Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Editorial: Expect a change of government in Britain

Adding to the sense of ill-timing, Rishi Sunak chose to announce the election date on the steps of 10 Downing Street in the middle of a rainstorm.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chats with workers at a distribution centre as he campaigns for re-election. HENRY NICHOLLS, Pool photo via AP

By calling a snap election for July 4, Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took his country by surprise. Indeed the question on everyone’s lips is this: What on earth was he thinking?

After all, he had until December to take the plunge, and according to a recent Daily Mail poll, his Conservatives lag Labour by more than 20 points.

If the election were held today, the Tories would take a hammering, and the opposition Labour Party could win a massive 330 seat majority.

So why the hurry?

Apparently a small uptick is underway in the British economy, matched by a small downturn in inflation. But is that anywhere near enough to overcome years of public disaffection?

Like most other countries, Britain’s economy suffered heavily at the onset of the COVID epidemic

Any meaningful recovery will take time. Why not wait till the fall?

Adding to the sense of ill-timing, Sunak chose to announce the election date on the steps of 10 Downing Street in the middle of a rainstorm. He was literally soaked to the skin as he announced, “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future.”

To anyone watching, it looked like anything but the moment.

Then, if the hole (or pond) he was standing in wasn’t deep enough, Sunak got out his spade and kept digging.

If re-elected, he proclaimed, Britain would impose 12 months’ of compulsory military service on 18-year olds. Under the plan, some of the conscripts would spend that time in traditional military posts, and the rest on community service.

Again, why would he do that? No doubt there are some crusty old Tories who think the younger generation needs a stiff sorting out.

But otherwise where is the public support for such a move? If Sunak had wished to cement his party’s reputation for being wildly out of touch, he could have hardly done better.

Though to be fair, he’s only the most recent in a long line of hapless Conservative prime ministers.

After 13 years of Labour governments, first under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown, David Cameron became prime minister in 2010.

An upper class Eton and Oxford man, Cameron set about doing to government spending what George III, Cameron’s great-grandfather seven times removed, did to the Scots.

He was followed by Theresa May, whose three years in office were overshadowed by her unsuccessful effort to keep Britain in the European Union. After surviving two consecutive no-confidence votes, she finally resigned in 2019.

Then there was Boris Johnson, who came to grief over the revelation that numerous parties were held at 10 Downing Street during the COVID lockdown. Johnson’s self-indulgence did him no good among an electorate frustrated with far-reaching impositions on their social lives.

Finally, Johnson was followed by Liz Truss, whose mini-budget, stuffed with promised tax cuts and large-scale borrowing, torpedoed the pound sterling. Truss lasted just 50 days in office.

So now it’s Sunak’s turn, and if he loses?

The current Labour leader, Keir Starmer, is something of an enigma. Previously a well-regarded barrister, he keeps his thoughts mainly to himself.

Though it’s rumoured that if Labour wins the election, Starmer might want to take Britain back into the EU.

While that would almost certainly necessitate another referendum, current opinion might support such a move.

Last month, a poll by the research firm Statista found that 55 per cent of people thought Britain was wrong to leave the EU, versus 31 per cent who thought it was the right decision.

Of course it’s possible the Conservatives could still squeak by. But as things stand, that would take a major turnaround.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: [email protected]