Freedom News

Sunak’s electioneering train-wreck

The campaign has gone so badly, there are rumours Sunak might not even be prime minister when polling day arrives

Almost 30 years ago I listened intently at my first politics lecture. The teacher told us not to be too cynical about politics or politicians and to remember that most people get involved in politics simply because they want to improve people’s lives. Then, almost immediately, he gave us a quote from the TV interviewer Jeremy Paxman about his approach to interviewing politicians: “why is this lying bastard lying to me”? I took both these points on board and have spent the last three decades approaching politics with the belief that we really shouldn’t be cynical about these lying bastards.

The current election campaign, thus far, has seen an almost constant parade of them. The first TV debate last Tuesday was a fine example, with Rishi Sunak desperate to pin the idea of higher taxes under Labour on Kier Starmer. It started to unravel after the debate, when it emerged that the Tories shouldn’t have been using civil service briefings for party political gain. In any case they’d been a bit laissez faire with their methodology. But the Tories didn’t stop using the tax figure even after it was exposed. In another debate on the BBC, their representative, Penny Mordaunt, repeated the discredited claim over and over again.

Even without the lies, this Tory campaign is, without doubt, the worst election campaign of any party I’ve ever witnessed. I thought Jo Swinson for the Liberal Democrats was bad in 2019, voting to give Boris Johnson the election he wanted, declaring that she would be PM, and then actually losing her own seat. I thought the robotic Theresa May was bad for the Tories in 2017 when she thought she would be able to wipe the floor with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, only to find she had all the campaigning qualities of C-3PO and clinging on to power withou her majority. This current Tory campaign might even be worse than the Labour campaign from 1983, when one of their own MPs called their manifesto the “longest suicide note in history”.

So bad has the campaign gone so far that rumours have been spreading that Sunak might not even be prime minister when polling day finally arrives. This is complex in terms of the Tory Party, the rules of which state the leader must a sitting MP. There are no MPs but of course the party can be leaderless. There always has to be a prime minister though and so this presents the possibility of a caretaker PM to be there to do the things a PM absolutely has to do, which right now, isn’t much. The problem the Tories have is who could possibly be chosen? They are riddled with divisions and factions. David Cameron could be chosen but it won’t suit the Brexiteers and would give Nigel Farage plenty of ammunition. Sunak’s deputy is Oliver Dowden and he’s largely unknown and if his odd outings at PMQs are anything to go by, even worse than Sunak. Well, bizarrely the media are starting to ask the question and that means senior Tories are having to deny Sunak will quit before July 4th. That’s how badly the Tories are doing.

Sunak entered Downing Street promising to have the highest standards in government and then promptly appointed Suella Braverman to the post of Home Secretary, mere days after she had been forced to resign from the same post for a data breach. We were given the impression that the chaos seen during the short tenure of his predecessor, Liz Truss, was a thing of the past. We were to expect professionalism and some form of managerial competence. Despite having the power to call an election when he saw fit, he chose a time when his party was around 20 percentage points behind Labour. If we take away the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which produced a spike in Covid cases and unknown loss of life, this could be his biggest political misjudgement yet. That’s not much of a boast. Curiously, he still looks like he thinks what he’s saying matters. He has an air of bewilderment about him when he’s challenged. A recent clip showing him being asked why he hates young people, by someone annoyed about the bizarre Tory plan to introduce conscription, shows him trying to get away very quickly while trotting out the lines he’s clearly learnt off by heart.

His non-apology for the D-Day shambles was worse. Sunak got into deep water by leaving the beaches of Normandy too early, when he was there to commemorate the 1944 landings. He later explained that “the itinerary for these events was set weeks ago before the general election campaign. Of course, I was always scheduled to participate both in Portsmouth and in France. I was proud and privileged to do so”. All of which begs the question, “why did you leave early then”? The true reason appears to have been to conduct an election interview with ITV. The only conclusion to reach is that Sunak was so worried about how the election is going that he felt it absolutely necessary to prioritise doing even worse at it. The next day he was campaigning at a school which just happened to be on a street called Veteran’s Way. It starts to become difficult to know which bits of poor campaigning are just unfortunate and which are deliberate, massive mistakes.

The Tories campaigning so badly sets up some interesting possibilities. The latest Nigel Farage beacon for closet (and indeed open) racists, Reform UK, is doing well in the polls. It is taking votes away from Labour and the Tories but mainly the Tories. Notwithstanding, the Labour leadership has tied itself in knots over whether or not they want longstanding left-winger, Diane Abbot, anywhere near them. But if people are telling the pollsters the truth, this really could see the governing party drop below 100 seats. Reform may yet do well enough to pick up seats themselves, posing some serious issues for the future. Farage wants to replace the Tories. A merger might also be a possibility. The right of British politics could well be about to drift further in that direction and at this stage we have to assume that the Tories will one day gain office again. While fewer Tories in Parliament is to be welcomed, what possibilities come further down the line look really scary. That’s not cynicism. We need to be realistic about these possibilities and prepare for them.

~ Jon Bigger

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