Prime Minister Faces Pressure from Multiple Fronts
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated that he is working towards holding the next UK general election in the second half of 2024, appearing to rule out an early spring vote. With the Conservatives trailing badly in the polls, Sunak faces pressure from multiple fronts as he enters the new year.
In a speech on January 4th, Sunak told an audience that the “working assumption” is that an election would come in the latter part of 2024. This comes after weeks of speculation that Sunak could call a snap election in May to try and secure a mandate and boost Tory fortunes.
However, senior Tories and pollsters have warned the Prime Minister that his position remains perilous. The Conservatives lag more than 20 points behind Labour in recent voter surveys:
With Labour threatening the Tory’s Commons majority, the electoral math looks ominous for Sunak’s chances of retaining power.
“The Tories are on course to suffer their worst defeat since 1906 if Sunak goes to the country this spring,” Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde, stated bluntly.
Bleak Polling Spurs Speculation of Deal with Liberal Democrats
Sunak has publicly maintained that he wants to govern as a majority party after the next election. However, private discussions have taken place regarding a potential pact with the Liberal Democrats in key seats to stop Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer entering Number 10.
One senior Conservative MP, speaking anonymously, said they “would not rule out” agreeing to electoral reform, a red line issue for the Lib Dems, if it guaranteed Tory influence in a hung parliament situation.
With the fragility of Sunak’s position clear, he has now apparently resigned himself to waiting until the darker autumn nights to face the voters. This at least gives him more time to try and revive Conservative chances.
Starmer Accuses PM of “Bottling” Snap Vote Chance
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that Sunak has “bottled” the opportunity to seek his own mandate from the British people by delaying a general election until later this year.
In his first major speech of 2024, Starmer mocked the Prime Minister’s “indecision and weakness”, claiming Sunak did not believe he could beat Labour and was running scared.
“The Tories are worried about the verdict of the voters. Sunak knows people are struggling with the cost of living and a Tory government that has failed them over 13 years,” Starmer added.
Bleak Economic Outlook Looms Large
With the Bank of England forecasting a recession in 2023 and living standards set to fall sharply, Sunak faces a race against time to get Britain’s economy back on track.
The government’s fiscal watchdog stressed in November that the UK was headed for “an unwelcome record” as it faces a prolonged slump that leaves average incomes lower in 2028 than 2022.
Sunak is now under pressure from both Conservative MPs and external critics over a lack of fresh ideas to revive growth and address glaring regional inequalities.
“Sunak talks a good game on the economy but the reality is he has no vision beyond tinkering,” said Torsten Bell, Chief Executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank.
What Next for Sunak and Tories With Election Looming?
Sunak now faces a difficult 10 months before a expected autumn election. He must balance growing unrest on his backbenches over key issues such as planning reform with voter anger on the health service and stalling living standards.
Having ruled out an early poll, Sunak is gambling that there is still time to turn around public perception. But if the opinion polls stay steady, his time as Prime Minister is set to come to an abrupt end.
One senior Tory MP who did not wish to be named summed up the dark mood in government:
“Unless Rishi can pull off a miracle, we are frankly facing a wipeout. Morale is rock bottom and our supporters are utterly fed up after the chaos of recent years – we reap what we sow”.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.