Which path will Sunak choose?



Only in the mayoral election in the capital, the incumbent Labour mayor inflicted a crushing defeat and for the first time in history went out for a third term with a serious advantage of 275 thousand votes. Things are no better in the rest of the country.

The Conservative Party immediately formed a wing of what they called the «rebels», but in fact they have laid down their arms in defiance of the high title. They have 500 bayonets, and they think the prime minister should admit it: the party has no chance of retaining power in this fall’s general election.

Although, it can be viewed in a different way. Labour also lost several important constituencies, such as Blackburn or Oldham, where they have historically been voted for by mostly Muslim voters, due to the pro-Israel stance of Labour MPs regarding Gaza.

Prominent polling expert Michael Thrasher argues that if you project the results on a national scale, Labour is actually only 9 percent ahead of the Tories after the local elections. That’s less than the lead Cameron had in 2009 and Blair had in 1997.

And many public figures believe there is no need to swoon over the results.

«Frankly, we decided not to draw much attention to the results», declares Professor John Curtis, a psychologist, «partly because it’s not the most reliable information to analyze».

Yes, the Conservatives lost more than 470 municipal council seats, but that doesn’t mean they all went to Labour. They gained 185, and now they have 513, but in addition to them the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have advanced.

This is when the theory of a «hung parliament» emerged. Although Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori, a market research agency, is skeptical of the idea and believes «it’s for the birds».

The prime minister, however, has made it clear several times that it is possible that no single party will have a majority after the general election — meaning he acknowledged for the first time that the Tories, again, might not completely win.

«Independent analysis shows that while these are certainly disappointing results for us, the outcome of the general election is not a foregone conclusion», he said. — «The situation is somewhat different than some polls are predicting. I am therefore absolutely determined to fight for what I believe in and for the future of the country that I want to build».

Several major announcements should follow soon, which are designed to show citizens that the country has made progress in the main areas of the economy and migration. On the economic front, it is likely to be announced that the UK is finally out of recession and its economy has, as they say, «turned the corner».

There is now a debate at Conservative HQ about whether to turn Sunak towards the center or to the right. There is a fairly large group of MPs who are calling for a move back to what they see as a more favorable centrist position after all. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, in their view, are the Tories’ main rivals, especially in «marginal» constituencies where people still believe in a left-wing future.

This was the tactic chosen by David Cameron in 2015. He introduced major reforms to housing and taxation on the one hand and promised a referendum on leaving the EU to right-wing voters. This ended up playing into the hands of the Eurosceptics, the UK Independence Party, the current Reform UK. It then achieved impressive results for the first time, and more importantly, took votes away from Labour.

This is the tactic that «centrist» conservatives are now calling to adopt. But there are few signs that Sunak intends to turn to the center.

The other wing does not see it that way. One of its leaders, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, has published a column in The Daily Telegraph whose main point is that «Sunak’s plan is not working».

There is a need for further tax cuts that will spur consumption. Tougher policies to restrict illegal migration and encourage legal one. A promise to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. So a sharp swing to the right will help ‘claw back’ votes from Reform UK. That is, they believe that Reform UK is not taking votes away from Labour, but from the Tories.

In fact, Sunak was going to pursue more or less the same policy. His plan involves cutting taxes and sending migrant workers to Rwanda.

Sunak’s future as Prime Minister may have hung in the balance if the Tories had lost the mayoralty in the important Tees Valley constituency. In that case, a significant part of the Conservatives was ready to organize the Fronde and demand a change of the party leader. But the same Braverman noted in her article that this would not be wise now.

And on top of that, there are reports in British newspapers that Boris Johnson’s team is consulting on his possible return to politics. Will Sunak have enough headache pills?