris Johnson’s chancellor is not the same Sunak who is now prime minister.
Then to the details of the new Rwanda legislation. “I respect the supreme court’s decision,” he said. A barefaced lie. Of course he doesn’t. Otherwise he wouldn’t be scrabbling around trying to undermine it. Think about it. A Tory prime minister at the heart of the establishment doing away with the rule of law. This is the kind of thing we expect from petrostate dictators.
Rwanda would now be declared a safe country. To say otherwise would be a crime punishable by death. We knew this because the law said so. So if Rwanda did accidentally shoot a few refugees then at least they could die knowing they had been shot safely. All legal protocols had been observed.
He would also disapply all international laws. It would be like the Covid rules in No 10: optional. British law would become global law. Apart from Rwanda law. The Rwandans had insisted that a few legal caveats be inserted into the bill – these were the bits to which Honest Bob and Suella objected – to make them compliant with Rwandan law. Imagine. It’s now a matter of pride to Sunakered that Britain has lower legal standards than Rwanda. The stuff that dreams are made of.
That was that. We could do what we liked with refugees. Deport them, kill them. Whatever. It was their lookout for daring to come here. Of course individuals could appeal against their deportation/execution. But let them try. Cue another backlog of cases in the courts and no flights to Rwanda. The whole thing was just smoke and mirrors. A depraved exercise in performative vindictiveness.
Rish! only dared take questions from the main broadcasters and three tame media sources. But even they had turned on him. This wasn’t about a viable bill to stop illegal immigration. It was about civil war within the Tory party. His government was falling apart, decaying in front of our eyes. Sunak just got even more ratty. The contempt not just for the reporters but for the entire country on show.
How dare anyone suggest this was about party management? There was no chaos in the Tory party. The existential crisis was Labour’s. He was the stabiliser. The lone rational voice in Westminster. No, the vote wouldn’t be a confidence vote. Why would it when he was obviously going to win and no one would dare vote against him. And why couldn’t people just concentrate on everything he had done to make their lives better. Prices still rising, the economy stagnant. It was delusional stuff. Straight out of the Boris Johnson playbook.
Talking of which, the Convict was into his second day of giving evidence at the Covid inquiry. He was no more coherent or prepared than he had been on day one. Almost as if he had set out to deliberately insult the bereaved families. He hadn’t actually meant to kill so many people. Just hadn’t been that bothered about them one way or another. And there had definitely never been any parties in No 10. Not even the ones where there was photographic evidence. No one had been shagging in cupboards. Drinking from the bottle.
There’s a polite word for this: clusterfuck. An incompetent Tory party falling apart. But it’s worse than that. Everywhere you turn there is the stench of corruption. Of a government whose sole purpose is to live another day. Even the Maybot was better than this. Sunak was right about one thing. Enough is enough. This can’t go on.
John Crace’s book Depraved New World (Guardian Faber, £16.99) is out now. To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy and save 18% at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply