OPINION - The Standard View: The rush of Tory MPs standing down is a warning sign for Rishi Sunak
Voter intention surveys are the traditional method by which pollsters predict who is on track to win the next election. But it is just one of several key indicators.
An exclusive Ipsos survey for today’s Evening Standard finds that nearly two-thirds of Britons expect Labour to be the largest party. There is also another metric that ought to worry Rishi Sunak: the sheer number of Conservative MPs who have announced they are standing down at the next election.
Dominic Raab, the former deputy prime minister, has confirmed he will not run again in his Esher and Walton constituency. Current trends suggest that he was likely to lose to the Lib Dems, having been re-elected in 2019 with a much-reduced majority. But Raab is now one of 39 Tory MPs who will not look to fight for their seats.
It is not uncommon for MPs to decide to jump rather than suffer the indignity of defeat in a local sports hall at 2am on election night. But it lays bare the challenge for the Prime Minister. Sunak must use the upcoming 12 to 18 months before the election to demonstrate that his plan to get the economy moving, bring down inflation and repair our public services is working. He still has time.
Spectre of borrowing
UK Government borrowing continues to soar. The latest figures of £25.6 billion for last month came in at nearly £8 billion higher than economist predictions and £3 billion above Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts.
This represents the second-highest April borrowing on record, outdone only by 2020 at the height of the pandemic when the Government had effectively switched off whole swathes of the economy.
The main culprits for these dizzying figures will come as little surprise — the cost of energy support schemes, higher benefit payments and rising debt interest. But they are concerning. Rishi Sunak has placed getting the debt down at the core of his government. Indeed, it is one of the five pledges he announced at the start of the year. But a sluggish economy depresses tax receipts, while continued high inflation puts pressure on index-linked benefits. The key, as ever, will be kickstarting growth.
Tate Britain’s voice
What we choose to place in our museums says a great deal not just about the institutions themselves, but about the country in which they hang. And great museums such as Tate Britain have ample choice, only ever displaying a fraction of their holdings.
And so it is significant that Tate has moved to display more works by women and artists of colour. Familiar pieces remain proudly on display, but from the Stuart period to modernists, female artists such as Joan Carlile are far more prominent. Our museums should show the full richness of our history and not shy away from the troubling contradictions of our past.