Rishi Sunak turns buoyant in troubled waterstext_fields
On Christmas, Day Sunak celebrated 2 months as Prime Minister. He has now lasted considerably longer than his immediate predecessor Liz Truss. Truss’ ill-starred 49-day premiership will soon be a tiebreak question in Trivial Pursuit. But Sunak has moved beyond being a footnote in the chronicles.
Since Sunak was appointed PM inflation has come down a little. The Pound Sterling has climbed a little. The markets have been soothed. There is a sense of normalcy.
The Prime Minister visited Ukraine and gave the Ukrainian three US-made sea king helicopters. The Royal Navy had these in storage. They had not been used for years. The 1950s-design choppers were made to destroy submarines. Ukraine has gratefully received the assets. The UK is continued to be the second biggest military donor to Ukraine. France gives a quarter of what the United Kingdom gives despite having the same sized population and economy.
There are still significant headwinds for the PM to deal with. The economy has contracted slightly. It looks like the UK is heading into a brief and mild recession.
There are strikes by nurses, doctors, railway workers, civil servants, airport border control staff and in other sectors. They all want more money and the government does not have money to pay them more. The PM said the United Kingdom needs pay restraint. Sunak said that raising salaries shall exacerbate inflation and that inflation is impoverishing everyone.
There is increasing illegal immigration. 40 000 people have illegally crossed the English Channel in 2022. It took 18 months to have the claims assessed. Most of the illegal immigrants are Albanians, Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians. The UK Government is considering placing a ban on Albanian refugees.
Albania is considered a safe country and is an EU candidate member. All Albanians could be automatically rejected. Why do Albanians who are safe in France then pay thousands of GBP to cross to England on unsafe boats? Because in France 3% of their asylum claims are accepted whereas in England 60%+ are accepted. They are briefed on the lies to tell in order to make immigration tribunals have their claims accepted.
Sunak’s Conservative Party is far adrift in the polls. Most people who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum of 2016 voted Conservative in 2019. Now only 35% of Leave voters will vote Conservative. Conservative supporters are disappointed by Brexit. It has not borne much fruit. Deregulation has not transpired. The disbenefits of Brexit are tangible yet the benefits are slight. Legal immigration is down to sensible levels but this is offset by rising illegal immigration. With the UK Government struggling in so many areas it is hard to convince people to vote Tory (Conservative).
The Labour Party is well ahead in the polls. Labour has won back many of its former supporters who voted Leave in the Brexit referendum. Labour has a very respectable leader: 60-year-old Sir Keir Starmer. Starmer is the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service. The barrister is a self-made multimillionaire and stresses his working-class background. Like Sunak he attended Oxford University.
The Liberal Democrats are the third biggest party in the UK. Curiously they do not seem to have been beneficiaries of the Conservatives’ discomfiture. Their leader Sir Ed Davey is not making an impact. He is an invisible man. Other Lib Dem leaders such as Charles Kennedy had high media profiles.
In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) rules the roost. It looks like the SNP will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This is puzzling because of the SNP Government’s failure on multiple fronts. On healthcare, education, crime and the economy the SNP is failing. People are angry and there are strikes. The SNP’s age-old appeal to anti-English bigotry is succeeding. Blame those evil English! But if they, the English, are so wicked why does the SNP stop taking a subsidy from England? England is irked that the Scottish Police do not cooperate in tackling illegal immigration. Immigration is reserved for the UK Government. The devolved Scottish Government has no power over immigration. It could choose to assist UK officials in dealing with this issue but in fact, it has opted not to. This thereby aggravates the problem. The SNP likes to emphasise the unworkability of the United Kingdom which the SNP itself causes.
The UK is now midway through a parliamentary term. Ruling parties tend to be in the doldrums at this point. However, as the deadline approaches for a General Election in December 2024 it is likely that the ruling party shall claw back support. Some of its policies may pay off. The economy will likely improve. Energy prices will fall if the Ukraine War ends and the UK is moving apace on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Rwanda Plan on refugees might start to pay dividends. Moreover, people will start to scrutinise the Opposition and its manifesto.
