Sunak’s big gamble

He even made the ludicrous and cruel ‘Rwanda policy’ — deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing

Editorial May 25, 2024


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s snap election announcement turned into something of a metaphor for his party’s chances in the July 4 polls, as Sunak was left drenched in the rain, with many in his party bewildered by what had just happened. His Conservative Party has for months assured that elections would be held in autumn, giving Sunak more time to improve economic indicators and the party a chance to rise in opinion polls. Instead, he chose to gamble on the element of surprise, hoping that the Labour Party will be caught off guard, and despite its successes in recent local bypolls, Labour’s lack of ‘star power’ — even party leader Keir Starmer calls himself boring — could suppress voter turnout.

However, the Conservatives are unlikely to change public opinion on years of disappointments in just six weeks, allowing Starmer to bore his way into 10 Downing Street. In early 2022, the Conservatives were expected to go into the 2024 elections like a boat in troubled waters. However, the chances of coming out of the elections with a respectable showing greatly diminished after former PM Boris Johnson’s scandals ran his government into an iceberg. His successor, former PM Liz Truss, then decided to right the ship by burning all the lifeboats, blowing up the engine, and then accusing seagulls of conspiring to remove her after less than seven weeks in charge. By the time Sunak took over, the economy, and his party, were in disarray. To consolidate power, he chose to appeal to the fringe right of his party, suddenly supporting policies he had opposed for his entire political career. He even made the ludicrous and cruel ‘Rwanda policy’ — deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

Meanwhile, polling by The Economist suggests the Conservatives are behind in every age group and national region, and even among Conservative voters from 2019. Despite having been a relatively competent chancellor, it has become quite clear that politics is not Sunak’s strength. Barring a miracle, there are no signs that, come July 5, he will even stay relevant in UK politics.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2024.

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