Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Is Sunak deliberately trying to lose the election?


IS PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak deliberately ‘chucking’ the General Election? That was my reaction from the moment it was called, and as one gaffe follows another more and more commentators seem to be asking the same question.

Firstly, why does a Prime Minister go to the polls when trailing the opposition by a double-digit margin more than six months before he needs to, and in a period not traditionally chosen for a General Election with summer holidays approaching and the summer sporting season in full swing?

David Cameron may assert that Sunak is fighting ‘an energetic campaign’, but who does he think he is kidding? As shrewder commentators are already stating, Cameron’s stance has far more to do with who has the upper hand in what is still left of the Parliamentary Conservative Party after July 4. He will be desperate that his own ‘One Nation’ brand of Conservatism emerges dominant, which includes avoiding as much blame as possible for the inevitably disastrous defeat awaiting the party, rather than those generally on the other side of the party such as Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick, Danny Kruger, Miriam Cates and Andrea Jenkyns, becoming dominant numerically in the rump of the party that gets back to Westminster.

The extent of how ill-fated was the decision to call the election has been evident from the start, as seen in the farcical scenes when Sunak stood outside 10 Downing Street getting soaked to the skin as rain hammered down on him and Steve Bray drowned whatever he was saying by blasting out the Blair election anthem Things Can Only Get Better. Presumably Sunak and his advisers had forgotten there was a multi-million pound conference room, much used during the covid press conferences, or perhaps he could have organised a gazebo to be purchased and erected to shelter him from the rain.

Following this, we had Sunak’s bizarre call for the reintroduction of National Service. Whatever the merits or otherwise of this proposal, Sunak seemed to have conjured it up by himself without consulting anyone and without any debate beforehand to lay the ground for it to be properly understood and stand any chance of being accepted. His ministers seemed to be as much in the dark about it as the rest of the country. All he achieved was the alienation of those likely to be called up to do the National Service and their parents. The military didn’t seem enamoured of the idea either. A proposal of such magnitude surely deserved far weightier scrutiny and planning before being announced. It almost seemed as if the PM had jotted it down as an idea on the back of an envelope and wanted to get it out there without telling anyone first, for reasons known only to himself.

It’s been speculated that maybe the election was called to catch the opposition parties ‘on the hop’. However, it has increasingly been the Conservative Party itself that has been wrongfooted, even more so than the opposition parties who all quickly regrouped after the initial surprise. The Conservatives have been the ones frantically scurrying around for candidates to contest the election, especially after several senior ministers such as Michael Gove chose to throw in the towel rather than face Judgment Day at the polls.

Even senior ministers such as Jeremy Hunt have openly expressed surprise at Sunak’s sudden announcement of the General Election. It seems remarkable that one man, even the Prime Minister, could get so far ahead of the rest of his senior colleagues and leave such chaos in his wake.

In a yet further sign of disarray within Conservative ranks, the party announced that it had suspended all its social media campaigns as it had run out of the necessary funds. The campaigns simply closed down overnight. And local constituencies are said to be running their own campaigns desperately trying to keep Conservative HQ as far away from them as possible.

Sunak’s campaign went even further off the rails with his now notorious D-Day anniversary gaffe when he left early to take part in an electioneering interview with ITV. Nigel Farage hit the nail on the head when he said it betrayed Sunak’s instinctive lack of understanding of Britain’s culture and values. Predictably, the mainstream media tried to turn their fire on Farage with the usual tactic of crying ‘racist’ to shut down debate, but Farage stood his ground as it was clear he was right over the target again. A politician unable to grasp the significance of D-Day commemorations really does signal that he is not one of us.

Possibly Sunak’s calamitous campaign is partly explained by the hapless performance of his party chairman, Richard Holden, in an interview on Sky TV over being parachuted into a seat in Essex in the teeth of opposition from the local Conservative Association. This, remember, is the man supposedly orchestrating the overall election strategy and tactics. It is hard to conceive that Peter Mandelson or Alastair Campbell, however much some of us might loathe them, would ever be caught out on camera in such a way.

One gaffe like this could possibly be laughed off, but every day seems to yield another Sunak blunder, or one by a close ally, to the extent I suspect this article will rapidly be outdated as more and more clangers occur. The latest is his perception that missing out on Sky TV as a teenager constituted a hardship.

So is Sunak really deliberately scoring own goal after own goal to lose the election, giving Starmer’s Labour Party as thumping a majority as possible? Or is it sheer ineptitude? And why would a leader deliberately throw an election? We can’t be sure which is the case. However, losing the election would mean Sunak, plus those who are resigning rather than contesting the election, such as Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Matt Hancock, and those who might lose their seats such as Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt, will be well away from the scene of the crime as the extent of potential deaths and serious injuries arising from the covid jabs can no longer be ignored or blocked by the media. Starmer, although he vigorously cheered it all on from the sidelines, will doubtless be allowed to brush off any criticisms by saying he was in opposition and therefore did not have all the information.

Sunak would also be relieved of having to deliver the UK into the arms of the proposed World Health Organization Pandemic Accord if it did happen to be revived. Besides Andrew Bridgen, a number of Sunak’s own MPs, including Suella Braverman, had begun to voice their concerns and opposition to signing up to the Accord. Starmer is highly unlikely to encounter similar opposition within his own party, Graham Stringer being the only one so far to have his finger on this particular pulse, so he’d be very easy to isolate. The days of outspoken opposition to the erosion of Parliamentary sovereignty by figures such as Tony Benn, Peter Shore and Michael Foot now belong in the far distant past.

Just as alarming, if the West is really intent on war with Russia over Ukraine, Starmer will have a far freer hand to go along with the Biden White House if that’s what’s required of him. He will doubtless brush off any opposition to such a war every bit as easily as Tony Blair did over Iraq in 2003 despite the opposition of the United Nations on that occasion and being isolated within the European Union. Sunak’s calls for National Service take on a much more sinister dimension in that regard, as it introduced warlike language into political debate that can be conflated as and when it is required. However it would still be Starmer who would go down as the PM to go to war over Ukraine and who surrendered Parliamentary sovereignty to the WHO.

Rishi Sunak will be free of such burdens to jump on a private jet to his luxury home in Silicon Valley, his tenure as Premier just another notch on his CV, presumably meaning little more to him than that. His troubles will be over while our own worsen exponentially. He has plenty of incentives to be free of Downing Street’s burdens, odd though that seems given the lengths he went to in getting the job, including walking over the political corpses of two incumbent Prime Ministers.

This article appeared in Patrick Clarke’s Column on June 12, 2024, and is republished by kind permission. 

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Patrick Clarke
Patrick Clarke
Patrick Clarke was briefly active in politics during the 1970's before leaving to 'get a life'. You can read more articles from Patrick Clarke in his Substack column.

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