Sunak makes it to one year as PM, but any celebrations in No 10 will be muted

Sunak makes it to one year as PM, but any celebrations in No 10 will be muted

A year has come to be a long and treacherous road in politics, as witnessed by the turbulence of late. But Rishi Sunak has survived his first as Prime Minister.

Mr Sunak will have lasted more than seven times as long as Liz Truss’s fleeting tenure when he marks his first anniversary in No 10 on Wednesday.

But No 10 is eager to dispel suggestions that there will be celebrations of any kind as he faces entrenched unease among Tories, a stuttering economy and crises abroad.

Mr Sunak may have steadied the ship after his predecessor’s chaotic 49-day spell as prime minister, but he remains lagging a distant second behind Labour in the polls.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Sunak “is more focused on the continual delivery for the public rather than marking an anniversary”.

He will face Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions as Westminster remains largely occupied by the unfolding horrors in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The Commons’ green benches are expected to feature two new Labour faces however, after the party overturned two huge Conservative majorities, in Tamworth and in Mid Bedfordshire.

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The losses of two seats last won on majorities of more than 19,000 means many Conservative MPs are worried about their own prospects in the general election expected next year.

An increasingly perilous international picture is adding to Mr Sunak’s challenges, as war grinds on in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict creates a powder keg in the Middle East.

Mr Sunak’s own five priorities – halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing the national debt, cutting hospital waiting lists, and stopping the boats bringing migrants across the English Channel – are all proving difficult to meet.

He may be on course to bring inflation down to around 5.3% by the end of the year, with September’s figure holding steady at 6.7%.

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But the economy is growing weakly and the national debt has hit almost £2.6 trillion, around 97.8% of GDP, a measure of national income.

More than 26,500 people have been detected crossing the Channel in small boats this year, meaning Mr Sunak is a long way from being able to say he has stopped them.

The failure to end the strikes by NHS doctors has hampered Mr Sunak’s plan to cut waiting lists.

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There have been reports of letters of no confidence in Mr Sunak being submitted, though there is no chosen successor even if Tory MPs did take the unlikely, nuclear option.

He is coming under growing pressure to issue a tax cut, with speculation Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is considering action in the spring Budget.

Whether he survives until that point is not guaranteed, however, amid rumours a reshuffle so Mr Sunak can build his election-fighting team is on the horizon.

Some Conservative MPs would like to see a colleague more eager to reduce the burden on the public leading the Treasury.

Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth gave his own assessment of “inaction man” Mr Sunak not being “strong enough to turn Britain’s fortunes around”.

He said: “The past year has seen weak Rishi Sunak pushed around by a chaotic and divided Conservative Party, allowed Liz Truss to dictate government policy, and hopelessly failed to deliver for struggling working families paying more on their mortgage thanks to the Tories.”

For the Liberal Democrats, shadow Cabinet Office spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the country has been “in a constant cycle of Conservative sleaze and scandal, moving from one crisis to another”.

She added: “Rishi Sunak should call a general election now so voters can put this Government out of its misery. The British public deserve better than another year of absolute chaos.”

But Tory chairman Greg Hands praised the Prime Minister, while acknowledging that there is “more to do”.

“When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister a year ago today, he took immediate action to support families with the cost of living, paying half their energy bills. Since then we have made good progress towards halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping the boats,” he said.

He added: “But for the last 30 years, the Prime Minister recognises that there has been too much short-term political decision making, politicians taking the easy way out, ducking the hard choices, rather than fixing the underlying problems.

“The Prime Minister has proven he is the only person who is determined to change that.”