Rishi Sunak has made a jaw-dropping prat of himself with this David Brent-style video

The hyper-extended self-promotional video of the chancellor is a once-in-a-generation type disaster

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Monday 01 March 2021 19:24
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Rishi Sunak's 'vain' Budget promo video mocked

Whatever you’re doing, at this time of national crisis, it is, in Rishi Sunak’s opinion, very important that you stop that right now and spend fully five minutes and 40 seconds watching the last horrific year through the prism of his career.

And you might as well. You’ve paid for it, after all. “It” being the hyper-extended self-promotional video the chancellor of the exchequer has somehow found a lot of time to put out about himself, two days before what is, by my count, his 998th Budget of the last 12 months.

The term “car crash” to refer to something grippingly awful is banned by The Independent’s style guide and quite right, too. For a start it would hardly do this justice. This is more a kind of once-in-a-generation type disaster, one that only really happens in the very rarefied air high above Cape Canaveral.

There is, almost, a serenity to its awfulness, a once admired, moderately bright young man making, through absolutely no fault of anyone’s but his own, a simply jaw-dropping tit of himself.

We begin with the chancellor fondly looking back on that day, 12 months ago, when he was asked to be chancellor. His own, self-hired (with public money, of course) video production team ask him to “describe the day” he got the job of his dreams. “Oh gosh,” he says, almost acknowledging that somewhere, deep down, a tiny voice might be telling him what a terrible idea this is.

It’s fair to say we’ve all had a lot to reflect on. Several million of us are grieving one of the 120,000 or so people who’ve died before their time, or had their business ruined, or spent what should have been their undergraduate days of glory on their laptop in their childhood bedroom. But Rishi, well, he wants you to look at the bigger picture, specifically, the one with him in it.

It’s not so much that it brings to mind the famous David Brent clip (“The bad news is, some of you will lose your jobs. The good news is, I’ve been promoted, so... every cloud”), it’s that it surpasses it by a factor of several thousand.

Even Brent, one suspects, would have the self-awareness not to do a full greatest hits montage about himself against the backdrop of the worst year in roughly the last 80. In a very old interview, Ricky Gervais explained the David Brent character as fundamentally being that of a man who just can’t believe his luck when a TV documentary crew turn up to make a film about him, and then just can’t stop himself from making a complete fool of himself.

No luck involved with Sunak, however, who has called in the cameras himself. We learn about the “look on his face” when he hit the big time, then there are no terrible events that can’t be shrunk to fit through the chancellor’s infinitely reducing lens of self-regard.

“I didn’t sleep the night before furlough launched... ”

“Some people called Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance called me up and talked me through what they were seeing... ”

At this point, Sunak stands with his briefcase outstretched, allowing the camera to pan around him as if posing for his own Madam Tussauds waxwork, which you imagine he’s very much already had his people enquire about. Then we hear how happy Rishi was when the vaccine was approved. What a great day that was, for him.

Summer, strangely, doesn’t get a mention, and the long month or so in which, to combat a disease spread by close human contact and which ruthlessly targets overweight people, the chancellor decided to directly reduce an eat-in extra-large Big Mac meal to just over a pound and get the taxpayer to cover the rest.

Nor do we hear much about the day, presumably fairly recently, where the chancellor decides the most pressing thing he must do right now is get to work on a video all about himself, which will come in only slightly shorter than Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” but significantly more self indulgent and much, much, more mad.

Of course, some of us can clearly remember the day, 12 months ago, when Rishi Sunak gave his first Budget. It was the day, not in hindsight but in blazing foresight, that the government didn’t have the tiniest clue what it was doing.

Budget day 2020 took place in a packed House of Commons chamber, the morning after a government minister tested positive for coronavirus. There were several hundred people hugger-mugger in that tiny room, fully 20 yards or so from an office with police tape strewn over the door, and a makeshift sign reading “Covid-19 Do Not Enter”. It was perfectly obvious to the hundreds of us who had precious little choice but to pack in there for the day’s events that what was happening was palpably insane.

And it was also palpably obvious, when the chancellor set aside a whopping £12bn to deal with this thing called coronavirus that it wasn’t going to be enough. He would give what amounted to his second Budget fully seven days later.

But that doesn’t matter. Rishi got through it. We all got through it. 120,000 people dead, national debt over 100 per cent of GDP, “exciting opportunities to drive growth”.

What’s that? Oh. If we may quote Mr Brent once more. “You’re still thinking about the bad news, aren’t you?”

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