FOR any Minister such an introduction is the stuff that dreams are made of. “One of the most popular politicians in the country,” said Andrew Marr of Rishi Sunak.

Yet the Chancellor could hardly enjoy the tribute given the two little words which accompanied it: “for now”.

It was rather like describing the Titanic as was one of the safest ships in the world, until it sank.

One knew what Marr meant. As he said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is paying the wages of nine million people. Of course he is popular.

But now, with the support schemes facing eventual closure, and data confirming the UK economy had fallen off a cliff during lockdown, it was time for the Chancellor to start preparing the public for what was to come. That prep began on the Sunday shows.

There was a sombre mood from the outset on The Andrew Marr Show and Sky News’s Ridge on Sunday.

Ridge called the UK’s 40,000-plus virus death toll, the economic crash, the weekend protests and the suspension of education a “perfect storm” for a Government that should, in the normal run of things, still be enjoying a honeymoon period.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Shadow Home Secretary, told Ridge the scenes on Saturday of far-right thugs attacking the police were “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

Turning to Labour’s rise in the opinion polls under Sir Keir Starmer, Ridge asked if it made Mr Thomas-Symonds think the problem had been former leader Jeremy Corbyn all along.

“It makes me think about the present Sophy, not the past,” he replied, a response that Ridge called “very diplomatic”.

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On Marr, shadow justice secretary David Lammy was not interested in winning any awards for diplomacy when it came to the Prime Minister.

“Boris Johnson sent out eight tweets on Friday on Winston Churchill and statues.

“He’s never tweeted eight times in a day on coronavirus, he’s never tweeted eight times in a day on the Windrush review or what he’s going to do about it, or on the review that David Cameron asked me to do on disproportionality in the criminal justice system and what he’s going to do about it. This feels to me like a bit of a deflection.”

The protests were an important subject, ditto education, the search for a vaccine, and Brexit, other topics covered by the Sundays. But the main show in town was always going to be the Chancellor and what he had to say about the months to come.

The downbeat tone was struck early on in Marr’s introduction when he said the outlook for jobs in Britain was “terrifying”.

“Thanks to Covid-19,” he told viewers, “many of you watching this morning may lose your livelihoods this year. Two decades of growth have been wiped out in just two months.”

Nothing like breaking bad news gently, and this was nothing like breaking bad news gently.

There was more misery foretold in the newspaper review slot, when Sun columnist Jane Moore picked up on a survey in the Sun on Sunday showing that 67% of people thought the economic meltdown would not affect them.

“That is delusional,” she said. “Any sunny day, any city in the country, you drive around, look at parks, everyone’s out having a lovely picnic, a lovely time. No-one blames them, we all want to be there, and a lot of them are there not by choice but because they can’t actually work. But if they think they are going to get this ten weeks of just having a lovely time and then go back and everything is going to be fine I’m afraid it is not. There is a serious economic crash coming.”

Marr agreed. “There is a slight sense that we are all enjoying a sunny, balmy, hugely relaxed fool’s paradise at the moment.”

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Finally, it was time for the man of the hour, the politician currently as popular as summer, to add some clouds to the picture. “There is going to be hardship ahead,” said the Chancellor, but the situation would be “far worse” if the Government had not acted the way it did.

With the more shops opening on Monday in England, Mr Sunak’s other task was to reassure the public it was safe to enter stores. Both Marr and Ridge both wanted to know where the Chancellor stood on replacing the two metre social distancing guide with one metre.

Many businesses, particularly in hospitality and tourism, have said they will not be able to survive if the two metre rule stays. But Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has been among scientists advising caution. Would the scientists have to agree to any change?

“Ultimately it is for ministers,” said the Chancellor. “We are the people who are elected to make decisions in this country. People should hold us responsible and accountable for making those decisions.”

That’s one statement Mr Sunak can take to the bank.

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