We had got used to the expensive trainers. The carefully curated hoodies were just about acceptable. The Twitter feed was starting to grate on people’s nerves, and so were the stage-managed photo ops, such as filling up a borrowed Kia Rio at Sainsbury’s right after cutting fuel duty, but they were part of the package. But the Chancellor Rishi Sunak may finally have come up with a gimmick too far with the launch of the Treasury’s very own digital token.
The Chancellor, between figuring out how to control inflation, pay for public services and reboot the economy found some time this week to launch the British government’s first NFT. For anyone who is not familiar with them, which admittedly is probably most people, Non-Fungible Tokens, to give them their full name, are unique digital assets, created to trade anything that can be collected. Apparently the Royal Mint will be asked to knock out a few, and put them up for sale. Quite rightly, the announcement was met with widespread ridicule. NFTs have turned into the latest bubble in the financial markets. A cross between bitcoin and subprime mortgages, they are the latest in a long line of wheezes designed to part gullible investors from their money. That the British government is now planning to issue one of its own is, to put it mildly, surprising.
In reality, there are two reasons why it is an extraordinary lapse of judgment by the Chancellor. First, it should surely be the job of the Treasury to tell everyone to tread carefully in the crypto markets, not to jump on the bandwagon with a flimsy digital token of its own. The Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey has been telling everyone that NFTs create the potential for scams and frauds on an unprecedented scale, but it will be hard to get across that message when his boss is busily cooking up a few of his own. Next, and more seriously, Sunak has been printing money like it is going out of fashion. There was already a risk that his extravagance would undermine the credibility of the currency. Issuing dodgy looking NFTs will only make that worse.
In reality, Sunak is a huge talent. His easy going manner, mastery of his brief, and his take on mainstream, popular Conservatism should make him the obvious choice as the next leader of the party. His formidable campaigning skills should make a general election easily winnable by a Sunak-led Conservative party. But his addiction to gimmicks is starting to undermine his credibility, making him look light weight and glib when he needs some gravitas and weight. And the funny money tokens are the worst example of that yet.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.