The 5 Big Problems Facing Rishi Sunak Just A Month After Becoming Prime Minister

The PM does not have his troubles to seek.
Rishi Sunak is already realising that trying to lead the Conservatives as well as the country is an almost impossible job.
Rishi Sunak is already realising that trying to lead the Conservatives as well as the country is an almost impossible job.
UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor via PA Media

It’s hard to believe that Rishi Sunak only became prime minister a month ago.

After a tumultuous summer which saw him lose out to Liz Truss in a Tory leadership contest, he finally made it to Number 10 on October 25 after his bitter rival’s premiership ended in disaster.

But any hopes Sunak may have had of a honeymoon period in the job have quickly evaporated.

Here, HuffPost UK looks at the mounting list of problems facing the PM just two years before the next general election.

Rebellious MPs

The government whips office is having to work overtime as Tory MPs challenge the prime minister’s authority on a range of issues.

The forthcoming levelling up and regeneration bill has become a particular focal point for revolting Conservative backbenchers.

More than 50 Tories have so far put their names to Theresa Villiers’ amendment, which would remove the need for local councils to take heed of government housebuilding targets when deciding on planning applications.

In a major embarrassment, Sunak was forced to pull a vote on the amendment, which was due to take place tomorrow, to avoid a potential Commons defeat.

Meanwhile, former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke is building support for a separate amendment to the bill calling on the government to lift the current ban on new onshore windfarm developments.

Tory big beasts on manoeuvres

Even more worryingly for Sunak, the aforementioned rebellions have presented several Conservative big beasts with a golden opportunity to flex their muscles.

Among those supporting the Villiers amendment are former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex-cabinet ministers Damian Green, Chris Grayling and Esther McVey.

Both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are backing the Clarke amendment, as are former party chairman Jake Berry and Cop 26 president Alok Sharma.

The Sunday Telegraph also reported today that Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, is sympathetic to it.

Jake Berry - who was sacked as chairman by Sunak - told the BBC that “spells real danger” for the government.

“The minute you see cabinet discipline breakdown - I was in the Liz Truss government, we knew it was over when we lost collective cabinet responsibility - this is the first crack in the wall from Michael Gove,” he said.

Liz Truss and Boris Johnson have joined a Tory rebellion on onshore wind farms.
Liz Truss and Boris Johnson have joined a Tory rebellion on onshore wind farms.
Aaron Chown via PA Wire/PA Images

Winter of discontent

We’re not yet in December and it’s already looking like a grim winter ahead for the government as well as the country at large.

Months of industrial strife are on the cards, with nurses walking out for the first time in more than a century, while Christmas plans for millions are up in the air as a result of impending December rail strikes.

While hopes of a breakthrough with the RMT union rose following talks between transport secretary Mark Harper and Mick Lynch last week, a deal to end the dispute over pay and conditions appears to be no nearer.

And with Harper this morning warning that inflation-level pay rises for public sector workers are “unaffordable”, a wave of strikes in other sectors appear likely.

The Tory exodus

Despite there being a new man at the helm, the Tories’ grim opinion poll ratings have barely improved since Truss’s catastrophic time in charge.

In a not-entirely-unconnected development, the trickle of Conservative MPs announcing that they plan to stand down at the next election looks set to become a flood.

Chris Skidmore, Sunak’s net zero tsar, yesterday became the latest to announce he will not be seeking re-election to parliament next time around.

He is the ninth Tory MP to do, and his announcement came just 24 hours after rising star Dehenna Davison also revealed that she will be quitting in 2024.

Conservative bosses have given the rest of their English MPs until December 5 to decide whether they want to stand again, but with the opinion polls all pointing to a Labour victory, many more are expected to confirm their departures.

It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Tories’ election prospects - or Sunak’s ability to turn things around.

Judgement questions

Questions about Sunak’s judgement have been swirling since his first day as prime minister, when he shocked Westminster by re-appointing Suella Braverman as home secretary just six days after she was sacked for breaking security rules.

The suspicion - which has never been denied by Number 10 - is that getting her old job back was her reward for backing Sunak rather than Boris Johnson after Truss resigned.

The resignation of Cabinet Office minister Gavin Williamson - another controversial appointment by the PM - after just two weeks over bullying allegations once again called Sunak’s judgement into doubt.

Meanwhile, the ongoing controversy surrounding deputy PM Dominic Raab - currently under investigation for allegedly bullying civil servants - is being seen by Sunak’s detractors as further evidence of his lack of political nous.

The PM is already running out of time to shake off that damaging reputation.

In a less-than-helpful intervention, Jake Berry said: “There’s only really 18 months until the next general election and in the last 12 months no one’s really listening, it’s all about the election campaign.

“So we’ve got about six months to get this right.”


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