IN his first months as prime minister, Rishi Sunak was the Duracell bunny who kept the tortoise Sir Keir Starmer at bay and revived hope among the feuding Tories.
Then, during a long summer of energy-sapping Partygate disputes and soaring inflation, everything went wrong.
I feared the Prime Minister had turned into “Dr. Dolittle”. Starmer called him “Inaction Man”.
We were both wrong.
But it is the Labor leader who is paying the price, not me.
By sitting quietly in Downing Street, keeping his powder dry and ignoring Conservative calls to declare war, Rishi Starmer allowed himself to swallow the polls and dream that he really is nailed down as the next prime minister.
The turtle stuck its head out – first to Ulez and “green crap”, then fatefully to Brexit.
Rishi immediately stopped it.
The bumbling ex-prosecutor is accused of conspiring to pervert democracy and selling out the British people.
At the urging of former Labor prime minister Tony Blair and a host of other New Labor makeovers, he is blurting out plans to slide back into the awkward embrace of the EU that we voted to leave in 2016.
Under Starmer, we will give up our newly regained sovereignty, follow EU rules over which we have no influence, pay billions for the privilege and accept any illegal migrants that Brussels decides to send.
All this while committing ourselves to associate membership in a regime whose sole aim is to condemn us for daring to leave in the first place.
Starmer desperately denies this despite being caught red-handed in a Canadian television chat with other left-wing leaders.
The only surprise, given his despicable, destructive antics as Jeremy Corbyn’s Remainer-in-Chief, is that he was so quickly lured into the quicksand of election losses.
I can’t imagine Red Wall voters buying this shabby trick.
We’ll certainly find out at the May election, but of all the reasons for rejecting Starmer and sticking with Rishi, this one trumps them all.
The Tories’ political options are limitless.
For example, we would never get back the “good things” of EU membership – the rebate worth more than £100 billion since Maggie Thatcher gave it in 1985.
Britain is doing better
We would have no vote in Europe’s unaccountable and unelected councils and no say in its soulless bureaucracy.
In fact, the EU itself is no longer the fledgling superstate it was when we left it.
The ever-expanding union is rocked by self-inflicted disputes over cash, immigration and the right of nation states to enforce their own laws.
The vaunted single currency is fighting for survival and its driving force, the German economy, is plunging into recession.
Brexit Britain, meanwhile, is defying its critics with stronger economic growth than the EU average and lucrative new global trade deals – impossible if we were still members.
There is clear evidence that Britain is better off staying out and would pay dearly to be “let in” again.
In another stark contrast to Labor, Rishi has hit a nerve with his declaration of war on the green sect that is striving for Net Zero.
Polling by The Sun’s Matt Goodwin shows his decision to postpone a crackdown on heat pumps and petrol and diesel cars and vans, saving Sun readers up to £15,000, is supported by almost two in three voters.
Together these create clear dividing lines and clear choices between Labor and the Tories at the next election.
And there’s plenty more where these came from – including transforming education, housing and reforming the ailing NHS.
Despite Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s sad promise of “no tax cuts”, the spring budget will cut and then scrap the hated inheritance tax, wooing back millions of dissatisfied Blue Wall Tory voters.
So far these moves have had little or no impact on Labour’s impressive lead.
That will change when the rivals unpack their electoral gifts at the party conferences in the fall.
The Tories will be the first to kick off their rally in Manchester next week.
Rishi Sunak can see the whites of the enemy’s eyes. He is ready for his troops to open fire.
The hare and the tortoise. . . Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a fairy tale.
Take a step back
LAST week’s news that Rupert Murdoch was stepping down as “boss” of News Corp surprised me while on holiday in Sicily.
I was doing a few interviews about the Great Man for TalkTV from my hotel room while looking at a sculpture of a Greek god from 800 B.C. Forgotten on the wall, right, dressed like Russell Brand without the Y-fronts.
Shortly after the release, YouTube came forward and banned us from “monetizing” the content for reasons of decency.
For social media, the source of so many modern ills, antiquity is no defense