London Diary: Sunak’s sinking stock

Electoral Calculus, a political forecasting website, gives Sunak only a 60 per cent chance of retaining his seat

British prime minister Rishi Sunak
British prime minister Rishi Sunak

Hasan Suroor

The big question in the run-up to the British general elections on the 4th of July is not about the prospects of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives who, by all accounts, are set to be wiped out by a resurgent Labour party, but whether he will be able to retain his own Yorkshire seat.

Although he remains a popular MP, such is said to be the intensity of the anti- Conservatives hawa that it wouldn’t be surprising if he, too, is swept aside by the widely predicted Labour ‘landslide’.

According to one poll, Labour is estimated to be on track to win the biggest majority of any party in a century. In recent days, Sunak’s support has dropped by more than 20 per cent.

Electoral Calculus, a political forecasting website, gives him only a 60 per cent chance of retaining his seat. And that in a constituency that has remained staunchly Conservative in its 110-year history.

His Labour challenger, 29-year-old Tom Wilson can’t believe that he is even being considered a serious contender. “Had you asked me a year ago whether we could win here, I would’ve laughed you out of the room. Had you asked me six months ago, I would have been very, very sceptical. Now, who knows? I don’t think anyone really knows what the results are going to be.”

If Wilson gets his way, Sunak will become the first prime minister to lose their seat while in office.


‘Absolute dud’, says ex-donor

In a sign of the times, the proverbial rats have started to desert Sunak’s sinking ship. A billionaire who gave the Conservatives £500,000 before the last general election has told the BBC he will vote Labour for the first time in his life next month.

John Caudwell, the founder of Phones 4u, described Rishi Sunak as an “absolute dud” and said the Labour leader Keir Starmer “just really hits the spot with a lot of issues with me”.

“The Labour Party in my estimation, as much as I disagree with some of the policies, are absolutely the very best for Britain going forward,” he said.


Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party

Labour’s mysterious ‘working people’

The Labour leader and putative prime minister-to-be Keir Starmer is not having an easy time either. He is struggling to answer a question that has tripped up countless politicians before him—namely how does he define the ‘working people’ he claims his party is devoted to.

Starmer has classified them as “people who earn their living, rely on our [public] services and don’t really have the ability to write a cheque when they get into trouble” —a definition that has left even the working people confused, prompting accusations that millions are not covered by his fuzzy and narrow definition and continue to remain vulnerable to tax increases.

The Times is running a quiz to ‘help’ its readers ‘figure out what sort of working person you actually are’. Well, this scribe failed the test and doesn’t seem to be the only one on the wrong side of Labour’s definition.


‘Mr Brexit’ is back

Remember Nigel Farage? Better known as ‘Mr Brexit’—a title conferred on him by his best mate Donald Trump after his role in Britain’s disastrous decision to leave the European Union (EU). Well, he’s back. And is making quite a splash after deciding to contest the general election on his Reform Party (previously Brexit Party) ticket.

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage

This is his eighth attempt to win a seat in the House of Commons and this time he is most likely to succeed on the back of an anti-immigration, anti-EU, low tax populist agenda.

He is giving Rishi Sunak sleepless nights by threatening to ‘take over’ the Conservative Party, which he says is no longer fit for purpose.

At least one high-profile Conservative MP and ex-deputy chairman (Lee Anderson) has already defected to Farage’s party amid frenzied speculation of more defections to come, especially if the Conservatives suffer the sort of crushing defeat they are said to be facing.

Farage, a showman par excellence, is enjoying the limelight. In 2016, he destroyed David Cameron’s prime ministership after compelling him to order the Brexit referendum. This time, he is threatening to destroy the Conservative party itself. Pay heed, or perish?


Vivek, not Vikesh

Vivek Taneja, who makes his living selling bathroom fittings, was so angry with his boss for mispronouncing his name that he sued her under Britain’s race discrimination and harassment laws. And—hold your breath—he has just been awarded £9,000 after a tribunal ruled that his dignity had been violated.

He said he was left “angry and upset” when the boss, Dana Davies, incorrectly called him “Vikesh” instead of Vivek despite repeated protests.

Taneja said his name had a “significant meaning in Hindi” and that he had “genuine emotion and sensitivity” about it. Vivek translates as ‘wisdom’ or ‘conscience’.

The panel ruled that mispronouncing someone’s name at work could count as unwanted conduct that may violate their dignity. Failing to say someone’s name properly after being corrected could breach equality laws as a result.

Davies, the tribunal said, “besmirched” Taneja, who is British Indian, by continuing to distort his name despite being corrected. And, finally, an election candidate out canvassing was overheard telling an angry voter: “Please don’t talk to me like that in front of my dog.”

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