Voices: Rishi Sunak could be PM in a month – does this count as ‘vilifying’ Britain?

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Sunak’s latest plan, to label as a terrorist anyone who ‘villifies Britain’, exists only to be typed and talked about for a few hours (Reuters)
Sunak’s latest plan, to label as a terrorist anyone who ‘villifies Britain’, exists only to be typed and talked about for a few hours (Reuters)

There is still over an entire month of the Tory leadership contest to go and we are already well in to what can only be described as the monkey tennis phase.

For reasons only they can truly understand, both candidates evidently feel they have an obligation to launch new policies every single day, for six full weeks. That would be 42 entire policies, more than most governments get done in five years. The panicked decline has become entirely Partridge-esque.

Rishi Sunak’s latest plan – to label as an actual terrorist anyone who “villifies Britain” – would arguably make sense were it to be sandwiched between arm wrestling with Chas and Dave and inner-city sumo.

Mercifully it is, like all these things, a meta policy. It exists only to be typed and talked about for a few hours, before we move on to the next one that absolutely definitely won’t happen.

Yesterday, an almost unimaginably intelligent attack-drone targeted a particular floor in a particular building on a particular street in Kabul and assassinated the leader of al-Qaeda in an attack in which precisely zero innocent bystanders were harmed in any way.

August, traditionally, is silly season. This kind of massive event is the sort of thing the news industry would be very grateful for. But it seemed to barely register, because Liz Truss had put out a terrible press release about slashing wages outside London, and then when it was rightly seen to be completely insane and outrageous, she immediately started pretending she had never done it.

The Tory leadership race is expanding to fill the chasm of time that has been made available to it. Neither candidate, by this point, has anything of any interest left to say – if they ever did in the first place. They are both stuck on an impossible treadmill, feeling the need to fill the unforgiving minute with pointless press releases about stuff that will never happen.

How, exactly, will Rishi Sunak start referring people to the terrorism prevention programme if they “vilify” the country? What does it even mean? Sunak is one of two people who is going to be prime minister in just over a month and both of them are a complete embarrassment. Does this count as vilifying Britain?

Sunak reckons that criticising government policy won’t count as vilifying the country. What about booing the national anthem, as about 40,000 Liverpool fans did at Wembley a few months ago? Would calling to abolish the monarchy count as vilifying the country? Liz Truss did that a while ago, back when she was a Lib Dem. Thankfully she’s seen the error of her ways now but she can count herself lucky. The youth of today won’t get the chance to go on her “political journey” without the anti terror police stepping in.

Who knows what plans they’ve got next? Who cares? If you don’t like it, well, it doesn’t matter. They’ve got others. And they can always just cancel them and claim they were ‘misrepresented’ when they weren’t. It’s a political end of the pier show and it’s running for another month. An open-mic night of shit ideas, where everyone gets gonged off and you pretend they were never there.

What is more intriguing is the apparent allergy to actual good ideas. On Wednesday afternoon, all 23 of England’s victorious womens football team put out a joint statement, signed by all of them, calling for equal access to football in PE lessons at school for both boys and girls. This is a request that’s been made many, many times before.

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The fact it has to be made is itself clear indication of institutional sexism. Football is the most popular sport in the world, by some margin, and it is not just for boys. The current government policy is to ignore these requests. It would be too difficult, apparently, to make things fair.

If Sunak hasn’t yielded to this demand within hours maybe he’ll have to refer himself to his own terrorism programme? Football is this country’s national sport after all. Women and girls are half the population.

If he won’t let little girls play it, just like little boys, isn’t he vilifying half the country? He is standing in the way of millions of people who just want to express their love for their country by playing its national game. That is surely enough to get the Prevent counterterrorism people involved?

If the 24-hour-news cycle ends with Rishi Sunak having accidentally declared himself a terrorist it would still be one of the more normal days. There are 35 more of them to go.

What other terrible ideas can they possibly have left? There is, somewhat tragically, only one way to find out.

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