Rishi Sunak will welcome Tory MPs to Downing Street for a morale-boosting garden party filled with pies from his constituency on Monday evening. While the soiree is billed as a post-coronation celebration, there are hopes in the government that it will also salvage the dampened spirits from the party’s dismal performance in last week’s local elections.
Conservative chair Greg Hands has been in “outreach” mode since then, seeking to quell grievances that have changed since the Tories eclipsed their worst expectations, sacked 1,050 councilors and handed over control of 50 councils in England.
While party chiefs insist they are listening to disaffected MPs, Sunak and his officials are clear the best way to win the general election is to “deliver on his five promises” to halve inflation, grow the economy stick to Reducing debt, reducing NHS waiting lists and closing the boats.
Tory officials say progress on these promises will show the party can effectively run the country after the chaos of the Johnson and Truss era and help win back traditional Labor voters who switched allegiance at the 2019 election but are feared to have returned.
Sunak “says we need time to deliver – and we have decent time before the next election,” said an aide to the prime minister.
However, many in his party want him to sketch a bigger and bolder vision to capture the imagination of the electorate – and radically overhaul the party’s campaign machine.
A cabinet minister said the Tory local election campaign – launched by Sunac in the West Midlands without a media presence – was “dysfunctional”.
Hands met Conservative MPs representing the most marginal constituencies on Wednesday to discuss the party’s so-called ’80-20′ strategy, under which it aims to defend 80 high-risk seats and gain 20 from the opposition.
Later that day he faced complaints at the 1922 Committee of Backbencher MPs, including complaints that too few ministers helped campaign on the ground during local elections – a charge disputed by No. 10 officials, who pointed out that more than 100 Front-bench visits took place – and insufficient resources were used at the regional level.
CCHQ is now recruiting new campaign managers and digital experts to prepare for the general election expected next year and has stepped up candidate selection.
Despite growing backbench pressure on Sunak to change tack, Tory officials say the prime minister’s five priority promises reflect the policy areas that matter most to voters – a claim YouGov’s tracker Most important problems of the country. However, their deliverability looks more tenuous than when they were first made earlier in the year.
Sunak’s three economic commitments – inflation, growth and government debt – were all designed to be easily achievable, although the growth pledge appeared risky in January when wholesale gas prices more than doubled from current levels, and would hit household incomes hard. And is supposed to push. The economy is in recession.
Most forecasters miss forecasts of an economic contraction due to an improved energy price outlook, along with greater resilience than fears in consumer and business confidence. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said he now expects “modest, but positive growth” this year. That would fulfill Sunak’s promise to grow the economy, even if few people feel significantly better off.
The problem with higher growth for the prime minister is that the BoE believes it will come with higher inflation. In its latest forecast, the BoE said there was a 50:50 chance that inflation would remain below 5.28 percent in the final quarter of this year, just short of Sunac’s pledge to halve it.
The third target, on debt, is unchanged from the March Budget, but Treasury insiders admit this is not a pledge that resonates with the public.
On Sunak’s broadly worded promise that waiting lists for NHS treatment would “reduce and people get the care they need faster”, the party will have to defend a record which has seen treatment standards breached by ever-wider margins during his 13-year tenure. Year in charge. The latest NHS performance data, published on Thursday, shows a record 7.3 million people are waiting for treatment.
There are some signs of progress. More than 90 percent of that cohort has now been seen, despite the fact that more than 10,000 people are still waiting more than 18 months for treatment.
Tim Gardner, assistant director of policy at the research organization Health Foundation, said the size of waiting lists was “relatively stable, despite the brutal winter and recent industrial action”.
However, he pointed out that the promised plan to address chronic staff shortages and improve maintenance was now long overdue. Other health experts warn that the service’s tight funding squeeze is complicating the challenge of clearing waiting lists.
Sunak’s final pledge – to stop the ‘bots’ – is perhaps the most difficult to keep. More than 6,690 asylum seekers have arrived in the UK by small boats so far this year, according to Migration Watch UK, with last month’s total up from April last year. The government’s Rwandan deportation policy – a pillar of its plan to deter asylum seekers – also faces delays through legal action.
Difficulties in delivering pledges are fueling calls from anxious MPs for Sunak to rethink his strategy.
Meanwhile, other challenges loom. Ministers and Tory aides are monitoring growing discontent among backbenchers on a range of issues including Brexit, housing and immigration.
Moves among figures on the Tory right to reorganize and reshape the party’s agenda will also be watched carefully by Downing Street. Next week a conference on the theme of national conservatism, at which several cabinet ministers are speaking, takes place in central London, while on Saturday a separate conference called by allies of Boris Johnson takes place in Bournemouth.
One Tory official commented that Sunak’s personal leadership should give MPs cause for optimism: “MPs were knocking on doors during the locals; He has received a response from voters. No one is saying they are not voting Conservative because of Rishi Sunak, as they did with Boris last year. It is the opposite. Rishi is our greatest asset.
But another former minister is more pessimistic. “There is no substitute for the current leadership or the five priorities. Most colleagues recognize it, but not happily. There is a sense of resignation and despair. “