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SARAH VINE: The true cost of these hateful attacks on Rishi Sunak 

When I think back to that evening in 2004 when, heavily pregnant with our son, I accompanied my nervous husband to the final selection round at the Surrey Heath Conservative Association, the memory is crystal clear.

We sat together for a while in the car park, going over his speech. 

We talked about what it might mean for our young family if he got selected, and of all the reasons he wanted to give up journalism to become an MP.

As I watched a pair of magpies flit to and fro, I had a strong sense that his dream was about to come true.

Many moons have passed since then and much has changed. 

And while I know Michael has relished the chance not only to serve his constituents in Parliament but also as a Minister, there are times when, on a very personal level, I look back to that late summer’s evening and wonder whether we made the right choice.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been the victim of a vicious, highly personal online campaign this week, writes SARAH VINE

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been the victim of a vicious, highly personal online campaign this week, writes SARAH VINE

I think if I’d had even the slightest inkling of the pressures involved I might have been less thrilled when he emerged excited and victorious from that selection meeting. 

Of course, like him, I was delighted — what wife wouldn’t be to see her husband achieve his heart’s desire?

But, 16 years on, I am rather less naïve — and have no illusions left.

There are, I have learned, no depths to which certain individuals and organisations will not sink in order to destroy those whose political ideology does not match their own.

A case in point is this week’s vicious, highly personal online campaign against the Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Led by Adam McNicholas, who worked on Labour’s 2017 election campaign and is a man who has made no secret of his intention to fight dirty, it portrays Sunak — one of the most intelligent, nuanced and effective members of the current Cabinet — as a rapacious capitalist cliche. 

‘There will never be a better time to go low,’ McNicholas wrote in The Times last month. ‘Labour must seize its moment.’ And how.

In the sneering online campaign Sunak is characterised in a northern commentary — designed no doubt to appeal to the voters Labour lost in its Red Wall — as a sort of cross between Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney and Louis XIV. 

Led by Adam McNicholas, who worked on Labour's 2017 election campaign and is a man who has made no secret of his intention to fight dirty, it portrays Sunak — one of the most intelligent, nuanced and effective members of the current Cabinet — as a rapacious capitalist cliche

Led by Adam McNicholas, who worked on Labour’s 2017 election campaign and is a man who has made no secret of his intention to fight dirty, it portrays Sunak — one of the most intelligent, nuanced and effective members of the current Cabinet — as a rapacious capitalist cliche

In the sneering online campaign Sunak is characterised in a northern commentary — designed no doubt to appeal to the voters Labour lost in its Red Wall — as a sort of cross between Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney and Louis XIV

In the sneering online campaign Sunak is characterised in a northern commentary — designed no doubt to appeal to the voters Labour lost in its Red Wall — as a sort of cross between Harry Enfield’s Loadsamoney and Louis XIV

He enjoys a ‘lavish celebrity lifestyle’. He has ‘a whole country estate’. He worked for a hedge fund. He has ‘mates in the City’ (cue clinking of champagne glasses). 

He doesn’t care about key workers. He hates poor people. And so on. There aren’t any actual pictures of him devouring babies, but the inference is definitely there.

It is everything you would expect from a Corbynista schooled in the politics of envy. It’s also very effective.

It attacks the man, not the policies. Sunak could (and has) presided over some of the most social-minded fiscal interventions in history, but it doesn’t matter because he’s rich, and therefore — in the tiny minds of the tribal Left — inherently evil.

It doesn’t matter how thick-skinned a person is, attacks such as these hurt. But that’s not the main concern, it’s the broader effect it has on the political landscape as a whole — and on the kind of people who end up running for office — that, to my mind, is the real problem.

It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the country where this sort of attack has long been common practice at elections — the U.S. — is currently facing one of the most uninspiring presidential contests in its history.

Trump v Biden, let’s face it, is hardly the dream ticket. 

On the one hand a foul-mouthed populist with dangerously demented ideas; on the other a doddery old man who seems to struggle with a basic grasp of facts.

If this undynamic duo is truly the best America has to offer, I dread to think what the rest are like.

They’re not the best, of course. They are just the last two standing in an arena in which only the most brutish survive. 

