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[Politics] Laura Kuenssberg: Rishi Sunak needs political superpowers to make his rebrand work


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In the next few days we will all see more of the new-look Rishi Sunak.

'Mr Safe Pair of Hands' is gone - it's 'No more Mr Nice Guy' now.

Less of the touchy feely "green crap", as his forerunner David Cameron once branded it - more of the red meat for motorists and rhetoric for Tory members. And if that means the home secretary riling up the left about refugees, so be it.

Meet Rishi Sunak the "change candidate", to use the political jargon. The man who wants to tell you why the country is going wrong - and how he'll fix it.

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With the public grumpy, Conservative strategists reckon that voters will want something different at the next election. The idea is simple: pitch Mr Sunak as someone who wants to change the status quo - apart from him being in Number 10, that is.

It's a tactic that was clear in his big speech last week when he asked: "Do we want to change our country... or carry on as we are?"

A cunning scheme, perhaps, after months and months of dreadful polling. As one cabinet minister puts it, if you have kept trying the same thing and you're still miles behind, it is simple logic to "take a risk".

But after 13 years in charge, it might take a political superhero to make the rebrand work.

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The first obstacle - which I'll be asking him about when he appears on my show tomorrow - is his reputation.

He was initially presented to the public as someone safe, responsible, and serious - in other words, not Liz Truss or Boris Johnson. He was the grown up in the room, the guy who read the briefing papers, understood the spreadsheets and did not upset the apple cart.

It may be a considerable job to convince the public that he was secretly a firebrand all along, bristling with zeal to change the world.

Second, having what Sunak calls an honest debate about the "consensus" means junking some government promises.

As far as the public is concerned, U-turns are not always the worst thing - better to stop a disaster than let it happen. But whether it's the shifting of green targets or the wobble over HS2, there is a political cost.

There have been noisy barbs from prominent Tories; businesses and campaigners are spooked.

While some insiders point to flickers in the polls after Sunak put the brakes on the green agenda, there is not yet much evidence that green scepticism is a big force influencing voters' behaviour - albeit the Uxbridge by-election win, widely attributed to Labour mayor Sadiq Khan's expansion of London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez), has piqued the attention of top Conservatives.

link: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-66970426

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