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It’s Sunak’s one year anniversary at No 10 – but who’s celebrating?

Fear is stalking the Tory high command, writes Andrew Grice. Rishi Sunak’s personal rating is plummeting and morale of MPs is the lowest I’ve known it since he became PM…

Wednesday 25 October 2023 13:44 BST
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Rishi Sunak may be more effective and trusted on the world stage than his predecessors, but it is domestically that he needs a boost
Rishi Sunak may be more effective and trusted on the world stage than his predecessors, but it is domestically that he needs a boost (PA)

Over lunch, I dared to ask a cabinet minister to name the Conservatives’ biggest achievement in 13 years in power. There was a long, revealing pause. Eventually, they said something about education reform in England. True, the country moved up the international league table, though the changes arguably weren’t followed through.

Crucially, the reforms were announced by Michael Gove in 2010. Today’s parents, teachers and pupils will be more concerned about the damage the pandemic did to an unlucky cohort of children and the crumbling concrete in our schools. It wasn’t all down to bad luck: as chancellor, Rishi Sunak filleted a £15bn catch-up programme recommended by the government’s adviser and school building projects fell victim to Tory austerity.

This sums up Sunak’s problem as he marks an unhappy first anniversary as prime minister today: he can’t run on the Tories’ record and his attempt to portray himself as the change candidate has failed to make the impact his inner circle was convinced it would. To many voters, the technocrat looks like part of “the 30-year political status quo” he attacked at last month’s Tory conference.

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