Rishi Sunak: Moving vans on Downing Street as PM moves in
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With a third saying they are less likely to back the Conservatives at the next general election with him at the helm, it adds to the fears of MPs who admit they face an uphill battle to convince the nation to forgive them after months of chaos. But last night others predicted Mr Sunak was in it for the long haul.
They said his immediate task is to steady the ship with the make-or-break Autumn Statement to be delivered by the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, on November 17.
In survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for the Sunday Express, 34 per cent of voters say the elevation of Rishi Sunak to party leader made them “less likely to vote for the Conservative party in a general election than before”.
Just 18 per cent say they are now more likely to back the Tories.
Alarmingly, some two thirds of voters, 64 per cent, say there should now be a general election. In a finding that will be seized on by Labour, even 50 per cent of those who Conservative in the 2019 General Election believe Mr Sunak should go to the polls.
But a Downing Street source said: “He’s only been in Number 10 for days and his focus has very much been getting under the bonnet of the Autumn Statement and making sure that he and the Chancellor can make these incredibly difficult decisions they have ahead of them.”
And Tory former minister Michael Fabricant said: “The findings of this poll are understandable. The electorate are angry, and rightly so.
“But these are early days. Much will now hinge on the Autumn Statement and it is then that the electorate will start to judge our competence again.”
The MP for Lichfield added there was “a long way to go” before the next general election, which could be two years away.
Asked by pollsters which political party they trust most to manage the economy, 41 per cent say Labour with just 23 per cent choosing the Conservatives.
While more than half of 2019 Tory voters still think the Conservatives are best on the economy, the survey found that 24 per cent now trust Labour most.
“We are in very difficult economic waters,” said a Downing Street source.
“That is the number one priority for the whole country – getting us on a steadier economic footing. And that’s the priority for the Government.” Tory MPs admit it will be a struggle to win the forgiveness of voters following internal splits and turmoil in the financial markets brought about by Liz Truss’s premiership and Ksawi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-Budget.
A former Cabinet Minister said last night: “We really are in the last chance saloon. The party wants to unite. We don’t know how voters will respond. Even if they are impressed with Rishi, they may not forgive us for the past few months.”
Many Conservatives were heartened by Mr Sunak’s performance during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons last week, and argue he got the better of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
One Tory MP said: “I’m not pretending everything is hunky dory but voters are still not convinced by Labour.”
Labour hopes to undermine Mr Sunak by arguing he has was not voted into power by the electorate.
Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said: “Rishi Sunak has no mandate and no idea what working people need.
“We need a general election so the public get a say on the future of Britain – and the chance for a fresh start with Labour.”
Leader Sir Keir Starmer yesterday branded ex-PM Boris Johnson a comedian, and, criticised Liz Truss, saying that it was not “a real laugh to crash the economy”.
He was asked about countering his image as a “dull” politician in an interview with Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, who posed questions from the site’s users.
Sir Keir said: “I find this whole discussion pretty tedious to be honest because most people know that the job of Prime Minister is a pretty serious job. We actually had a comedian with Boris Johnson, and it really didn’t go very well.
“And then we had Liz Truss. I don’t think it was a real laugh to crash the economy with that kamikaze Budget.”
It is more important to have a leader who understands people’s struggle to make ends meet, Sir Keir added, pointing to his childhood when his family’s phone was cut off as they could not afford the bill.
“I think many people say, ‘I’d rather have someone who knows what it’s like and is serious about putting it right and taking us forward than someone who’s got brilliant one liners’,” he said, adding: “But I have got a few one liners”.
Asked about Labour’s failure so far to elect a female leader, Sir Keir said he would be “the first to say” that the party “needs a woman Prime Minister”.
“Happily I’ve got really powerful, strong women in the shadow cabinet in very, very important roles,” he said.
“If you want to look at which is the party that’s bearing down on women and actually holding them back, it’s the Government, because almost everything that they do, everything that they mess up – and they’ve absolutely damaged the economy – impacts women disproportionately.”
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