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by Louise Wilson
30 June 2024
Sketch: Rishi Sunak's last trip to Scotland

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Rishi Sunak's last trip to Scotland

Did Rishi Sunak enjoy his last-ever trip to Scotland?

He’s about to have plenty of time on his hands for holibobs and, let’s face it, if you’ve got a choice between jetting off to the Maldives and getting eaten alive by midges on Mull you’ll pick the Indian Ocean every time. Haste ye back? Unlikely for the billionaire PM.

Still, somehow Douglas Ross – who himself wants to spend as little time in Scotland as possible – managed to persuade his soon-to-be-ex boss to come north of the border. The pair had a manifesto to launch. A manifesto which neither of them are massively invested in, given one has already said he’s stepping down and the other is a few days away from doing the same.

Hacks were called to an Edinburgh hotel for their last opportunity to see this double act. The question on everyone’s lips was this: who had had the worst campaign, Ross or Sunak? Sunak or Ross?

He has clearly checked out – no doubt dreaming of the room service dinner he’ll order on the evening of 5 July

Perhaps that’s why when journalists dutifully filed into the lift to take them to the correct floor, they instead found themselves in the basement with the laundry. Much like the PM’s expectations for the polls, we expected the elevator to, well, elevate rather than plummet. More fool us/him.

When everyone finally made it into the room where the launch was taking place, Ross began by warning that the SNP wants Scotland to “continue on the same road we have been on since 2014”, as he has warned at every election since 2014. He insisted this election was a “unique, once in a generation opportunity to change course” and vote for a party that had been in power for 14 years. The SNP are “running a single-issue campaign”, he added, before going back to his favourite single issue of getting rid of the SNP.

Sunak’s speech was largely a repeat of what Ross had to say. He has clearly checked out – no doubt dreaming of the room service dinner he’ll order on the evening of 5 July. The SNP had “let down Scotland”, he said, and the people want politicians focused on their priorities, “not constitutional monomania”. He at least gets points for slipping the word ‘monomania’ into a speech.

He went on to accuse the SNP of sending a “virtue signal to eco zealots” and Labour of “radical environmentalism”. Clearly Sunak has not read either of his opponents’ manifestos, whose warm words on climate change will serve only as kindling to the flaming hot planet we’ll shortly be calling home. Sorry, was that a bit radical and eco-zealoty?

For some reason, neither Sunak nor Ross seemed keen on taking questions from the floor. A cynic might suggest that’s because it’s harder to wriggle out of tough questions on live TV.

Another journalist asked whether the Conservatives’ problem was that he just wasn’t very likable

Anyway, print hacks were sent to a separate room to wait for the pair. After an hour, a staffer could be heard in the corridor: “Only two minutes!” One journo wondered if that was all we were getting; another joked that was what they were having to tell the PM to get him into the room. “We’re not that scary,” he added, sharpening his pencil to a gleaming point.

Once Rishi was finally shepherded into the room by Ross and various press officers, the first question he faced was whether he’d apologise to the thousands of households whose finances had suffered due to Liz Truss. “Oh, err, progress, inflation, financial security,” Sunak spluttered in return.

Another journalist asked whether the Conservatives’ problem was that he just wasn’t very likable. “Oh, err, tax rises, tough few years, financial security!” Sunak replied.

A third wondered whether Labour was in fact the stronger vote to protect the Union, given future PM Keir Starmer had ruled out a second referendum. “I mean, like, we are the Conservative and Unionist Party,” said Sunak. It’s not exactly an ideal state of affairs to be having to point out your own name the week before a general election, is it?

Still, at least he appeared to be having a better week than Nigel Farage, who is now claiming he is under attack from… uh… the Daily Mail, collaborating with the Kremlin, to protect the Tories. Hmm.

“We’re doing far too well for some,” Farage said in a video posted online following a day of headlines about how he’d blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on everyone but Russia.

“Now when you get near the target, you start getting flak,” he lamented. “I know that, I’ve fought many election campaigns before. And, you know, sometimes, ok, that’s fine, that’s what politics is, and we understand that.

“But when it’s just not true, when it’s dishonest, then I have a problem.” Ah, so Farage does have a problem with dishonesty. Just not in the way you’d think.

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