Voices: You know the great thing about Rishi Sunak? How humble he will tell you he is

You know what might be the single greatest thing about the History Maker and all round great guy Rishi Sunak? It’s that he’s so great he really doesn’t mind who gets the credit for his greatness.

He’s the type of guy who can make history on a Monday afternoon and by Tuesday morning just rather you talked about something else because, come on, this really isn’t all about him. Because none of this is about him. It really isn’t. He’s not in it for himself. He just wants to do right by the people of Northern Ireland and now he’s gone there just to tell them exactly that.

The morning after the historic announcement of the historic Windsor Framework, there he was, doing a BBC radio interview in Belfast, telling them: “This isn’t about me, this is about the people of Northern Ireland and what’s best for them.”

And you can forgive him the pious tone, the studied manner of the Man Who Just Cared Too Much About Everybody Else. He only cares about others. And the people of Northern Ireland can now be left in no doubt about who’s got their best interests at heart.

It’s definitely not, for example, John Major, or Tony Blair, who went there in 2016 to issue a very loud warning that Brexit would be an unmitigated disaster for the country, which it has been. And it’s definitely not the vast majority of people who actually live there, who voted to remain in the European Union. No, actually, it turns out it’s Rishi Sunak, who ignored all these warnings, campaigned for (and voted for) Brexit – and now imagines himself to have received some kind of beatification for partly ameliorating a very small amount of the damage he has done.

And he was also there to tell the people of Northern Ireland how lucky they are to have him on their side. He went to the shop floor of a Coca-Cola factory in County Antrim. He rolled up his sleeves, he summoned his now well-honed proto-mockney accent, which he deploys when speaking to Ordinary Folk, and he really did say to them the following: “Northern Ireland is now in an unbelievably special position, a unique position in the entire world, in having privileged access not just to the UK market but also the EU single market. Nobody else has that. No one. Only you guys, only here.”

In seven full years of having my nose pressed up against the glass of Brexit, and in a whole lifetime of supporting various somewhat poor-quality sports teams, I do not think I have ever once shouted at my television at quite such high volume. That there can a man stand, the actual prime minister, in a smallish corner of the country he runs, and tell the people how lucky they are to still have access to the same economic benefits he has removed from everybody else. That it’s only Northern Ireland, only here, that hasn’t been deliberately banjaxed by me for precisely zero benefit.

He teased them with it, too. He carried on: “When I go round the world and talk to businesses, they like that, they say, ‘That’s interesting. We want to invest in Northern Ireland because nowhere else does that exist, that’s like the world’s most exciting economic zone’.”

Oh to have been a fly on the wall in those conversations. Where the actual prime minister meets foreign business owners and says to them: “Well, actually, you might not know this, but there is actually a small part of the United Kingdom that hasn’t technically done the insanely stupid thing we made the rest of the country do. If I were you, I’d invest your money there.”

Later, the prime minister’s spokesperson was inevitably asked whether he really did agree with his own comments, that it would obviously, therefore, be better for all of the UK to be part of “the world’s most exciting economic zone”.

Sunak’s spokesperson said “no”, the prime minister didn’t think that. They weren’t really able to elaborate any further. Just “no”. Obviously, he’d said it and there’s absolutely no other way to understand it but no, we would learn. He didn’t think that and that was that.

Sunak, vaguely to his credit, isn’t quite as comfortable living in The Land of Make Believe as his two immediate predecessors. He does appear to have a weakness for telling something approximate to the actual truth, which does make one worry for the future of The Land of Make Believe, which is unfortunate because that’s where we all have to live, mainly for the sake of our basic sanity.

Rishi Sunak accidentally admitting that Brexit is very obviously terrible, then subsequently pretending he didn’t, is kind of the best we can hope for. But the more these things happen, the more you worry for the future. We were, in some ways, better off with Johnson and co, who would castigate experts, ignore all of the evidence in favour of sticking his thumbs in the air and going on about how “fantastic” everything is.

What actually happens, quite possibly in just a year or so from now, when we might actually have a prime minister who knows exactly how bad Brexit is and has never been under any illusions about it whatsoever? At least Rishi Sunak is most of the time invested in the big delusion for the sake of not looking as utterly ridiculous as he did on Tuesday morning.

What will Keir Starmer do, when things continue to get worse and worse and worse, as he always said they would, when he’s proved ever more right but doesn’t think he can really do anything about it for fear of upsetting anyone? That’s when things will get really unsettling.

These days, by comparison, when the prime minister can tell a room full of people how lucky they are to have partially escaped the consequences of his actions and bask in the glory of it all, will seem almost normal.