In January, in what was largely seen as a “reset” the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, delivered a keynote speech promising to deliver “peace of mind” to the public, even as his government grappled with war in Ukraine, a cost of livingcrisis and a wave of strikes impacting public services from hospitals to schools.
He also laid out five key pledges which he wanted to be judged against, “… we will halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats” he said.
“These are the people’s priorities. They are your government’s priorities. And we will either have achieved them or not.
“No tricks, no ambiguity, we’re either delivering for you or we’re not. We will rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all. So, I ask you to judge us on the effort we put in and the results we achieve.”
Adding he would work, “night and day” to deliver on them and to create “a future that restores optimism, hope and pride in Britain”.
At the time, the pledges were dismissed as lacking ambition, indeed Labour highlighted frorecasts from the OBR that inflation was predicted to fall to 3.8 per cent in the last quarter of this year. While the drive to get debt falling, the OBR also forecast would happen at the end of the spending period 2027/8.
In a press release the Labour Party said five pledges were “all things that were happening anyway; are so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them; or are aimed at fixing problems of the Tories’ own making”.
Nearly eight months later and the PM’s promises, which Conservative MPs hoped would be delivered and help them recover in the polls, have become a primary source of concern.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK economy grew by a meagre 0.1 per cent in the three months to May and is now just 0.2 per cent above its’ pre-pandemic levels.
As Richard Drax, the MP for South Dorset, told the Telegraph: “The growth figures are disappointing and only reinforce my view that the government must consider a change of direction.
“We seem to have forgotten we are the Conservative Party and until we change tack, drop this unrealistic addiction to net zero, and create the much-needed clear blue water businesses long for, the economy will continue to falter.”
While NHS waiting lists have reached a record high at nearly 7.5 million as doctors continue to strike, small boats crossings far from decreasing are reaching record levels and inflation remains worrying high.
As one MP explained to parliamentnews.co.uk, “…asking to the public to judge the Government on results and not delivering is a recipe for disaster”. The MP also highlighted the recent by-elections, highlighting that the “only one we held was where we opposed the costly green crap”, a reference to the controversial ULEZ scheme being introduced across London.
The narrow victory in Uxbridge, however can’t hide the fact that as Conservative MPs headed back to their constituencies for the summer recess, their mood was dark. A large number of Conservative MP have already announced their intention to stand down at the General Election, while others have been looking for “safe seats”.
Sunak loyalists are keen to point out that Labour’s 20 pointlead in polls is “soft” and the public are not warming to Sir Keir Starmer, even pointing out that his net approval rating in the so-called “Red Wall” seats is flatlining at 0 per cent.
The highlight a survey for Redfield & Wilton Strategies, of 40 formally Labour seats which found a third (34 per cent) of voters in these key seats approved of Sir Keir’s job performance, an identical margin to those who disapproved.
However, the same poll gave the Prime Minister a net approval rating of minus 20, and Labour an 18 per cent lead over the Conservatives, 48-30.
Worst still, when asked who would be a better Prime Minister between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer? Starmer polled 42 per cent, (up 3) against Sunak’s 33 per cent, (also up 3 per cent), giving the Labour leader a respectable nine point advantage.
As another MPs told parliamentnews.co.uk “Our basic problem is that Rishi was sold to the Country and Party as being a good manager who was able to deal with detail. The sort of chap you want in charge in a crisis. But months on from his five pledges and the economy is still flatling and without any sort of plan or stimulus there is little or no hope of that changing before the next election”.
Adding dryly, “The only things that the PM has managed to grow since getting to number 10 are: taxes, waiting lists and asylum seeker numbers. No wonder so many of my colleagues are giving up.”