Sunak must work hard to lure back Tory voters in time for the next election

If there is a crumb of comfort to be found for Rishi Sunak and his party, it is in the fact that not very many 2019 Conservative voters have actually switched to supporting Labour. What seems to be going on is that about half the Tory vote across Britain has simply gone on strike. When people go on strike there are generally two ways to respond: find new people or give the ones who have withdrawn a better offer to lure them back.

I would strongly advise the Prime Minister to concentrate on the second option. Because the only new people are those on the left of politics and they would be more likely to boil their own heads than even consider voting for him.

Delivering proper Conservative policies for Conservative-inclined voters is Sunak’s only hope of avoiding a landslide defeat in next year’s general election.

Given that he has shown he cannot hold a candle to Boris Johnson as a campaigner and naturally veers towards caution rather than boldness, it’s a long shot. Yet there are so many areas requiring drastic action.

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One social media post from a frustrated grassroots right-winger yesterday summed things up well: “Immigration levels, both legal and illegal, are off the scale. The tax take is at a 70-year high. The civil service appears corrupted by wokery… The Met Police are a disaster.

“The roads are awful and the railways are seemingly permanently on strike. The Govern- ment persists with the insane net zero agenda. The NHS is basically non-functioning and Islamists are allowed to support Hamas at the Cenotaph a week after the worst pogrom since the Holocaust.”

That Sunak went into the Tory conference believing a gradual raising of the legal smoking age and a long-term plan to reform A-levels would pass as big ideas at such a time beggars belief. It tells us that he should stop relying on a tight-knit team of young advisers and start tapping into the nous of senior Cabinet colleagues.

The same lesson can be drawn after the unravelling of his one genuinely impactful idea – cancelling the northern leg of HS2 and using the funds to invest in scores of medium-sized transport schemes instead. He probably should have announced that after a month in Downing Street, not nearly a year. But the fact that he kept Transport Secretary Mark Harper out of the loop for so long meant that there was no time to nail down the detail of a new “Network North” investment programme and several items featured in it turned out to be imaginary. Northern voters were right to wonder if they were being played for fools.

Sunak has three immediate shots in his locker and must use them all. First, a Cabinet reshuffle is due. He should use this to replace Chancellor Jeremy Hunt with a more convincing advocate of tax cuts.

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Secondly, the PM must ensure that the King’s Speech on November 7 includes legislative measures that can get to grips with some of the problems listed above. Plans to force better integration into British values, as well as a tougher appro- ach to immigration, should be to the fore. Robust welfare reform should be included too, so that taxpayer-funded idleness is no longer an option for those who could very well work. And for goodness sake, let’s see measures to sort out the enfeebled leadership of the police.

Thirdly, the Budget will be delivered on November 22. Sunak’s new Chancellor needs to make an immediate downpayment on the lower taxes for which hardworking people are clamouring. If that means seeking new spending cuts, so be it.

Almost nobody be- lieves that there isn’t waste to be found in many public sector budgets. Just offering voters a flavour of actual Conservatism will give millions of people good reason to consider returning to the fold.

Next month a Supreme Court verdict is due that could give the legal green light to deportation flights to Rwanda getting underway. Equally, it might definitively rule them illegal.

Sunak must be ready with a bold response, either to change the legal framework to make deportations lawful or to just get on with the deportations if he can, rather than awaiting yet more appeals to the European Court of Human Rights. As things stand, Sunakism isn’t working. It’s got to be Conserv- atism or bust from here on in.

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