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Rishi Sunak Grapples with Plummeting Approval Ratings and Political Turmoil in 2023

As 2023 kicks off, Rishi Sunak finds himself in a dire political situation, with his approval rating among Conservative party members hitting a record low of -26.5%, according to the latest monthly ConservativeHome survey. Described as “dire” and the worst among Cabinet members, Sunak’s net approval rating has steadily declined since he assumed the role of Prime Minister in October.

Initially enjoying strong support after replacing Liz Truss, Sunak’s political standing has eroded due to a series of U-turns, policy failures, and economic challenges throughout the past year. The Supreme Court striking down his Rwanda asylum plan and soaring inflation at a 41-year high have overshadowed any positive developments, contributing to the decline in Sunak’s popularity.

Beyond the party faithful, Sunak’s appeal fares even worse among the general electorate. An in-depth study by JL Partners indicates that he has lost more Conservative voters than Liz Truss did during her short tenure. The report characterizes Sunak’s leadership as a “year of decline,” resulting in an “implosion” in Tory support.

The study reveals that only 59% of 2019 Conservative voters still support the party under Sunak’s leadership. Over 500,000 former Tory voters have shifted allegiance to rivals like Reform UK since October, causing the Conservatives’ vote share to plummet from 74% before Sunak took office to just 59% now.

Despite Sunak’s hopes to reverse his government’s fortunes, the JL Partners report predicts that, if an election were held today, the Tories would face a substantial defeat to Labour, with polls showing Labour enjoying a 22-point lead.

Critics argue that Sunak has failed to establish his authority and articulate a clear vision, oscillating between populist rhetoric and centrist pragmatism without fully satisfying either faction. Some allege that his polished technocratic image conceals an extreme right-wing ideological agenda at odds with public opinion.

Facing rebellion from his own MPs over the Rwanda policy and the looming threat of defections to Reform UK, Sunak remains steadfast in his commitment to curbing illegal migration despite the political cost.

With Sunak’s personal approval plummeting, Cabinet ministers in discord, the economy grappling, and the Tories’ poll position dire, 2023 is shaping up to be another extraordinarily turbulent year in British politics, with few analysts optimistic about the Conservatives’ ability to regain popularity under Sunak’s divided leadership.

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