The End of Rishi Sunak

Start Your Clocks

It’s hard to avoid concluding that the Tories blew it crowning Rishi Sunak premier.

Oligarch and comedian.

Every day, this Conservative government looks more doomed than the day before.

It’s a sign of the times that Tory activist Tim Montgomerie has said: “I do not think this can go on.”

Montgomerie is not the only one thinking this.

Some of us have been thinking about it since 2010, when Team Cameron was championing austerity.

“I do not think Rishi Sunak will be Tory leader by the time of the next election,” Montgomerie told Times Radio. “I think the mood among Tory MPs is turning.”

“Day after day, it’s getting worse for the party,” he stressed. “Sunak cannot do politics. He cannot do politics. A nice man, but he can’t do politics.”

This was just after the defection of former Conservative Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson to Reform UK.

On the same day, the Tories faced a new scandal: Tory donor Frank Hester allegedly made racist comments about Diane Abbott.

There are now widespread reports of a Tory plot to oust Sunak and parachute in Penny Mordaunt to lead the government into the general election.

This is all a testament to the disarray resulting from years of Tory misrule.

Sunak will meet with the 1922 Committee this Wednesday. They will either push him to make profound changes to turn things around or demand he resign.

Bookies are already taking bets on who will succeed Sunak.

Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch are the current picks, with Suella Braverman trailing. Much like Theresa May, the PM’s fate seems sealed in advance.

Whatever happens this week, the Conservative government will likely face a reckoning come election time. Brexit will not save them this time.

The Tories need a game-changer. But time is running out, and the odds are against them.

From Antrim with Love

It’s not just the Tories facing discontent among their ranks.

Reform UK is still stalking the seats they have long taken for granted in leafy, southern England. Yet Reform has just turned its sights to Northern Ireland.

It’s not every day you see Richard Tice in County Antrim. On Saturday, Tice was there to sign a memorandum of understanding with Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, at a press conference.

“I believe in the United Kingdom,” Tice told the conference. “I believe with the right leadership, we can truly make the United Kingdom great again.”

The Reform-TUV pact has not received the same amount of fanfare in the media as the defection of Lee Anderson, but it’s far more significant. Anderson is just another MP on GBNews, who may well get a kicking from Ashfield voters soon.

By contrast, TUV leader Jim Allister is not going away, and this deal may be a coup for his band of Ulster loyalists.

What happens next in Northern Irish politics could spell trouble for the next British government, as it has so often historically.

Ben Habib, one of Reform’s key figures, said he has given money to the Democratic Unionist Party, as well as the TUV, in the past. Habib said the TUV is now the only unionist party worth backing since the DUP has cut a deal with Sinn Fein.

“What they’ve done cannot be excused,” Habib said at the conference. “Unless they save themselves and save Northern Ireland, I’m afraid my backing is reserved entirely for the TUV.”

The electoral pact means Reform UK will share its backers with the TUV. This could be a considerable financial boost to the minor unionist party. What needs to be clarified is whether the TUV will benefit more from this pact than Reform.

The TUV expects to run more candidates targeting DUP areas due to the deal, but Reform said it will also be running candidates.

Allister is a veteran of Northern Irish politics. Tice and Habib are very much newcomers.

It’s possible the TUV will benefit from this deal because it is a party with roots in Ulster’s divisions.

Despite all the talk of how Northern Ireland is really British, Reform’s leaders are foreigners in these parts.

On the other hand, the Northern Ireland Assembly is not due for elections until 2027. Local MPs could lose seats when the general election is called later this year.

“The DUP has no mandate for its return to Stormont and its somersault into protocol implementers,” Allister said at the conference.

“There ought to have been a fresh Assembly election. Having run away from that, however, they must face the electorate in the general election,” he added.

Reform and the TUV will have to split which seats to target.

There are eight DUP MPs in Westminster and 25 DUP MLAs in Stormont. However, the Alliance Party is a stronger challenger for many DUP seats in Parliament.

What is clear is that this pact is intended to destabilise the Northern Irish power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Reform UK would rather have a stalemate in Stormont to further its objectives in England.

Farage’s Return

Back in England, many angry Tory voters are considering whether to stay home or cast a protest vote for Reform UK.

Nigel Farage may be the only man who can convince them to vote rather than stay home.

The Sunday Express ran a headline claiming Farage is about to return to the frontline of British politics.

The former pro-UKIP newspaper claimed he’ll be campaigning to smash the Tory Party for its post-Brexit failings.

It’s unclear if the Express has more reliable sources than other papers. But if Farage is about to return, the Conservative Party is in serious trouble.

The Tories would find it easier to limit the wipeout they’re facing without Farage running against them.

The Spectator interviewed Farage for its YouTube channel last week. He was keen to discuss Lee Anderson’s defection and defend his comments about London Mayor Sadiq Khan as “working class”.

But Farage still wasn’t clear whether he was coming back or not. All he would say was that he is thinking about it “several hours a day”.

Farage was clear that the Tories must be defeated at the ballot box, even though this means a Labour government.

A one-term Labour government is a lesser evil for Reform UK because it gives them more time to mobilise.

Nigel Farage can see the opportunity in the Conservative Party’s loss of a considerable number of seats. How times have changed.

He long pretended his coalition was a bigger problem for Labour than the Tories.

This is the guy who made a deal with Boris Johnson to help secure the Tories’ 2019 election.

Farage now says Reform could be the new opposition after the general election.

In the Reform leader’s mind, a Labour government is inevitable, so the real battle is for Conservative England. But he hasn’t had to campaign so far.

Rishi Sunak is the best advert for the populist right in Britain today.

He may have set out to rebuild his party’s fortunes, but Sunak has only provided extremists with a new target.

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Photograph courtesy of Number 10. Published under a Creative Commons license.