With parliament in recess, politics is also on vacation in UK in what is deemed in this country to be a Christmas truce. But the threat to Indian-origin Prime Minister Rishi Sunak continuing in office seems to be around the corner, if not already present.
Lord Peter Cruddas, a ruling Conservative party peer in the House of Lords and one of the party’s biggest recent financial donors, bluntly told The Observer: “Something’s going to come to a head because the members don’t want Rishi Sunak. The odds are stacked against him.
Sunak, 42, became head of government on October 25. He has at least avoided the ignominy of a tenure shorter than the dubious record set by his immediate predecessor Liz Truss. But he is hemmed in by trouble from within his party as well as the biggest epidemic of strikes by unions in the UK since the 1980s.
Cruddas has donated more than 3.5 million pounds to the Conservatives; and strenuously supported a move in October to bring back Boris Johnson as Prime Minister after he had been forced to resign in July. The plot could therefore be to remove Sunak, perceived to be lacklustre, and reinstate Johnson, who is controversial and allegedly corrupt, but colourful in reaching out to voters.
Cruddas’ outburst came as the latest Opinium poll published by The Observer indicated that the extreme right-wing Reform party has increased its support. This is read as a sign that the pro-Brexit and low tax preferring Conservative voters could be drifting away to Reform.
Another pollster YouGov in a survey of national voting intention carried out on December 14-15, put 48 per cent as being with the main opposition Labour party and only 23 per cent remaining with the Conservatives, who won a thumping majority under Johnson only three years ago. This translates to a Labour landslide, if an election is held now.
Sunak is shown as enjoying the confidence of 24 per cent of the electorate, whereas the figure for Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is 32 per cent. Although Conservative MPs voted overwhelmingly for Sunak to elect him leader and thereby Prime Minister, the party’s rank and file – who did not get a chance to have their say – do not believe he can connect with the British masses to win them the next election – which can of course be posted to December 2024.
In a centrespread story headlined “Will Sunak blink first?”, Sunday Times surmised: “The Prime Minister is determined to face down union leaders this Christmas. But as their threats of more synchronised strikes in the new year harden, some ministers are getting decidedly nervous.”
Nurses, teachers, transport workers, post office staff, civil servants, and energy sector employees have embarked on a wave of work stoppages demanding higher pay and better working conditions. While this is causing considerable inconvenience to the public, they are no more than divided in their sympathies and distinctly empathetic towards nurses.
Meanwhile, Sunak’s decision to appoint the quite shrill Suella Braverman, whose mother is a Tamil from Mauritius and her father a Goan, as Home Secretary, continues to haunt him. Nimco Ali, a friend of Johnson and Priti Patel, who is stepping down as an independent government adviser on violence against women, suggested he should sack her.
“He’s not going to win (the next election) with Suella as his Home Secretary,” she was reported as saying. She accused Braverman of fuelling racism and “normalising” the extreme politics of the Brexit party, which has morphed into the Reform party.
An Indian in the news linked to the current shambolic state of the Conservatives is billionaire steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. He is said to have given in excess of 4 million pounds to the Labour party when it was under Tony Blair’s leadership. According to the Sunday Times, he switched his allegiance to the Conservative party in 2019 and invested 10,000 pounds to Johnson’s leadership campaign.
“A senior party figure”, quoted by the paper, apparently said: “He (Mittal) now looks like he might be ready to become a serious player.” There was no comment from Mittal. Contributions to the Conservatives have reportedly slumped by 40 per cent in the past three months.