There’s absolutely nothing Sunak can do to turn the tide, insists expert
Professor Alex De Ruyter, a politics expert and director at Birmingham City University's Centre for Brexit Studies, says Rishi Sunak faces an impossible task to keep the Tories in office beyond the next general election.
"I am of the view that the Tories are finished, regardless of what Sunak tries to do to stem the tide," he says.
"The economic model they have imposed on the UK is fundamentally broken and requires major change.
"For a country trapped in a cost of living crisis exacerbated by austerity and Brexit – both mandated by the Conservatives during their 12 years in office – trying to distract voters by being harsh on refugees or being anti 'woke' no longer cuts the mustard.
"Johnson campaigned in 2019 on the premise of 'levelling up'. This has proven to be empty rhetoric and Sunak himself boasted of taking money from deprived city areas to give to wealthy Tory shires.
"The claimant count for Universal Credit is higher in Wolverhampton and Sandwell than the UK average and even in Dudley, with its strong manufacturing base, full-time earnings remain below the UK average."
Professor De Ruyter adds: If Sunak is to turn Tory fortunes around in so-called Red Wall areas then he needs to do more for those least able to afford the necessities of life. That means taxing the rich more through measures such as a land value tax to replace the moribund council tax which is still based on 1990s property values, a 'Tobin Tax' on the finance sector, closing company tax loopholes and upping inheritance tax – i.e. taxing assets more and redistributing this to the poor.
"For regions such as the Black Country which are manufacturing hubs we also need a proper place-based industry policy to assist firms to shift to the green economy as we face the Net Zero challenge.
"Despite the (largely empty) rhetoric at a regional level about the West Midlands having an 'Electric Vehicle Cluster', the region remains highly dependent on the production and investment decisions of key players like Jaguar Land Rover and at this stage, it remains highly unlikely that JLR would source batteries from within the region."
He continues: "The automotive sector supply chain faces real challenges in terms of lack of skills and ability to provide key parts for electric motors. In addition, being far away from sources of renewable energy places the region at a real competitive disadvantage to say the North East, given the cost of electricity.
"The Government needs to sit down with firms like JLR and help them to secure as much as possible from within the region.
"However, I don’t see any of this happening and the right wing of Sunak’s own party wouldn’t let this happen anyway, even if he showed any genuine desire to do so.
"For Keir Starmer, the temptation is to play it safe, and indeed this is what Labour are doing, being anxious to place as little ground between them and the Government as possible on things like Brexit, fiscal prudence and being patriotic.
"Given the Tories continued propensity to self-destruct, playing safe will in all likelihood be enough to get Labour into government, probably with a majority.”