Rishi Sunak isn't going to win general election, but it's still right decision to call it – John McLellan

With the SNP in a weak position, the Conservatives have a chance of doing well in Scotland

Whether Scotland has figured highly in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to go for a July election or not, from a unionist point of view it’s the right call. Even before Humza Yousaf’s resignation as First Minster, the SNP was in disarray and, with the Greens still in coalition, the reaction against extreme identity politics and an anti-growth agenda which were the hallmarks of their agenda since the Nicola Sturgeon years was set to produce a dramatic reaction at the ballot box.

The end of the Bute House Deal and the handover to John Swinney, with the return of Kate Forbes as his deputy, at least gave the SNP a veneer of sense and a short window to bring some realistic direction back to the Scottish Government, which might have had a chance to check the Labour resurgence in what had become the SNP’s Central Belt heartlands.

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It was always going to be a tall order for someone rejected as SNP leader 20 years to turn round the party’s fortunes, and already a YouGov poll this week shows the electorate isn’t buying it, with Labour opening a ten-point lead. So, for confronting the SNP at its weakest, the timing couldn’t be better.

Rishi Sunak announced a general election would be held on July 4 as rain fell on Downing Street (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)Rishi Sunak announced a general election would be held on July 4 as rain fell on Downing Street (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak announced a general election would be held on July 4 as rain fell on Downing Street (Picture: Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Why Rishi Sunak called a July general election and what it means for Scotland an...

But it also gives Labour no time to sort out its confused attitude towards North Sea oil and gas, and in the North East, and in rural seats where Labour has very little presence, Scottish Conservatives know there will be a very different election to that in the rest of the UK.

For weeks I’ve been arguing an election this side of summer was the best of difficult choices, and not just from a Scottish perspective. Mr Sunak’s pledge to stop the boats was always a misjudgement, and going now makes sense before boats start arriving on the south coast day after day – an electoral disaster in the making.

But as he said yesterday, he took office with the specific task of restoring economic stability after the chaos of the brief Liz Truss tenure, and while political opinion is clearly divided on the wider causes, the record shows he was largely successful, staving off recession and bringing inflation under control.

However, holding on in the hope that positive macro-economic news would translate into a feelgood factor strong enough to clinch a stunning victory was always fanciful if it was ever genuinely considered. The mood for an election and the opportunity for change is simply too strong and it could not possibly have been in the Conservative party’s interests to keep the country waiting until November, when many well-connected people I’ve spoken to in recent months were convinced it would be.

But as one senior Scottish Conservative told me recently, Sunak had to think about what kind of party would return after the election and although hopes of victory are forlorn, with Labour 20 points ahead in the UK polls, in going now he has a fighting chance of delivering a stronger platform for the future. And nowhere more than in Scotland.



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