2023 begins with the Labour Party in the strongest position since 2010; in the polls, Labour are 17 percentage points ahead and pundits are forecasting a 1997 style Labour victory at the next general election in 2024.
The New Year requires either resolutions or predictions, the current political situation in Westminster has evolved a plausible theory. 2023 begins with the Labour Party in the strongest position since 2010; in the polls, Labour are 17 percentage points ahead and pundits are forecasting a 1997 style Labour victory at the next general election in 2024, headlines resound with “the heir to Blair”.A Labour MP pointed out that 2022 had been a horrible year for the Tories with three prime ministers, five education secretaries, four chancellors and two leadership coups.
Polling expert John Curtice revealed that the Conservative party have lost the support of 43% of Brexit leavers, who now intend to support Labour or Reform UK, and Labour have captured the lead with Brexitremainers. To date, 15 Conservative MPs have declared they will not be standing at the next election, more are standing in the wings to do the same, plus there are those appointed with peerages from Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list who will drop out when ascending to the House of Lords.
May 2023 will have some decisive“red wall”by-elections and mayoral elections, particularly that of Andy Street, the current West Midland Mayor, who is up for re-election against Labour’s Liam Byrne.
If the Conservatives lose in this region, Rishi Sunak may face a rebellion,as the result will be indicative of voting intention. Already,the boundary review is likely to reduce Conservative seats and it is likely that Nigel Farage and Richard Tice will combine to fight Brexit’s corner and inspire the defected Leave voters. Here lies the opportunity for Boris Johnson to re-enter the fray, as he claimed he would on departure. Some MPs will believe that only Boris can galvanise the voters to support the Conservative Party.Already former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is predicting his return by December 2023; but The Conservative Post “Bring Back Boris” petition has now reached a staggering 40,000 signatures fromsupporters, of which over a quarter say they are Conservative Party members.
The Conservative Post’sFounder Claire Bullivant explains this is nothing against Rishi Sunak but it is for survival of the Party; some Tory supporters believe that Sunak was only appointed to stabilise the economy and the markets, after the turmoil wrought by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng. These Tories suspect that Sunak will effect a radical reshuffle after the May elections that will reflect his genuine direction, they anticipate the appointment of Sunak loyalists for Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and others; not all backbenchers will be thrilled with these new appointments as MPs think they are the ones with the mandate.
Sunak faces emotional issues around what to do with illegal migrants, how the Northern Ireland Protocol will be resolved with the EU, the ongoing trans debate, and foreign policy. At the moment, UK has an underdeveloped strategy for China and the IPR; andunwavering support for Ukraine, although it is reported that No10 have asked for a data-driven assessment (audit) to evaluate the significance of UK’s contributions to the war in Ukraine. Recently, the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) presented their recommendations to the government regarding the refresh of the Integrated Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy, as the geopolitical context has changed since publication in March 2021. Amongseveral conclusions. the FAC found UK’s China expertise needs improving and a coherent China policy is required; the invasion of Ukraine has altered the dynamics of European politics and clarification how to view the UK-Europe security relationships needs clarification;how will the government balance its leadership objectives in the Indo-Pacific and Euro-Atlantic, the Indo-Pacific tilt lacked detail on the Government’s plans for future relations with India, considered an important omission given India’s growing global influence. The FAC expect the IR refresh to address this, building on the Government’s May 2021 UK-India 2030 Roadmap.Rishi Sunak is a smart politician,and he has done nothing wrong, he is not mad, bad, drunk or corrupt. In what might have been a newsworthy appointment just days before ChristmasSunak announced the appointment of Spectator Political Editor James Forsyth as Political Secretary. Avid followers of Westminster will recall Forsyth is an old friend of the PM, is married to Allegra Stratton (previously Sunak’s Director of Strategic Communication at the Treasury) who was obliged to resign over Partygate. Forsyth’s appointment got lost in the Christmas news flurry and by the end of recess, there will be so much more to speculate about.