British politics will approach 2023 with a little pagan side. Against the backdrop of strong industrial measures, the fate of the conservative government of Rishi Sunak will be determined more by the weather than by voters, parliamentarians or transport workers on strike. After an unusually mild autumn, a sudden cooling could trigger a wave of power cuts that could bring down the government. A warm winter, on the other hand, would reduce energy bills and strain public finances less.
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A promising spring…
So let’s imagine the weather gods are in favor of Rishi Sunak. In the spring, the Prime Minister finds that things are going a little better than expected. When he took office in October 2022, Labor pranced with a 30-point lead in the polls. Six months later, according to some surveys, the Tories are now just 5 points behind Labor (the Labor Party), even after a painful series of tax hikes and spending cuts imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt.
Having succeeded in blaming his unfortunate predecessor Liz Truss for the explosion in the cost of mortgages, Rishi Sunak enjoys a better popularity rating than his party and is trusted more on the economy than Sir Keir Starmer, Labor leader. While the next general elections are not scheduled for January 2025 at the latest, his advisers are beginning to whisper about the possibility of early elections. But after several weeks of reflection, the Prime Minister decides not to take the risk.
He quickly understands that he would have done better to do so. In the spring, more than 5,000 migrants cross the Channel every day by boat. This pushes Great Britain to conclude an agreement with France, committing to pay it 2.6 billion euros per year to dismantle the networks of smugglers. “This is a historic agreement between Great Britain and France, declares French President Emmanuel Macron. We look forward to being able to cement our friendship on the occasion of the discussions on fishing rights which will open next year.” In September, Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit busker, announces the creation of a new party on the deck of a trawler cruising off the island of Guernsey. “They can keep the boats, he proclaims. We will keep the fish.”
…before a heavy summer?
A summer of discontent begins in June when doctors launch a series of strikes during which all non-essential procedures are canceled. To end a deplorable summer, a Conservative parliamentarian elected with a majority of less than 3,000 votes changed sides and joined Labour. “Keir Starmer’s Labor Party represents the values put forward by the 2019 Conservative manifesto on which I was elected,” he said, proudly wearing red in his buttonhole.
The attacks of conservative parliamentarians against Labor do not bear fruit. They are trying to pass off Starmer as a “bis Corbyn” (in reference to his predecessor as leader of the Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn). But Rishi Sunak refuses to stoop to the tactics used by Boris Johnson, who once falsely accused Keir Starmer of failing as head of the Crown Judiciary to prosecute Jimmy Savile, a media celebrity whose it was discovered after his death that he was a pedophile.
Among the grassroots deputies is rooted the feeling that Rishi Sunak does not have the build to beat Labour. The conservative rebels, led by Suella Braverman, a former interior secretary who was dismissed after a disastrous few months in this post, reduced the effective majority of the government to almost zero.
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A cold snap at the end of 2023 leads Martin Lewis, an increasingly messianic investment expert, to warn of the risks of disorder if the authorities do not help people pay their energy bills. Gas prices have not fallen compared to the previous year.
The Conservatives are again 20 points behind Labour, and Keir Starmer predicts an electoral tidal wave in favor of Labour. Rishi Sunak, in a down jacket at home after launching an energy-saving campaign called “For those who have no food, let’s turn down the heat”, thinks that, all things considered, a snap election would not be such a bad idea.
Duncan Robinson, political reporter for The Economist