Larry Told Me
To write about what’s happening in the UK right now is a matter fraught with risk. You stick your neck out and commit to an opinion, and for all you know, even before the ink has dried – okay, a digital imprint – the tables may have turned, and one is made to look embarrassingly outdated as Liz Truss’ biographers found out after having a torrid experience writing “Out of The Blue” which documented Truss’ extraordinary pathway leading up to 10 Downing Street. The exit was shocking, evidenced by the “shock waves” (pun unintended) that the UK financial market experienced in its wake and during the sojourn. Be that as it may, I can’t help but make a few observations.
Firstly, the Conservative Party managed to do something quite extraordinary. Which politician doesn’t make false promises to win elections, knowing full well that meeting these commitments would be difficult, if not downright impossible? The unfunded tax cuts proposed by Liz Truss had left a 70-billion-pound hole in the British Exchequer, and though it’s not a small sum of money, it could have been brushed under the carpet after markets cooled down a bit and the media hounds were leashed again. And to avoid a financial catastrophe, the government could have recovered the money by raising taxes over 2 – 3 years in a glide path of sorts. Most political parties would have opted for this recourse in a similar situation. You have to give it to the Brits – they have a transparent system which did not spare the Prime Minister even, and that too in only 44 days. By risking this kind of disclosure, the Tories came under severe attack from the Labour Party, and we mustn’t forget that General Election is less than two years away. Even in mature democracies, political parties would not have taken this extreme step to remain in power. Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is a rockstar! And why not? His predecessor gets sacked, he takes office, and in 24 hours, he dares to do a U-turn and reverses most of the tax cuts of the minibudget (Trussonomics).
In common parlance, it’s akin to overriding one’s boss in full public glare. In a world filled with yes-men, it’s extremely rare to find an individual with the moral wherewithal to demonstrate this courage. Yes, it may well be argued that why did the nation allow it in the first place? But the answer isn’t as easy. After Brexit and Covid-induced slowdown ceaselessly piggybacking on a 10.1 per cent inflation, the last thing the citizens wanted to hear was austerity measures – what Sunak proposed and Truss dissed. So, Truss was the messenger of hope, however illusionary, and Sunak, Dr Doom. Who wants bad news?
Secondly – waiting for the right opportunity. Crouching when hit and springing when the see-saw comes up again. When Sunak lost the race two months back, critics had sarcastically suggested that he should even contemplate settling in the US and resuming a finance career in Wall Street. Life had other plans. Sue Braverman is another example among many Tory ministers. She lost her chair due to a breach in data security. She sent an official file through her personal email – professional misconduct that was met with a punitive measure. Well, that’s the official line. Backroom chatter has it that her strong views on immigration weren’t seen too kindly by Truss, which led to her ouster. But see how she turned the tables in her favour. She grabbed the opportunity and put her weight behind Sunak when battle lines were drawn to bring Boris Johnson back. And she gets rewarded – a Cabinet seat! Yes, I am aware I may have egg on my face soon because she is under severe criticism right now, and this “victory” may only be short-lived. The learning here is simply this – never to be bogged down by losses that seem irreparable but to wait for the right opportunity. Of course, not everyone will get reinstated in two weeks, but it’s worth the wait. And that can often stretch to many years, even. In our darkest hour, we must remember that there’s nothing to be disconsolate or feel dishonourable about.
Thirdly – the extraordinary talent of meme-makers and joke writers. The funniest I read was about Sudha Murthy now purportedly (or sneeringly) referring to the UK as Jamai(ca). Who are these guys who come up with stuff so ridiculous and yet rip-roaringly hilarious? How do they have the mind to think laterally and connect disconnected things, however obliquely, to create bytes consumed between guffaws? And they do it instantaneously or, as they say in digital parlance, in “real-time”. Something happens – something that has a massive global impact or even local – and a flurry of jokes/memes gets shared to go viral. Struggling writers often wonder how to get even ten people to read their posts, so how do these guys get such extraordinary footage every time? Is there machinery that works in the background 24/7/365 to put together such disparate pieces of a giant puzzle and create a picture that would have been impossible to imagine otherwise?
Finally, who the hell is Larry?
Larry is a (Cheshire) cat, a permanent resident of 10 Downing Street who has seen many British Prime Ministers come and go and has thus cultivated irreverence. The tabby has 806.8K followers on Twitter. How else do you explain his casual and disdainful demeanour? I mean, Rishi Sunak braves the London weather (even metaphorically), strides purposefully up to the lectern, and addresses the global media; and what does Larry do in the background? His back is turned to the shutterbugs, and he is engrossed in licking his paws, perhaps contemplating what he can “fix” that his predecessor did not. This mouser isn’t a bootlicker for sure and is probably a lynchpin behind the inexplicable machinations that masquerade as social media which streams ceaseless entertainment.