Rishi Sunak Warms Of 'Square One' With Keir Starmer – And That Doesn't Sound So Bad To Many

Tory leader changes election strategy, billing himself as a continuity candidate after saying "change" 30 times in his October conference speech.
Rishi Sunak talks to the audience during a PM Connect event in Accrington.
Rishi Sunak talks to the audience during a PM Connect event in Accrington.

Rishi Sunak has ditched a central plank of his general election strategy – opting for attacks on the “risks” posed by the Labour Party that has echoes a much-derided tweet from 2015.

The Tory leader has as recently as his party conference in October positioned himself as the “change” candidate, an attempt to draw a line under the last 14 years of Conservative rule. In his keynote address to conference, Sunak said the word “change” 30 times.

But since the weekend, the prime minister has changed his pitch – urging voters to “stick with the plan” and not choose Keir Starmer taking the country back to “square one”.

On Monday, Sunak told a PM Connect event in Lancashire: “The alternative is Keir Starmer, who would just take us back to square one.

“He has been leader of the opposition for four years now and in that time, he hasn’t said what he would do differently. That’s because he doesn’t have a plan. He just snipes from the sidelines instead.”

A Conservative source confirmed to Bloomberg that there has been an “evolution” in Sunak’s thinking.

It reported his new plan – to be a continuity candidate – follows the playbook used by Australian election strategist, Lynton Crosby, who masterminded the unlikely, narrow Tory election victory of 2015.

While the plan worked at the time, one aspect of highlighting the potential dangers of the opposition has become an online punchline. In May 2015, then prime minister David Cameron tweeted ahead of the vote: “Britain faces a simple and inescapable choice – stability and strong government with me, or chaos with Ed Miliband.” The joke is “or chaos with Ed Miliband” – real or imagined – was perhaps a better choice than the tumult brought about by Brexit, two more general elections and three prime ministers since.

And the “square one” strategy has already had some on social media suggesting it’s a good place to be.

Labour shadow cabinet minister Wes Streeting said: “Stick with 14 years of Conservative failure or vote for change with Labour. That’s the choice. Bring it on.”


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