Sunak’s Best Gift For UK Would Be To Call An Election – OpEd


By Mohamed Chebaro

The UK is on course for yet more uncertainty in 2024, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seems intent on keeping hold of power for as long as he can. The people of the country are yearning for an to end the 14 years of Conservative Party rule, which has oscillated between austerity and Brexit and left many people lamenting its failure to yield any benefits for the country, with the politicians in power seemingly in it for their own benefit rather than putting the country first.

Sunak’s delaying tactics — with the election seemingly set to take place in the autumn rather than in May — demonstrates that he and his party are still deluding themselves that the country will trust them to “finish the job.” The only certainty is that the majority of voters are intent on seeing the end of their chaotic rule, which has brought disrepute to politics in the country and shaken the image of Britain abroad.

While Tory governments have been busy sloganizing about “taking back control” and launching a new “Global Britain,” the signs are that the UK is increasingly unable to control its borders and it lacks the skilled laborers, doctors, nurses, hospitality workers and truck drivers required to deliver on the mantras of the various Conservative governments that made cutting taxes and economic growth the centerpiece of all their empty promises.

It seems to be a zero-sum game for Britain and the best choice for Sunak might be to end the game now and call for elections in May in the hope that a new page is opened in the government of the UK. The first job would be to clear up the mess left by successive Conservative governments obsessed with austerity and a small state, while adamant about leaving the EU at all costs, including ending freedom of movement.

Many would argue that Sunak’s decision to delay the general election until the autumn — some think it will be on Nov. 14 instead of May 2 — will not save him from defeat, even with the most ambitious of tax cuts and promises to curb the arrival of small boats across the English Channel and immigration across the board. He may also promise to rejuvenate the National Health Service and ply it with funds to reduce the waiting lists that have ballooned in recent years.

The inevitable is likely to happen, given the 18 to 20-point lead the Labour Party has scored in the polls for the best part of the past year. This is not because it has offered more popular policies, but because of the sense of fatigue and uncertainty felt across the board and a sense that the years of attrition the Conservatives have caused to the country must stop.

Maybe Sunak is still hoping for an economic miracle, with voters noticing an improvement by the end of the summer. As inflation falls and the cost-of-living crisis eases, maybe interest rates will start to show signs of reversing course. Lower interest rates would benefit voters, who would start to feel richer if the cost of the mortgage on their homes started to fall. All this would be in the hope that Sunak could make his election message: The economy is on the right track and therefore no one should vote Labour for fear of ruining it. But as one British commentator has said: “Slogans cannot turn a storm into sunshine.”

Whatever Sunak promises in his last few months in power, and even if he applies several tax cuts to bribe parts of the electorate, many believe that the UK’s powerful “time for change” tide is likely to sweep away the Conservatives whenever the election is held. This is not because opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and his shadow Cabinet have the answers to all the ills of the country, but simply because the Conservatives have had their chance and their time has come to an end.

Three in every four Britons want a change of government, including nearly half of those who voted Tory at the last election in 2019. A YouGov survey published this week gave Starmer’s Labour Party a 24 percentage point lead over the Tories. It is expected to win 46 percent of the vote (up 3 percent on last month) compared to the Conservatives’ 22 percent (down 2 percent). Also, when asked who would make the better prime minister, 30 percent backed Starmer and only 18 percent favored Sunak.

However, one cannot envy Starmer, who is tipped by most pollsters to win the election, as he and his party will inherit a country that has been torn apart in the last decade. Their best efforts to remedy the country could be insufficient, as there might not be enough money in the treasury to revive the UK’s public services, which have been mismanaged for years under the Conservatives.

Unlike his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, Sunak could be remembered for showing leadership and doing the right thing for the nation, but only if he calls for a general election to be held as soon as possible. Clinging on to power for the sake of what he believes is “finishing the job” might be honorable in ordinary circumstances, but maybe not this time. Finishing the job or finishing the country, Sunak must make the right choice.

  • Mohamed Chebaro is a British-Lebanese journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering war, terrorism, defense, current affairs and diplomacy. He is also a media consultant and trainer.

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