An embattled Prime Minister met an institution in crisis on Thursday morning, as he joined Alison Hammond on the This Morning sofa to talk new immigration figures, Suella Braverman and… Jilly Cooper?
Sunak must have been rubbing his hands with glee when he saw his inquisitors would be the bubbly Hammond and Chris Doyle (literally who?) following Philip Schofield’s acrimonious departure from the show last weekend.
Sunak was on the show reacting to new net migration figures which showed a record rise of 606,000 – despite the Conservatives manifesto pledge to reduce it to 100,000. Ducking the big beasts of political journalism for a mid-morning breakfast show would have seemed like a slam dunk for Sunak, but the multimillionaire struggled when faced with two relatively normal people.
After some toe-curlingly awkward banter, the questioning on immigration figures began with the PM defending his approach, claiming these are numbers he inherited from his predecessor Liz Truss.
When Hammond asked if immigration was “out of control”, squirming Sunak looked uncomfortable and answered, “I think the numbers are too high, and I want to bring them down”.
Throughout the interview Sunak looked like a sad combination of puppy and deer caught in the headlights, as he attempted to use this more banal medium to resurrect his flagging premiership.
He claimed immigrants cost the taxpayer £1.5m a day before seeing an escape route and moving the conversation swiftly on to This Morning’s moral panic du jour: claiming to be ‘worried’ about his young girls vaping. This came ahead of a telephone phone-in later in the programme – catnip for the ‘concerned parent’ brigade.
Sunak was then left startled when Hammond sprung to life and floored him a verbal haymaker, asking him why he let the scandal-hit Home Secretary Suella Braverman ‘off the hook’.
The PM responded, “she didn’t break the rules. I’ve asked my independent advisor and he’s met with her.” He also claimed that Braverman has ‘expressed request’. Well, that’s ok then.
The segment hit a new low with a suspiciously eloquent question from an 8-year-old girl criticising the teachers strikes.
The interview concluded with light-hearted questioning, in which the PM revealed he was at TGI Fridays when Truss resigned and, bizarrely, confirmed a rumour that he’s a huge fan of Jilly Cooper’s steamy novels.
An overall uncomfortable watch that should have alarm bells ringing at Conservative HQ – Sunak’s struggles connecting with the public here don’t bode well for next years general election.