In the upcoming General Election, Rishi Sunak faces a daunting task as he navigates a “steep and narrow path” to secure victory, according to a senior Tory official.
Alan Mabbutt, the Conservatives’ registered treasurer and legal officer, has warned party supporters that this election campaign will be one of the toughest battles the party has ever fought.
With the election expected to take place in the autumn, after a gruelling ten-month campaign, the Conservatives hope to close the significant poll gap behind Labour, which currently stands at 15 to 20 points.
One of the key factors in achieving this goal will be addressing the cost-of-living crisis that is affecting millions of people across Britain.
While Mr Sunak managed to fulfil his pledge to halve inflation last year, with the rate dropping to 3.9 per cent by November, many families are still struggling due to soaring mortgage bills and the high cost of gas and electricity, averaging around £1,900 annually.
Labour’s strategy will focus on asking voters whether they feel better off after what they claim are 14 years of Tory failure. As both parties ramp up their efforts to build election war chests, Mr Mabbutt’s candid assessment to Conservative supporters is that the path to victory will be steep and narrow.
Despite the challenges, government ministers insist that they can secure another term in office, and it is not uncommon for polls to narrow closer to elections.
However, some Tory parliamentarians doubt that Mr Sunak can generate enough electoral support to rescue the party’s fortunes following the economic chaos caused by the brief Liz Truss administration, the controversies of Boris Johnson’s premiership, and the economic consequences of Brexit.
In an end-of-year analysis, Tory peer Lord Barwell, a former Croydon MP and Theresa May’s chief-of-staff argued that the Conservative brand is too damaged to win the next election. However, he also highlighted that the alternative is not receiving the scrutiny it should due to the ongoing Conservative soap opera.
Lord Barwell believes that if the party unites behind its leader, focuses on delivering its promises, develops a compelling manifesto, and allows the media to scrutinize the alternative, a 1997-style defeat can be avoided.
Both the Conservative and Labour parties are gearing up their election machines in anticipation of a potential May election, should there be a sudden turnaround in the polls. Candidates will soon be selected for numerous seats, with Labour likely to delay choosing one for Islington North, where Jeremy Corbyn may stand as an independent.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to implement tax cuts in a pre-election giveaway Budget on March 6, potentially targeting income tax and inheritance tax.
However, many political experts believe that an autumn election is more likely, and even then, the Tories will face an uphill battle, with key issues such as the economy, NHS waiting lists, and the “small boats” crisis taking centre stage.
Professor Sir John Curtice, an expert in Politics at Strathclyde University, acknowledges the substantial challenge facing Rishi Sunak in turning things around in the next nine to ten months.
He suggests that Labour’s poll leads are driven more by discontent with the government rather than enthusiasm for the opposition. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, must solidify the support his party already has to secure an overall majority. As he outlines his plans for office, his decisions will face increasing scrutiny, as evidenced by his stance on a Gaza ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s personal popularity has declined, making it more challenging to run a presidential-style election campaign. The Conservatives also face a battle on two fronts from Reform UK, which could gain significant traction if Nigel Farage assumes leadership, and the Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey plans to visit constituencies in London’s commuter belt where his party is in second place to the Conservatives.
In conclusion, Rishi Sunak faces a formidable challenge in the upcoming General Election. The path to victory is steep and narrow, and the Conservatives must address the cost-of-living crisis and regain public trust.
While the odds may be against them, political fortunes can change, and a united party, focused on delivering results and offering a compelling vision for the future, could defy expectations and secure another term in office.
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