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Rishi Sunak in 'doom loop': Experts call UK PM unpopular, ranks lowest in opinion poll

Rishi Sunak in 'doom loop': Experts call UK PM unpopular, ranks lowest in opinion poll


Two tax cuts and a slight improvement in the economy have failed to improve Sunak's political fortunes, while criticism of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and speculation about the intentions of figurehead Nigel Farage prow of Brexit, add to its woes.

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Political scientist Rob Ford said Sunak looked “unhappy” at the seemingly unstoppable political momentum of the ruling Conservatives.

“When the herd moves, it moves. There's not much we can do,” he told AFP.

Sunak, 43, has not yet announced the election date. He should call it October or November, but he is legally allowed to wait until January at the latest.

Also read: Rishi Sunak's popularity is at an all-time low, 70% of respondents consider the British Prime Minister “unfavorable”

Surveys overwhelmingly show that Britons want to end 14 years of Tory rule, and nothing Sunak has done since becoming prime minister 18 months ago appears to change their minds.

A YouGov poll published this month found the Conservatives would win just 155 seats in the British Parliament, down from the 365 they won under Johnson in the last election in December 2019.

Keir Starmer's opposition Labor Party would win 403 seats, according to the same poll, leading to a huge majority of 154 seats.

“At present it is very difficult to imagine how the Conservatives will remain in government after the next election, simply because of the scale of change they need,” said Keiran Pedley, the company's political director. Ipsos poll.

– 'Move the dial' –

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Sunak took over from Liz Truss in October 2022 after Tory MPs forced her to resign following a disastrous 49 days in power, during which her mini-Budget spooked financial markets, sent sterling plummeting and sent mortgage repayments into overdrive toward the sky.

She had followed Johnson, who himself had been defenestrated by his colleagues following a series of scandals, notably concerning illegal parties in Downing Street during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Although the turmoil of the previous two administrations hamstrung Sunak, political analysts say he also contributed to his own fate by failing to deliver on his promises and failing to connect with voters.

Despite his promises, he has not stopped migrants arriving from France on small boats. National Health Service waiting lists are longer than when he took office. Economic growth is stagnating, even though inflation has more than halved.

Sunak has also attempted a number of failed leadership and policy resets, including watering down net zero carbon commitments in a speech to motorists and recently speaking out about extremism.

The shift to the right comes as Britain's Reform Party threatens to deprive the Conservatives of key seats, particularly if Farage defends them as he has teased.

“(Sunak) has been trying to find this magic wand or silver bullet to change things, but at the moment none of it seems to be moving things forward,” Pedley told AFP.

An Ipsos poll released in March found that 58 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of the Conservatives, the highest percentage in this parliament. Only 19 percent view them favorably.

The survey gave Sunak a net favorable rating of minus 38, the lowest of any politician included.

– 'Rather annoying' –

Critics often accuse the wealthy ex-financier of being out of touch with average Britons.

“He is both rather awkward and nerdy, and if challenged he always seems very irritable,” said Ford, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester.

Sunak is working to revive his party's fortunes, traveling the country meeting voters as rumors swirl that a disastrous performance in the May 2 local elections could trigger a leadership challenge.

However, he can't seem to catch a break.

This week, Johnson called Sunak's proposed total smoking ban “crazy”, while Sunak's spokesman had to deny that the Prime Minister was preparing to run an AI fund if he lost electoral.

Sunak even issued “a full apology to the Samba community” after photos of him wearing the Adidas trainers made headlines like: “Eight trainers to wear now that Rishi has killed Sambas”.

“There's sort of a vicious cycle that politicians can get into when they become unpopular,” Ford explained.

“The media knows they are unpopular, so everything they do is reported negatively, which further reinforces their unpopularity.”

Political observers say polls are generally tightening as polling day approaches and suspect the Liberal Tories may ultimately stick to the party to reduce the scale of a Labor victory and ensure the Tories are an opposition effective.

“At this point, it’s really all about damage control,” Ford said.

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Published: April 14, 2024, 10:34 AM IST




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