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Margaret Thatcher famously warned George H.W. Bush against “going wobbly” after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Should Rishi Sunak be worried about a similar shakiness from party members when it comes to holding the line against the unions?
When we last asked this question a month ago, 68.65 per cent of our survey supported the Government’s approach. Another 23.63 per cent did so with the caveat that there should be exceptions for specific cases, such as nurses. 5.63 per cent said they did not support the Government’s approach, with the rest saying they did not know enough to comment.
This month, there has been a slight shift. The percentage supporting the Government has fallen to 63.26 per cent. The number backing exceptions has risen to 30.05 per cent, and the number of those opposing the Government’s line has increased to 6.69 per cent.
The last month’s headlines – strikes, Zahawi-gate, the celebration of our annual NHS winter crisis – have hardly been favourable to the Government. Perhaps a growing number of members, desirous of a quiet life, what Sunak to settle, and make some of the torrid disputes go away?
Or perhaps it reflects a growing frustration, held by some, that Sunak is underwhelming as a leader, that he lacks “the vision thing”, that a man who sold himself on being managerial finds himself overcome by events. A nod, a wink, and a toast to the Prince (or Princess) across the water (even if there’s no reason to automatically think they would be handling the situation better).
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Sunak still commands the support of a substantial majority of our survey’s support for his approach. He’ll be hoping that with inflation receding, rolling strikes (and a few flustered nerves amongst our panel) will start to fade away.