Conservatives fear Sunak’s high-risk policy blitz could ‘end badly’
While the policies aim to create distinctions with Labour, critics argue that the lack of a mandate for such bold changes and the hasty policymaking could backfire
Rishi Sunak delivers a speech at the opening of Finance Day at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow on November 3, 2021 (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
There is growing concern among the Conservative party regarding Rishi Sunak’s recent policy surge amid ongoing political challenges. Many within the party wonder if the sudden flurry of initiatives constitutes a coherent strategy or is a sign of panic.
As world leaders convened at the UN climate summit in New York, Rishi Sunak’s conspicuous absence raised eyebrows and questions.
While Prince William represented the UK temporarily due to his environmental charity, news of the prime minister’s impending reversal on key climate change commitments, leaked by the BBC, reverberated globally, The Guardian reported.
This abrupt shift in climate policy, which contradicts the UK’s stance at the Cop26 summit just two years ago, has been scorned upon by environmentalists and international diplomats.
The move to delay the ban on petrol and diesel car sales and relax targets for transitioning away from fossil fuel boilers, among other changes, has taken seasoned Tory MPs by surprise.
For Sunak, this marks a significant gamble in his premiership.
While he aimed to challenge Labour’s environmental spending policies, the decision was divisive within his own party. Some applauded it as a necessary dividing line with Labour, while others have expressed dismay.
Furthermore, various high-risk policy ideas have emerged in recent days, including replacing A-levels with international baccalaureates and banning the next generation from buying cigarettes.
Sunak may also announce a significant downsizing of the HS2 high-speed rail project, potentially scrapping the northern section of Birmingham completely.
While these policies aim to create distinctions with Labour, they carry inherent risks. Critics argue that the lack of a mandate for such bold changes and the hasty policymaking could backfire.
Critics, both within the government and among Tory backbenchers, have been quick to highlight significant issues.
A senior Tory expressed support for bold moves but emphasised the absence of a mandate for such actions, contradicting the explicit mandate of the Conservative government.
The Conservative Party’s annual conference is set to take place in Manchester next weekend.
Influential figures linked to the HS2 project have argued that abandoning the northern portion of the high-speed rail line during this event in the city would be a political disaster for a party striving to maintain seats in the ‘red wall.’
An insider commented on the apparent strategy, noting that making such an announcement in the coming days is likely aimed at avoiding a severe political setback, considering the conference’s location in Manchester.
While Sunak’s team asserts the thoroughness and alignment of their plans with Sunak’s vision for change, some members of his party perceive signs of panic and hasty policymaking.
A senior Tory commented on the recent policy blitz, describing it as confusing and indicative of desperation.
The array of initiatives, including HS2, smoking, and net zero, appears to many as a lack of coherent strategy, with actions seeming scattered rather than well-coordinated.
Despite debates over coherence, most Tories share the belief that the recent flurry of activity points towards an impending general election, possibly in May, according to one Tory.
This shift in approach is viewed by some as a gamble reminiscent of problem gamblers in a casino, with policies being thrown haphazardly, raising concerns about potential unfavourable outcomes.