From Health And Defence To Immigration And Economy – How Clueless Sunak Led Conservative To Worst Defeat

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Jul 06 2024
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After 14 years in government, the Conservative Party was led to its worst election defeat in history, thanks partly to clueless billionaire Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It just needed to win 326 seats – one more than half of the total 650 – to form a government on its own, without the need for a coalition with other parties. Instead, the Tory leader drove his party to a disaster – winning only 121 seats. 


It was such a disaster that the Conservatives lost a record number of senior ministers, including defence secretary Grant Shapps and House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt. Even Liz Truss, Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister (just 6 weeks), lost her seat. The Tories, supposedly the western world’s most successful party, had lost about 250 lawmakers in the latest election – a record itself.


Keir Starmer became the new prime minister on Friday morning (July 5) after his Labour Party grabbed 412 seats, forming a government for the first time since 2010. While 44-year-old Sunak apologised for the humiliating defeat and resigned not only as the British Prime Minister, but also stepping down as the conservative party’s fifth leader since 2010, Starmer has pledged to rebuild Britain after years of chaos.

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer

Mr Sunak, who took a gamble by announcing a general election on July 4 in the pouring rain, some 6 months before he had to, saw his horrible decision backfired as Britons impatiently – and gladly – kicked the incompetent Conservatives out of power after 14 years of economic hardships, Brexit upheaval, immigration issues, ethics scandals, crumbling public services, Tory infighting and whatnot.


As the Conservative Party’s fifth leader since 2010, Sunak, a Hindu, was part of the problem from the beginning. Bragging himself as an experienced administrator with a clear plan to fix the country’s major problems, his lack of political experience and charisma, however, saw he lasted only 18 months into the job. The clueless man didn’t realize that his party was not even ready for an election campaign.


Crucially, Sunak thought the country’s economy has recovered when in reality – voters haven’t really felt the improvement in Britain’s economy yet. Not only his leadership and campaign showed a lack of political touch, he was seen as an out of touch rich man with little connection to ordinary people. It was too late when he delivered his last speech as PM – “I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Lost Election

His biggest blunder – the last nail in the coffin – was his decision to leave early from the 80-year D-day commemorations in northern France on June 6 to record a TV interview, leading to criticism of being disrespectful to the veterans. Sunak, Britain’s youngest leader for more than 200 years, then lied about Labour’s plans of a £2,000 tax hike on the average British household.


To be fair, the former hedge fund manager at Goldman Sachs who married into a billionaire Indian family inherited a ruling government at a time when the trust in the Conservative Party was already tanking, thanks largely to his successor Liz Truss, another clueless leader who hastily announced a radical new economic agenda – a “mini budget” that would cut taxes by £45 billion to boost the UK economy.


But Truss’ half-baked programme, which included scrapping the highest rate of income tax for the richest from 45% to 40%, was a disaster. The nation had no money so her brilliant plan involved borrowing, a policy that went against fiscal prudence established by her predecessors for the last 12 years. Economists condemned her reckless gamble, but not before investors and traders dumped the British pound like a plague.

British PM Liz Truss - No 10

Traders were not impressed over the biggest tax-cutting package in 50 years, introduced just a day after the Bank of England warned that the country was already in a recession. Truss’ promise of a “new era” saw the British pound crashed to a record low against the U.S. dollar – plunging as low as US$1.0373, its lowest level since the decimalization of the currency in 1971.


The crisis was so bad that the Bank of England was forced to intervene to protect the UK’s financial system from a meltdown apocalypse. Fearing that the mini-budget could threaten the financial health of the country’s biggest pensions and insurance companies, which together manage trillions of pounds of people’s cash, the Bank pledged “unlimited” bond-buying rescue plan.


Truss, in turn, inherited an economy that saw inflation rate skyrocketed to its 40-year-high of 10.1% in July 2022, before hitting 11.1% in Oct as rising food prices escalated. Worse, only 12% of Britons expected Truss to be a good or great leader (52% expected her to be poor or terrible). While the inflation has come down recently to 2.8% (May 2024), the damage has been done.

Recession in UK Britain - Closing Down Sale

The mishandling of economy has made the UK poorer and its citizens angry. The United Kingdom’s economy grew by only 0.1% in 2023 – plunging into recession when it shrank 0.1% between July and September and then by a further 0.3% between October and December last year. It quickly rebounded by 0.6% in the first quarter of 2024, recovering from the technical recession.


Under the Tory rule, the public services have been crumbling. For example, the National Health Service (NHS) – long hailed as the gold standard of universal, affordable healthcare – has been gutted by a funding crisis. In 2023, fewer than 1 in 4 (24% of people) were satisfied with the NHS. One of the biggest problems – the elderly care system has collapsed post-pandemic because there’s a huge staff shortage.


In fact, healthcare spending in England suffers a 1.2% cut – worth £2 billion – in the new financial year starting April 2024, despite the NHS facing extra costs from continuing pay strikes and the expansion of its workforce. Neither the Conservative nor the Labour could explain how they plan to meet a £38 billion funding shortfall in the National Health Service in England.

UK Britain Healthcare National Health Service NHS

It has become so bad that the NHS waiting list for treatment referrals in England hit 7.6 million cases in April 2024 – a threefold rise since 2010. Of the 7.6 million cases, more than 302,500 involved waits that is longer than 52 weeks (13 months). About 50,400 cases waited for more than 65 weeks (16 months), and nearly 5,000 involved waits of more than 78 weeks (19 months).


Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS waiting list had been rising rapidly for years. As far back as December 2019, the waiting list was at jaw-dropping 4.6 million – about double the figure under the previous Labour government. Meagre pay and poor conditions have been blamed as key drivers of staff retention problems in the NHS, which saw a record 169,512 employees quit in 2022.


Likewise, satisfaction with other public services – housing affordability, education and public transport – have also dropped like a rock. To put it in perspective, in 2011, the UK had some of the highest satisfaction levels with public services in Europe. By 2023, however, the country “ranked last” among its European peers. But the Conservatives’ screw-up didn’t end there.

UK Britain Conservative Party Leaders - Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Elizabeth Truss, Rishi Sunak

When Sunak, a staunch admirer of former Prime Minister “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, promised to cut immigration levels if his party wins the general election, it was too little too late. The overwhelmingly influxes of asylum seekers from Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, with thousands of refugees crossing the English Channel in small boats to enter England, have put excess pressure on housing, education and the NHS.


Ending the free movement of people into Britain from other European countries was a major factor that led to the 2016 vote to leave the European Union – Brexit. It was supposed to bring back control of Great Britain’s borders. Yet, net migration, which reached 329,000 in 2015, has continued to rise to record high of 764,000 in 2022 under the watch of the Conservative Party.


To make matters worse, Sunak introduced new rules to slash the numbers coming in by 300,000 by stopping international students bringing in family members, when his government should have stopped more than 29,000 people arrived in small boats last year. While foreign students bring economic benefits, illegal migrants sucked up billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Illegal Migrants - Small Boat

Within Conservative Party, there were some who wanted the premier to be much tougher on immigration and bolder in cutting taxes, while others urged him to move more to the center of politics. The internal fighting allowed a far right anti-immigrant populist party – Reform – led by Brexiteer-in-chief, Nigel Farage, to snatch huge chunks of the Tory votes.


Of course, voters still remember how the Conservative leaders were caught with their pants down in “Partygate Scandal” – government officials were happily partying, while the rest of the country was under strict lockdown. So it isn’t that people hate Sunak. It’s his party they can’t stand. People have had enough of the party after 14 years, as well as the indecisive and clueless Sunak.



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