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Is Sunak turning the Tories into the ‘nasty’ party again?

By Frank McKenna

By Frank McKenna

Is the ‘Nasty’ Party back?

Before she became prime minister, Theresa May told a Tory Party conference that the Conservatives had become “the nasty party”. She was referencing a perception that her party was anti-gay, anti-multiculturalism, and sneered at anyone who was reliant upon the welfare state.

David Cameron was so sensitive and alive to the charge that he wore his liberal values on his sleeve, changed the Tory emblem from a torch to a tree, hugged a hoodie, and pursued the ‘Big Society’ long before ‘levelling-up’ was a thing.

Whether that was sustained during his administration is debateable, but we at least have to acknowledge that there was a genuine acknowledgement that the Conservative brand needed to be de-toxified.

Through Brexit, Johnson, and Truss, disorder and disarray overshadowed the rather poisonous views of a minority of the government’s MPs on a range of issues that they would generally refer to as ‘woke’ – and anyway, who is really taking seriously the views of a swivel-eyed backwoodsman, yearning for a return to the nineteenth century and the Empire.

The language about immigration, the LGBT community, and even the homeless, from some ministers and backbenchers have left a lot to be desired in recent months – but, for the most part, Rishi Sunak has largely remained above the fray, and out of the gutter.

That was until this week.

Whatever one thinks about the Rwandan policy, we should never forget that we are talking about ‘deterring’ desperate people, often women and children, who are quite literally, risking their lives for a better life.

Therefore, the sight of a multimillionaire prime minister jovially accepting a one-thousand-pound bet from a over-promoted gameshow host was not simply ill-advised, but demeaning to both Sunak personally, and to the office that he has the privilege to hold.

Bad though that was, it paled into insignificance when contrasted with Sunak’s performance at PMQs on Wednesday. His jibe about Keir Starmer not knowing the difference between a man and a woman would have been cheap at the best of times. Made at a session when the mother of transgender murder victim Brianna Gray’s mother was in parliament – and then failing to apologise to her and her family afterwards– is mind bogglingly crass.  

Theresa May obviously saw little advantage from her party being perceived as ‘nasty’. Sunak clearly thinks differently.

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