General election: Rishi Sunak's attempt to delay inevitable risks 'extinction level' event for Tories – Scotsman comment

Some Conservative fear the election result could be even worse than the current disastrous poll numbers suggest

A government in trouble will always be tempted to cling on as long as possible and Rishi Sunak is clearly aiming for an autumn poll, awkwardly laughing off questions about an earlier date. But can he actually survive that long?

Local elections in England next month are expected to go badly enough to spark some sort of mini-rebellion by delusional right-wing MPs who think installing a fourth Prime Minister in less than two years makes any kind of sense. Even if Sunak is not deposed, he could still end up looking like a lame-duck leader. How can he expect to mount a compelling case for voters to back his continued presence in 10 Downing Street, when there are Tory MPs who vocally disagree?

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These two political ‘events’ – the elections and the infighting – could mean that recent polls showing the Tories winning just 155 seats or possibly fewer than 100 might not be as bad as things get. There are some on the right who are talking about an “extinction-level” election, on a par with the 1993 election in Canada when the governing Progressive Conservatives lost 165 seats and won only two. That party no longer exists.

During the 1991 recession, then Chancellor Norman Lamont claimed “the green shoots of economic spring are appearing once again”, an overly optimistic assessment that proved at odds with the public mood. However John Major’s unexpected general election victory the following year may offer Sunak some hope.

But ministers’ claims that the economy is “turning the corner”, echoing Lamont, already feel stale because they have been used for too long without much evidence of a recovery in people’s living standards. There seems little prospect this is going to happen in the next six months.

Rather than waiting to be boxed into a corner, Sunak should go to the country on his own terms. A good campaign and even a temporary restoration of unity would be more likely to limit the losses than a descent into childish, internecine feuding. The country is crying out for change and new ideas. It’s time to let people have what they clearly want.



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