Sunak is the Michael Corleone of the Tory party – do your best to free him, he’s up to his neck in it. Jonathan Friedland

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wRishi Sunak is no Al Pacino when it comes to on-screen charisma, but after the week he has, he can authentically channel one of the Hollywood veteran’s most treasured lines. With conviction, he can make like Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III and hiss: “Just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in.”

Whimsical is desperate to break free of the disastrous recent Tory past, but time and time again it grabs him by the ankles and drags him back. A week that began with hopeful talks of a breakthrough with the European Union has ended in a partygate of wine, cake and serial rule-breaking.

Thank you for Friday’s update from the Commons privileges committee as it released new evidence showing Boris Johnson’s own officials were struggling to argue that Downing Street lockdown gatherings were within the rules. An aide spoke of “a big hole in the prime minister’s account”.

Cue a great Westminster back and forth. Johnson called the report “surreal” because it cited the work of Whitehall veteran Sue Grey, who is set to join Keir Starmer as chief of staff. The committee replied that it did not trust Gray and had conducted its own investigation. But this will not calm the Johnson faction, now crying foul: Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Gray Report “left wing stitch-up, asks the daily mail its front page“Is this evidence that the Partygate investigation was a Labor conspiracy?”

To answer yes, here you have to believe. That Gray ensured that the task of the investigation fell to him by covertly engineering a recapture of Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the man who was originally tasked with the Partygate investigation, possibly by going back in time to the Downing Street Christmas Gate- Together he needs to step aside after setting up the case.

In fact, for the findings of Partygate to be a slick grey-starrer plot, the Mandarin would have to wheel suitcases packed with drinks, open and munch on the bottles – an innocent Johnson and his staff flouting lockdown rules. otherwise they would have obeyed him with a view to serving his future labor boss. Can we say, it’s a bit of a reach.

So we can dismiss the tainted indignation of Tories who, in truth, may be more concerned about the secrets Gray knows, Whitehall’s “cover-up department”, the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team. Thank you for six years as chief. Because it’s not really Labor that has been damaged by this appointment, before you get to Starmer’s take on advice from an insider who knows the business of government very well. It is the listener who will suffer.

‘Haincock’s face getting splattered everywhere was bad enough, but Sunak himself had to deal with the return of Boris Johnson.’ Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Think about the week the Prime Minister has had. Monday brought EU success on Northern Ireland, the right performance, Sunak hopes, the clean break from the Johnson-Truss era he wants to represent, proof that technical ability, not flag-waving glitz, gets results receives. By Thursday, it was back on PartyGate. What voters think of the rights and wrongs of the Gray appointment matters less than that simple fact: we are talking about, and remembering, the recent Tory past, which Sunak wants to shake up.

And it keeps happening. The middle of the week was consumed by Matt Hancock’s 100,000 WhatsApp messages, the emergence of which provided yet more proof that when it comes to the worst political decisions in Britain, the former health secretary is king of the jungle: at Westminster One can only marvel at the notion that Hancock would have thought it wise to trust his darkest secrets to … Isabel Oakeshott.

The Telegraph uses its scoop to advance the case for the lockdown skeptics, but the starkest conclusion is a reminder of the government’s successive failures on Covid, starting with seeding the virus among the elderly and vulnerable: now we Know that Hancock rejected advice from England’s chief medical officer to test all residents visiting care homes.

Hancock’s face getting splattered everywhere was bad enough, but Sunak himself had to deal with Johnson’s return. In a speech on Thursday, the former PM pretended to avoid any thoughts of a comeback, insisting it was unlikely he would “need to do anything major in politics again” (and we don’t use that word “need”). ” can stick to). But don’t be fooled. When Nadine Dorries suggests that the Gray Report is no longer worth the paper it is written on, and wants to sidestep new evidence from the Committee of Privileges, doing so to rehabilitate his old patrons.

Even if that was not the goal, the presence of the former PM leaves Sunak vulnerable to restarting the project. Johnson’s words did not help either, saying he would fight to vote for Sunak’s “Windsor Framework”, thereby ruining his successor’s first major achievement, earning himself Tory and DUP discontent. Introduced as a focus and raised the prospect of much “Westminster drama” the PM had urged his MPs to avoid.

Sunak wants to do what John Major did in 1990: make voters feel they have a brand new government, so there is no need to replace it with Labour. But their job is made tougher by the daily reminders that the Tories have been in power for 13 years, and have spent much of that time swinging between chaos, scandal and disaster.

But there’s a special reason Sunak can’t escape that legacy. Because, like Michael Corleone, he’s up to his neck in it. He was second in government during Covid, combining the disaster with his absurd “eat out to help out” plan, whose main achievement was to increase the rate of infection. He stood by Johnson’s side during Partygate, even receiving a fixed-penalty notice of his own. He boasts of a major victory over Northern Ireland business, but this is only compounding a problem created by the same government in which he served at the highest level.

This week he was telling people in Northern Ireland they were in an “incredibly special position” of accessing both the UK home market and the EU single market. “No one else has,” he said. And you know why nobody else in Britain has that, Mr Prime Minister? Because you took it away from us, with the disastrous Brexit you voted for and supported.

Cynical Tory laments his inability to escape the past, but it is too late. As the scion of the legendary Mafia family, he chose his destiny long ago – and now it follows him.

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