On Saturday evening, members of the Conservative Party forecasted upcoming criticism towards Rishi Sunak’s leadership, as they blamed their own party for giving in to Labour without putting up a sufficient fight in two previously secure Tory constituencies that will be holding byelections this week.
Members of Parliament from various political parties expressed concerns that the losses in Wellingborough and Kingswood on Thursday had been anticipated and accepted as inevitable. One prominent individual stated that a sense of defeat had taken hold, causing the party to spiral downwards.
Government officials and members of parliament stated that they did not receive the usual requests to attend the two constituencies this weekend in order to garner last-minute support, which is typical before byelections. A close associate of Sunak mentioned that the byelections were intentionally scheduled during the parliamentary break to minimize the likelihood of negative discussions and scheming against Sunak at Westminster in the event that the Conservative party lost.
However, experienced members of Parliament expressed concern that failing to adequately compete for these positions could potentially discourage the party, which is already feeling discouraged, in the lead-up to a national election. This is a particularly vulnerable time for Labour following their significant reversal last week on their environmentally friendly economic proposals.
A previous government official stated that the party has not put in much effort and is anticipating losses, which is disheartening. Another influential individual remarked that the byelections are heavily factored into a downward trend.
In Wellingborough, the Tories are defending a majority of more than 18,000 while in Kingswood, its majority was in excess of 11,000 at the 2019 election.
In light of the low morale among Tories, Sunak utilized an interview over the weekend to promote tax reductions. He also asserted that he was ready for the battle, despite Labour’s persistently significant lead in the polls.
He further justified the success of his economic plans, stating that they are moving in a positive direction and that the future holds promise.
However, experts in economics predict that the upcoming release of data determining if the economy has experienced two consecutive quarters of decline, which defines a recession, is on the brink of uncertainty.
A high-ranking member of parliament stated that there was no sign that the party thought it could hold onto both seats: “Several individuals have noted that typically, the whips’ office sends numerous messages requesting – and sometimes demanding – attendance at each byelection at least three times. However, this has not occurred in either seat, which is truly remarkable.”
“The upcoming week may prove to be challenging. There is a possibility of the country falling into a recession and inflation rising. Rishi is facing potential trouble, unfortunately.”
The Labour party is attempting to downplay predictions that they will easily win both byelections. They are focused on increasing voter turnout. Chris Bryant, a Labour frontbencher and the main political representative in Kingswood, stated that many are assuming a guaranteed victory due to recent byelection wins, but there are still many undecided voters. Therefore, they must put in effort to secure each vote, one door at a time.
According to Tory strategists, rather than allocating resources to the byelections, they are placing more importance on the party’s overall campaign for the general election. Conservative members with conservative beliefs are now turning their attention to chancellor Jeremy Hunt potentially reducing taxes in the budget, specifically inheritance tax.
The party is also attempting to organize assaults on Labour’s economic strategies. However, a report released on Saturday regarding Labour’s windfall tax on oil and gas corporations seemed to acknowledge that it pertained to a policy that Labour no longer supports.
The policy was finalized and approved on January 22, 2024, according to the statement. However, the Labour party has since made additional announcements that could affect the expenses associated with this policy.
The Labour party stated that the Conservatives had estimated the cost of a policy that does not align with Labour’s beliefs.
Recent developments indicate that despite Labour’s significant change in policy to allocate £28bn annually towards environmental investment, their popularity has not been affected. The most recent Opinium survey for the Observer reveals a 2-point increase in Labour’s lead, now standing at 18 points. In addition, Keir Starmer currently holds an 11-point advantage in terms of public perception as the most suitable candidate for prime minister.
The Wellingborough branch of the Tory campaign has faced challenges due to their decision to choose the spouse of former MP Peter Bone, who was forced to step down after an investigation revealed that he had mistreated a staff member and exposed himself to them, which Bone denies.
One senior member of the Conservative party expressed dissatisfaction, stating that the party’s resources should be focused on supporting their MPs in preparing for the upcoming general election.
In the constituency of Kingswood, located in South Gloucestershire, the Conservative Member of Parliament Chris Skidmore stepped down due to his disagreement with Sunak’s proposal for a law that supports the extraction of new oil and gas. The Labour party is currently ahead as the most favored candidate in this area.
In the previous week, Conservative Members of Parliament experienced frustration due to a number of mistakes made by Sunak. Some were unhappy with the Prime Minister’s choice to criticize Starmer in the House of Commons regarding Labour’s stance on transgender individuals, especially while Brianna Ghey’s mother was present in the public gallery.
Some were discouraged by a political advertisement where Sunak utilized a whiteboard to clarify his strategies for the nation. A departing member of parliament described the week as “extremely gloomy.”