In May 2023 there will be local elections. The Tories are due to take a drubbing. Boris Johnson is waiting in the wings. The rumour is that at that point he shall try to oust Sunak and make a comeback as PM. It is an insane idea. Out of 360 Tory MPs over 100 backed Boris in October 2022. This was staggering coming only 3 months after he was forced out by his own cabinet over his incessant lying and his coverup of allegations of sexual assaults on men by one of his MPs.
The Mayor of London is Sadiq Khan. The British Pakistani says he shall seek an unprecedented 3rd term in May 2024. Labour will have a vintage year in 2024 so there is a 90% chance he will be re-elected. Khan is a Labour man, and some spoke of him as a future leader of Labour. He was trying to reprise his role as a Labour MP. But no safe Labour constituency would select him as a candidate. There is a visceral mutual loathing between Khan and Starmer. This is not ideological: they have similar views. There is a personality clash.
Labour scents victory. But it is saying no triumphalism. Labour has been there before. In 1992, the Labour leader Neil Kinnock was buoyed up by his party being a little head in the polls. His premature celebration at a Sheffield Rally was perceived as deeply distasteful and contributed to a shocking Tory victory. Labour is guardedly optimistic. It does not wish to be complacent. The next election is Labour’s to lose. At the moment the polls would give Labour a landslide unseen for a quarter of a century.
An incoming Labour administration would have many severe problems to contend with. There is a crumbling and short-staffed health service. Transport workers and civil servants all want inflation-busting pay rises. There would be strikes. The education system suffers from chronic grade inflation. The university system is unaffordable. There are labour shortages in many areas of an ageing country. All these problems require money and there is very little to spare. With taxes at a 70-year high Labour would be reluctant to raise them on ordinary folks. Labour might have to introduce a millionaire tax, a billionaire tax, to raise stamp duty on house purchase and inheritance taxes. These are all progressive taxes.
The United Kingdom’s manifold problems cannot be solved in a few months. It would be several years before significant improvements are felt. Public patience would not last that long.
The Conservative Party is divided, dishonest jaded and out of steam. Apart from Brexit, it is hard to think of a single major change that it has effectuated. Even then 56% of people are now against Brexit.
Labour is saying nothing about Brexit. Equivocation on this issue cost Labour the last election. A new Labour Government might have the UK re-join the European Single Market but not the EU. The UK would then have to follow most EU regulations without having any role in their formulation. The argument would then be why not go the whole hog and re-join the EU?
Readmission to the European Union would be fraught with difficulties. All 27 member states would have to assent. Cyprus might demand the cession of British Bases there. Spain might demand the retrocession of Gibraltar. The Irish Republic might demand the handover of Northern Ireland. EU member states might insist that the UK join the Eurozone and pay more than before. But overall, the EU would be elevated to see the UK back. The United Kingdom was the second-largest EU member in population and economic contribution. It would be the ultimate vindication of the EU if the British re-joined. Moreover, it would put paid to anyone else leaving.
Northern Ireland might vote to join the Republic. That would save the UK money because it subsidises Ulster.
Sunak is almost certainly going down to a heavy defeat in 2024. He will be 44 and young enough to do other roles such as to be Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. He will also go down in history as the first non-white and non-Christian Prime Minister of the UK.
Who will be the next Tory leader? After Sunak and Truss; the candidates came in this order: Penny Mordaunt, Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat, Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt. There are only 2 white males out of those 6. Even then Tugendhat is arguably an ethnic minority being half Jewish. On the face of it, Mordaunt would win. But just because she did well last time does not guarantee that she will do well next time or even that she will go for it. She could lose her Portsmouth seat. There would be some new candidates standing who did not seek the top job next time.
Hunt will be seen as too old, white and posh. The party will be out of office for at least two elections. Therefore, the leader needs to be someone young enough to become PM 10 years after the election as party leader. Hunt will probably not seek the job.
Suella Braverman is loathed by many as Cruella and seen as an ineffective Home Secretary who had to resign in disgrace.
Kemi Badenoch is anti-woke and as a black woman might be just what the Party needs to expand its appeal.
Tugendhat suffers some of the same debilities as Hunt but is younger and more moderate.
Zahawi is a possibility but is uncharismatic. Some people who did not stand before might try this time such as Priti Patel. But many think she is yesterday’s woman. Sajid Javid was seen as a contender, but he is bowing out of politics.
Predictions of the chance of getting it:
The author is a political analyst from the UK. You can watch him on YouTube: George from Ireland