Political debates rarely change the dynamics of the race. Mainly because most people have better things to do than watch politicians going at it over the minutiae of solvency II or the merits of Claire’s Accessories. Those that do tune in are the more engaged, those of us who’ve already made up our minds, in short those of us who are more likely to live and breathe politics.
That there’s a yawning gap in perceptions between the inhabitants of the Westminster bubble and the public is no surprise. But the repeated failures to take account of that gap, and to learn from past mistakes, is remarkable.
It showed up most clearly during the Brexit referendum — when those involved in the Remain campaign, myself included, were sure that the economic arguments against leaving the EU were so watertight that the public would ultimately conclude that the best choice was to stay in. It was only on polling day in Loughborough Market that I realised how wrong we had been.
Fast forward to 2022, and a large chunk of the commentariat are making exactly the same miscalculation in the race for Britain’s next Prime Minister — and this time it’s an error being made even by many of those who masterminded Brexit. That mistake is the idea that Rishi Sunak is the only person the public could consider a viable choice to be our next prime minister. It’s easy to see why; his many talents, charm and impressive response to the pandemic all mark him out as a prime minister in waiting.