Sunak and Hunt look at each other Photo Credit: No10

Can Rishi Sunak survive this week’s shattering reverses? Lots of Tories think he can’t. The Tories faced the possibility of rising inflation figures, a drop in production figures that means Britain is in a recession, two defeats in by-elections and opposition to their Rwanda bill in the House of Lords.

Defeats in the by-elections would be a telling sign of what the Tories should expect in an upcoming general election. Tory MPs have already accused their party of surrendering to Labour without a proper fight in their two former safe seats that were up for grabs this Thursday. One senior Tory MP told the Observer newspaper, “It’s going to be a difficult week. Trouble is brewing for Rishi, I’m afraid.”

Defeatism has sunk deep for the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections, with one MP adding that the party is descending into a “death spiral”. MPs haven’t been shipped to the seats by whips to drum up support. And a Sunak ally even said the by-elections were purposefully held during parliamentary recess to avoid “chatting and plotting”.

In Wellingborough, the Tories were defending a majority of more than 18,000 after MP Peter Bone was ousted for bullying and exposing his genitalia at staff. And in Kingswood, south Gloucestershire, the Tories’ majority was over 11,000. Chis Skidmore resigned over Sunak’s plan to promote new oil and gas production.

Like rats escaping a sinking ship, 56 Tory MPs have already announced they will step down at the next general election—and won’t re-run. The week from hell for Sunak began as it emerged he paid £508,303 in tax in 2023 after grabbing a £1.8 million profit from a US investment fund. And that’s just on the income he declares. 

Sunak’s tax rate is 23 percent—lower than the top rate of 45 percent—because part of his income was taxed in the US. His £139,477 salary as prime minister is just 7 percent of his total income.  And chancellor Jeremy Hunt paid tax of £117,418 on income of £208,547, plus a capital gain—money made from investment—of £208,058. Hunt made £27,370 from a rental property and £35,997 in dividend income.

Sunak, Hunt and the rest of their rich mob don’t care about the crumbling NHS, low public sector pay and increasing living costs. They’ll never be able to relate to struggling workers while they lavish in luxury. 

Despite their ability to fiddle the tax system, Sunak and Hunt’s economy is heading for a recession. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) was expected to announce on Wednesday another quarter of no growth. Two successive quarters of negative growth in 2023 will mean Sunak has failed on his promise to have the economy growing by the end of the year. 

The economy is expected to have shrunk by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, after shrinking by the same in the third. That means Britain was in recession during the second half of 2023 and into 2024. And inflation figures also released by the ONS on Wednesday are expected to show rising inflation. 

The rate of inflation is set to hit 4.2 percent for January—up from 4 percent in December and 3.9 percent in November. It means ordinary people paying more for already expensive essentials—and any pay fights have to accept deals above 6 percent to avoid a pay cut. The lack of real opposition from Labour means Sunak may well survive his long week and roll with the punches. 

But his Tory Party is already deserting him and vying for blood. More splits and chaos are clear symptoms of Tories in their final days. It’s time to see the back of the Tories for good after 14 years of misery. 

Yet the Labour Party waiting to replace it will not mean victory for ordinary people either. What comes next has to be shaped and fought for.

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