Rishi Sunak could win a fifth term for the Tories

Scott Cresswell

October 25, 2022

Rishi Sunak’s appointment as Conservative leader has come after a year of turmoil in Tory ranks. With both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss removed during a period of inflation and economic woes, an economically competent Prime Minister like Sunak could change things and secure victory for his party in 2024.

After winning unopposed in a field of just Tory MPs, Rishi Sunak will be succeeding Liz Truss at a very perilous time for the economy. With a Sunak government continuing the Treasury orthodoxy relaunched by Jeremy Hunt after Liz Truss u-turned on her economics, Sunak may be able to relaunch the Conservatives’ reputation of financial credibility.

Recent polling for the Conservative Party has placed them at their worst level since their dark days going up against Tony Blair in his prime. With Keir Starmer’s Labour enjoying poll leads of 39 points ahead of the Tories, Sunak could turn things around by looking back to a previous Tory Prime Minister who assumed office when the opposition seemed destined to win the oncoming election.

After winning another landslide victory in 1987, Margaret Thatcher secured her place in history as one of the greatest Conservative leaders. But two years on after a decade in office, her popularity fell. Divisions over Britain’s future in a developing European community and the Community Charge – a flagship Thatcherite policy – were massively unpopular with the public.

Upon Thatcher’s deposal in November 1990, the Labour Party led by Neil Kinnock had been ahead in the polls for eighteen months. In the place of a determined and dominant Iron Lady, the Conservatives replaced her with a man whose personality was vastly different.

Comparing Rishi Sunak to John Major would be seen as bad news for many Tories. After all, they come from different wings of the party and Major led the Tories to a landslide defeat in 1997. However, Major shocked the pollsters and indeed many on his own side by winning the 1992 election.

Major won not just because the Labour opposition – which was stronger than it had been in previous years – had arguably not yet matured enough to convince the public, but also because his preference for substance and policy over show and personality was proof that he could govern well.

The situation in 1992 is remarkably like the one the Tories are in today. Sir Keir Starmer has certainly moved Labour closer to power, but the party still hasn’t recovered from its near-fatal defeat in December 2019. With Boris Johnson’s domineering personality gone and Liz Truss’s economic illiteracy banished, Sunak can boast the same fresh start that John Major displayed while proving he is an effective Prime Minister working not sorely for attention and praise, but the greater good.

An explanation for why Starmer is doing well in the polls currently is that many see him as a competent leader – mainly because his Tory opponents are so dire. A recent poll from YouGov has shown that only 10% of the public approved of Liz Truss’s leadership. Sunak certainly must build back confidence fast, but he will certainly be helped by the fact that his predictions during the summer leadership contest have been proven right. He does, after all, have experience in the financial field.

Sunak – like Major – could one day boast of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. But similarly to his 1990s predecessor, Sunak will lead a divided Conservative Party – one that is split between Johnson’s levelling-up agenda and Thatcherism.

As he is likely to follow Treasury orthodoxy and continue down the economic path created by Jeremy Hunt, the Red Wall may be lost to Labour at the next election. But at this cost, the Tories could regain their grip on the southern Blue Wall – that solid base of Conservative support that the party needs to win.

Since the government still has a strong majority in Parliament, a general election is still two years away. Unless Rishi Sunak emerges as a disaster, he has the economic competency and talent that may secure a fifth term for the Tories. But whether his party will support him and his policies on that front is another question.


  • Scott Cresswell

    Scott Cresswell is a political commentator with Young Voices UK and writer on history and current affairs. He recently graduated from Middlesex University in creative writing and journalism.

Written by Scott Cresswell

Scott Cresswell is a political commentator with Young Voices UK and writer on history and current affairs. He recently graduated from Middlesex University in creative writing and journalism.

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