Nadhim Zahawi sacked by PM Rishi Sunak
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On February 2, Rishi Sunak marks his 100th day in charge. Although he achieved an early victory in restoring calm to the financial markets, questions over his approach to tackling the number of crises crippling the country as well as the sacking of Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi have prevented public scepticism from dissipating. At this fabled milestone, Express.co.uk takes a look at the data from the prime ministers of the past 40 years – from Margaret Thatcher to Liz Truss – to determine his chances of long-term survival.
The odds going in
Since Mrs Thatcher entered Number 10 in 1979, the average premiership has lasted 1,977 days – or five years and five months.
Upon taking office on October 25, 2022, Mr Sunak was 42 years, five months and 15 days old – making him the youngest PM of the past century and the third-youngest in British parliamentary history.
The data show this fact is not necessarily to his disadvantage. Of the eight preceding PMs, the four taking office before the age of 50 lasted 224 days longer on average than their older counterparts. For every 100 extra days of age they brought to the role, their premiership was found to be 20 days shorter.
Mr Sunak’s most recent priors brought an average of 15 years and one month’s worth of parliamentary experience with them upon taking up the top job. The data show this, however, to be beneficial: for every 100 extra days spent as an MP, their tenure was found to be 28 days longer.
The PM entered Parliament for the first time as a result of the 2015 general election – winning in Yorkshire’s Conservative stronghold of Richmond with a majority of almost 20,000. Having been an MP for just seven years, five months and 20 days, his meteoric ascension to power also makes him the least-experienced prime minister of all.
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Ministerial resignations have become increasingly frequent since the UK began the process of disentangling itself from the European Union (EU).
Members of Cabinet may leave the top table of British politics for a variety of reasons – they may be moved aside in a strategic reshuffle, pushed out over scandal or step down voluntarily in protest against Government policy. Whatever the reason, a departure rarely reflects well on the person in charge.
Mrs Thatcher suffered one resignation for every 176 days of her term on average. Fast-forward a few decades, and Mr Johnson was saying goodbye to one the equivalent of every 24 days – although this is largely due to the mass exodus precipitating his downfall.
Between them, the past eight PMs dropped a Cabinet minister once every 93 days. The incumbent has already seen off two during his first 100 days – Sir Gavin Williamson in November prior to Mr Zahawi last week – setting the Office door revolving at a faster clip than any predecessor before the Brexit era.
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Polling and betting odds
Mr Sunak became leader at a time when polls showed the Conservative Party to be at its most unpopular in 15 years. The latest Ipsos Political Monitor conducted between January 18 and 25 hands a 25-point lead to the Opposition if a general election were held tomorrow.
The same poll found two-thirds of respondents believed there should be a new Government at the next election, as the latest YouGov opinion tracker reports 65 percent disapproved of their work.
The blame may be most easily placed at Ms Truss’s feet – alongside her mini-budget – but Mr Sunak was also Chancellor alongside Mr Johnson throughout the slew of debacles that brought him down.
He may be consistently more popular than his party, but the PM’s personal approval rating is the lowest ever recorded at the 100-day mark. His net satisfaction rating sits at negative 21 percent according to Ipsos Mori, compared to positive two percent for Mr Johnson, 16 percent for Mrs May and 59 percent for Mr Blair at the same point in their tenures.
According to bookies William Hill, the odds suggest Mr Sunak will most likely leave Number 10 sometime in 2024, putting him on course for one of the shortest tenures in history. The results of an exclusive poll commissioned by Express.co.uk conducted by Techne UK between January 4 and 5 suggest he may be out even sooner – with just under half of respondents saying they did not believe he would still be PM by the end of the year.
A unique crisis
Butting up against all the long-term data is the unprecedented immediate crisis Mr Sunak must contend with – a collection of problems that may well test his durability in the role more than any of those before him ever were.
As of his 100th day in office, inflation remains above ten percent – its highest level in four decades. In response, the Bank of England (BoE) has raised interest rates to their highest since the financial crisis, resulting in households now spending the biggest share of their income on mortgage payments since 1989.
The NHS also faces the most profound crisis in its history, as staff shortages and a lack of beds drive up waits for emergency care to record levels. At the same time, nurses and ambulance crews have been picketing the Government purse holders over pay and conditions.
More days have been lost to industrial action since June than during any six-month period for 30 years – as over 1.6 million working days were forfeited, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Half a million workers – including teachers, train drivers, civil servants, bus drivers and security guards – all staged walkouts on Wednesday alone in the largest-scale strike day in a decade.
The UK economy is also in critical condition – with the BoE and Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) both forecasting a recession that will last throughout 2024. On Tuesday, the IMF downgraded the UK’s growth forecast to a 0.6 percent contraction this year – the worst expected performance of all G7 countries.
Alongside all this, the PM must also wrap up the loose ends of Brexit – January 31 marking three years since the country withdrew from the EU – the process having already churned through four of his predecessors. According to current law, the next general election can be held no later than January 2025: will Rishi Sunak last until then?
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