So power-hungry they’ll do anything to get to the top. Which makes them the least suited to the job.

British politics needs people like Sunak — intelligent, serious, responsible individuals prepared to set aside their own personal interests for the common good. 

Yes, he could be living the high life depicted in that ridiculous ad; instead he’s given it all up to try to make Britain a better place.

Let grunts like McNicholas drive him out, and it’s not just politics that suffers — it’s all of us.

Conniving insurers are bad for pets 

As reported earlier this week in the Mail, leading vets are worried that owning a pet might soon become something that only a privileged few can afford. 

This is not only to do with rising veterinary costs (up 20 per cent year-on-year in some cases) but also because pet insurance companies are increasingly refusing to pay for treatment.

That’s despite the annual average price of dog insurance hitting £378.26.

My annual premium is just over £1,000 —admittedly for several animals. Just after lockdown, one of them, Muffin, needed to have some teeth extracted. 

As reported earlier this week in the Mail, leading vets are worried that owning a pet might soon become something that only a privileged few can afford (stock image)

As reported earlier this week in the Mail, leading vets are worried that owning a pet might soon become something that only a privileged few can afford (stock image)

At the vet’s recommendation I went ahead, and duly submitted the claim to my insurers.

After several weeks they got in touch to say that my claim had been rejected — because the treatment had been for a ‘pre-existing condition’. This was news to me.

It turned out that a few years ago the vet had recommended Muffin have her teeth professionally cleaned (I clean them at home, but it’s never quite the same).

I do have some vague memory of this, but I thought it was just a suggestion, not a clinical necessity, so I never got round to it. 

Apparently, I had three weeks in which to get this carried out, or forfeit any future claim. Again, news to me.

I am now left with a vet’s bill of almost £2,000. 

And Muffin has so many exclusions on her policy it’s questionable whether it’s worth insuring her at all — although of course I will continue to do so because, in truth, what choice do I have?

Given the sharp rise in people getting puppies during lockdown, I cannot help wonder how many animals will end up suffering because their owners have been let down by companies who will find every possible excuse to avoid paying out.

Victoria savaged by the Covid Grinches 

Poor Victoria Derbyshire has had to apologise for telling the Radio Times she would be breaking ‘the rule of six’ at Christmas so that her family of seven could join together. 

Fair enough, it might not have been the most responsible thing to say — but it’s not as if she’s actually broken the rules. Truly, Covid-19 is turning us into a nation of hysterics. 

Poor Victoria Derbyshire has had to apologise for telling the Radio Times she would be breaking 'the rule of six' at Christmas so that her family of seven could join together

Poor Victoria Derbyshire has had to apologise for telling the Radio Times she would be breaking ‘the rule of six’ at Christmas so that her family of seven could join together

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason companies such as Tampax keep coming up with idiotic statements such as ‘not all women have periods’ and ‘not all people with periods are women’ is because the resulting social media hoo-ha is worth millions in free advertising.

The more we rise to the bait, the more they’ll keep doing it. So let’s stop.

After all, most of us have better things to worry about in life than the semantics of feminine hygiene.

Harry comes to heel 

Prince Harry says ‘living in Meghan’s shoes’ opened his eyes to racial bias. I’d have thought the main problem would be those vertiginous heels. 

Prince Harry says 'living in Meghan's shoes' opened his eyes to racial bias. I'd have thought the main problem would be those vertiginous heels

Prince Harry says ‘living in Meghan’s shoes’ opened his eyes to racial bias. I’d have thought the main problem would be those vertiginous heels

If your local Santa Claus looks a little fresh-faced this year, don’t be surprised. 

Apparently there has been a surge of thirtysomethings applying to fill that famous red-and-white romper suit — mainly because the older candidates are shielding due to the pandemic. 

As if policemen getting younger wasn’t depressing enough! 

Not entirely convinced about a second term for Trump; but not sure either about handing the nuclear codes to a man who can’t seem to remember the name of his opponent.

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more frightening . . .

My parents are confined to barracks again in Northern Italy, which would be fine were it not for the fact that their boiler is on the blink. 

With no one to fix it because of the new rules, it’s just a question of what gets them first: the freezing Alpine weather or the dreaded virus. 

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