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In his first 100 days as the leader of Britain, Rishi Sunak had a terrible time. But the Conservatives may survive


Rishi Sunak recently commemorated his first 100 days in office as British prime minister.

In a way, the very fact that Sunak was able to accomplish this goal at all was a cause for celebration. Liz Truss was in office for only 49 days when he succeeded her last October, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.

Truss managed to bring the Conservative party’s poll numbers even lower than those of her predecessor, Boris Johnson, who will always be regarded as the first prime minister to be found to have broken the law while in office, during her brief, tumultuous tenure in Downing Street.

Sunak’s survival for 100 days while not being widely liked by Conservative party members or lawmakers is an accomplishment in and of itself.

But that in no way implies that his first 100 days have been a success. The UK has experienced some of the worst public sector strikes in modern times since Sunak moved into Downing Street. Only this week, 500,000 workers across the nation went on strike, closing schools, postponing lectures at universities, and shutting down the majority of the rail network in what unions claim was the largest single day of walkouts in more than a decade.

The beloved National Health Service of the nation is on the verge of disintegrating, millions are struggling with a cost-of-living problem, and according to the International Monetary Fund, the UK is the only G7 economy that is expected to contract in 2023.

The scandals come next.

After receiving criticism for his tax planning over several days, Sunak was compelled to fire Cabinet Minister Nadhim Zahawi, the chairman of his political party, this weekend for a “severe infringement” of the Ministerial Code.

In response to allegations that Zahawi had settled with tax authorities for a reported £4.8 million ($5.96 million), the PM had asked his ethics adviser to look into these charges. It was claimed that Zahawi failed to disclose the conflict with the tax authorities.

It is also widely anticipated that the PM will be compelled to fire Dominic Raab, his deputy, who is under investigation for allegedly intimidating civil officials over the years, as a result of several allegations.

Raab claims he has always acted professionally and rejects any accusations of misconduct.

The PM’s judgment is being questioned concerning people he views as loyal, particularly while other members of Sunak’s close circle are coming under examination.

Even while his government’s approval ratings have improved marginally since he first took office, they are still typically 20 points lower than those of the Labour Party, which is the recognized opposition. Additionally, he receives mediocre amounts of personal approval.

Given these poll results and the fact that the Conservatives have been in power since 2010, it would be logical to anticipate that the Labour Party will easily win the upcoming election in 2024. Sunak’s primary responsibility should be to minimize the looming setback and provide his party with the strongest foundation possible from which to rebound.

However, despite all that appears to be going wrong for the Conservatives, there are good reasons to remain optimistic and even hold out hope that they may still succeed in winning the next general election. Commentators point to the unexpected victory of John Major for the Conservatives in the 1992 general election, which haunts the left-of-centre party to this day. Many people thought Labour, led by Neil Kinnock, would win.

The Conservatives may still benefit from the UK’s electoral system to the point where the Labour Party is denied a majority, or even worse, ends up with fewer seats in parliament than the Conservatives.

Any party that receives the most votes in each of the 650 parliamentary seats gets the seat outright, regardless of the proportion of the public vote received, according to the election method known as first past the post. Traditionally, a government is formed by the party having the most seats. It is significantly simpler to pass legislation if they have a majority in parliament as a whole.

This effectively implies that not every vote is equal. A seat with 50,000 people may elect a Conservative member of parliament with a narrow margin, but a constituency with 90,000 voters may elect a Labour member of parliament with a wide margin. In parliament, only one of the two seats is used. This means that polling at the national level may be deceptive.

Further complicating matters, a boundary review is presently underway, which is redrawing the UK’s map and altering the makeup of certain seats, frequently in the Conservatives’ favour.

According to Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester, “Labour’s problem right now is that too many of its voters are concentrated in major, urban locations.”

Ford continues, “Even though Labour won more seats in both of those elections—2010 and 2015—they had a greater vote share at the 2019 election, which saw them lose several seats.

In the past, Labour has also placed a great emphasis on obtaining seats in Scotland, a strength that was destroyed by the first Scottish vote for independence in 2014. Despite losing the referendum, the pro-independence Scottish National Party received 45% of the vote. In contrast to the unionist vote, which was divided, the independence vote coalesced around the SNP during the general election the following year, and the SNP eliminated nearly all of Labour’s Scottish seats.

A few months later, Conservative MPs were publicly declaring that they thought the upcoming election was a lost cause and that many of them would lose their seats. Some people were calling think tanks and media for job advice. One serving cabinet minister sobbed uncontrollably while speaking about the party’s prospects to the associated channel at the annual Conservative Party convention in October.

At the Labour Party’s annual conference a week prior, on the other hand, there was unmistakably a feeling of a government in waiting.

Since then, a lot has changed, and Labour candidates are now careful to point out that there is still work to be done.

Chris Curtis, a pollster at Opinium Research and a Labour candidate in the upcoming election, claims that between this point in the election cycle and election day, there is typically a tilt back towards the government, particularly when that government is Conservative.

“Momentum is important in politics, and I’m concerned that we’re going to lose it because the bar has been set too high for this year’s municipal elections. We must continue to put in the effort and cannot let up, he continues.

It’s common to disregard discussions of momentum and how particular politicians are feeling as “bubble talk.” This bubble is significant, though. If voters in Westminster are more optimistic about their chances in the polls, it strengthens party cohesion and discipline.

None of this negates Sunak’s uphill battle, though. Ford observes that the current state of politics is “volatile” and that the Conservative Party has grown accustomed to “panicking and slamming the eject button” on leaders.

Since then, a lot has changed, and Labour candidates are now careful to point out that there is still work to be done.

Even though the Conservatives had previously won elections that were widely predicted to be lost (in 1992 and 2015), Sunak is less well-liked than the Conservative leaders who held office in those years.

The PM might find solace in the knowledge that he was given the keys to a car that had a brick on the gas and was veering towards a precipice as he looks back on his first 100 days in office.

Many members of his party are content with the fact that the car is not yet a burning wreck even though it may not be back on the road.



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