Labour still needs to convince voters that it deserves to win general election – Scotsman comment

Rishi Sunak’s criticism of Labour for having ‘no plan’ has more than a grain of truth and is likely to be repeated often over the next few weeks

All general elections require voters to make a profound decision about the future of their country. But this time, their judgment will perhaps be more vital than any other in recent memory.

Rishi Sunak was left with an unenviable task, attempting to pick up the pieces after the twin disasters of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. However, he has failed to turn around both his party’s fortunes – with polls showing a steady decline in Conservative support – and those of the country as a whole.

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Falling inflation has provided some comfort. However, with public services – most especially the NHS, praised in the Commons yesterday for saving the life of Tory MP Craig Mackinlay – in disarray and many people still struggling to cope with significantly higher prices, there is a real sense that the country is crying out for change.

The rain falling on Rishi Sunak as he announced the general election felt like a metaphor to some (Picture: Lucy North/PA)The rain falling on Rishi Sunak as he announced the general election felt like a metaphor to some (Picture: Lucy North/PA)
The rain falling on Rishi Sunak as he announced the general election felt like a metaphor to some (Picture: Lucy North/PA)

That said, Labour still has a job of work to do to persuade us that it is a party of government in waiting. Keir Starmer's recent “missions” – including stabilising the economy, setting up Great British Energy and cutting NHS waiting times – may have helped fill in some of the blanks. However, part of Sunak’s thinking in the decision to go early is undoubtedly that Labour has not set out a compelling vision and has been relying too much on the Conservatives’ unpopularity. Expect to hear Sunak’s main attack line against Labour in his rain-splattered speech yesterday – that “they have no plan” – repeatedly over the next few weeks.

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Furthermore, the memories of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn are still fresh. Starmer may have kicked him out of the parliamentary party, but the fact that he campaigned for such a hard-left politician will make many centrist voters nervous.

Unfortunately for Sunak, his problems are greater than the country’s general sense of discontent. As speculation about an election was growing yesterday, Conservative rebels were – astonishingly – briefing that letters of no confidence in his leadership were being sent. Sunak is asking the public to vote for him to remain Prime Minister at the same time as some of his own MPs are saying he’s not up to the job.

What this shows is the Tories have been in power for so long that their internal squabbles are now more important than fighting the opposition or, indeed, running the country. Parties in chaos seldom govern well.

Sunak may well believe the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will deter people crossing the Channel in small boats. But it is equally likely that he was bounced into pressing ahead with a ridiculous and Draconian policy by the sort of Conservative who used to make John Major "hear the sound of white coats flapping”. Some have speculated that the early election is partly to avoid the fiasco of more people arriving on the UK’s shores than are ever flown to Kigali.

Admittedly, empty populism of a different kind has worked for the SNP for years. However, the timing of this general election could hardly have been better for those wishing to punish the nationalists for relying on independence for votes while failing to address Scotland’s actual problems.

Both the SNP and the Conservatives have been doing so badly that they deserve a hammering at the polls. Whether Labour deserves its likely victory remains to be seen. But when the Prime Minister asks for our votes while saying “I cannot and will not claim that we’ve got everything right”, it feels like even he knows the game is up.



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