2024: The Year of the Long Campaign: What’s in store for the Conservatives in 2024?

Leon Emirali

Senior Political Counsellor

Rishi Sunak has had a busy six months. The Prime Minister has been lurching from one re-launch to the next, hoping to find a formula that will finally reverse the decline in his and the party’s fortunes. From the change candidate to the continuity candidate – Sunak is finding his niche that he hopes will carry him to a General Election video.

Since Sunak became PM, his leadership has been marked by a strategic shift towards more hardline stances, particularly on issues of immigration and national identity. Why? Because he faces the substantial challenge of needing to consolidate the party’s base in the face of significant challenges on two fronts; the Labour Party and the Reform Party, with close links to Nigel Farage.

The challenge is that Sunak, in the modern political age, cannot be all things to all people. The metropolitan tech bro persona is at odds with the immigration hardliner intent on sending illegal immigrants to Rwanda. This approach to policy and presentation is indicative of a Prime Minister seeking to identify the wedge issues, particularly immigration, which the Conservatives hope will resonate with voters and counterbalance their current slide in the polls.

On current polling, we could see a potential landslide victory for Labour akin to Tony Blair’s in 1997. For the Conservatives, they are adopting a damage limitation approach, hoping to avoid wipe-out and, and by creating a very slim, very narrow path to some sort of electoral victory.

To achieve that, Conservative strategists are targeting Farage-inclined Reform party voters, who currently make up about 8-10% of the electorate, to bolster their own support base. But fresh from new-found public popularity on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Nigel Farage may be in no mood to help out the Conservatives as he did in 2019. In fact, he may feel the opposite and revel in the opportunity to be a thorn in the governing party’s side through a resurgent Reform Party.

To get ahead of the polls, Sunak needs to deliver a message with absolute clarity and let voters understand exactly what another five years of his leadership would look like.

Many of us Westminster watchers will have marked 6th March in our diaries with a red marker pen. Budget day. This could be one of the most consequential Budgets in recent history as the Government seeks to make voters feel better off thanks to an improving economic outlook and potential tax cuts. Whether that’s enough to move the dial after the chaos of recent years remains to be seen.

 

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