Opinion

Sunak should meet people hit by floods – but maybe he doesn't want to get his Sambas wet

The prime minister's distraction tactics are increasingly see-through

Image: @rishisunakmp

I’m jealous of Rishi Sunak’s feet. It’s because of the Sambas business. He was pictured this week wearing a pair of boxfresh adidas Sambas during an interview. This led to something between a kerfuffle and a furore.

Sunak matched the classic cult shoe with a pair of his signature tight trousers. While he may have wanted to channel Oasis circa 1995, he was closer to a works function at a No Way Sis gig. The look didn’t land. And Sunak apologised. Which, I suppose, is a way to humanise him.

All I could think was, at least he can wear them. I have wide flat feet. Too many generations of Irish farmers trotting over wet bogs. It means that Sambas and me could never get together. They are a narrow shoe. When I attempted to secure the look and get my feet into a pair of original navy suede Sambas I looked like I’d had an accident. And so I was forever outside that part of the Mod circle.

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I don’t know if the whole thing was staged to allow a conversation that would make Rishi more like the rest of us – look, LOOK, he wears trainers and everything! And then have him laugh at himself when he realises the outcome.

It was the dominant line from the prime minister over the early part of the week. Which is telling. The other really striking photo story of the week was of the farmhouse in Trimingham in North Norfolk which needs to be demolished as the land around it has collapsed into the sea. The erosion which led to the loss of that one house, and several others in recent months, was not caused by the advance of the sea, but by rain. Heavy rain.

Of course, north Norfolk is not the only part of the country to suffer from chaos caused by excess rain in recent times, it’s just the most dramatic image.

And there is no doubt that this is due to climate change. Despite the best efforts of some deniers to claim it’s part of the cyclical nature of weather, the evidence is all around us. At the moment in deep puddles and swollen rivers. In March, it was in temperature. March was the 10th consecutive hottest month on record for global air and sea temperatures. Yet, despite the chaos brought by the weather, the impact on day to day lives of millions, on the crops in fields, I couldn’t find a line, at time of going to print, from Rishi Sunak, about commitments, new or simply reaffirmed, to doing something about it all.

Just a few months ago, he backed away from net zero and major British climate promises. He was, he said, on the side of drivers. The freak by election win in Uxbridge and South Ruislip that seemed to be fuelled by anger over the London ULEZ extension has a lot to answer for. When was the last time a by election changed the course of major government policy, and in turn all our futures?

At the time, Sunak also insisted that he’d back new North Sea oil drilling, green lighting the Rosebank development. His argument was that it would help stabilise energy production for the UK and keep jobs in the industry. He didn’t say a lot about the CO2 emissions that would come from burning the potential 300m barrels of oil. Or which nation would see their energy production stabilised.

The warning of 10s of thousands of jobs being lost is the big scare that is frequently used to slow down the green energy production move. It’s a legitimate fear. But it’s unlikely. In an interesting recent report on transition by PWC – yes, I know how to kick back and relax, it’s called The Energy Transition and Jobs report – there is a lot on timelines and how workers can move to fill the green skills gap from sunset jobs (such as jobs in coal-fired power stations). It provides interesting insight.

Among many stats, one jumped out. Even during the energy crisis, it  says, quoting Stuart Wyness, CFO of Stena Drilling, one of the world’s biggest drilling contractors, when you’d expect a ‘huge asset push’ businesses didn’t want to commit to purchasing new drilling equipment. When those whose business is drilling are notifying us of slowdowns it does rather fly in the face of government chat and bluster and makes us question why the government would pull back from the inevitable.

Perhaps Rishi Sunak would meet people whose homes are flooded or are crashing into the sea and tell them. Or maybe he doesn’t want to get his Sambas wet.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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