Politics

Sunak has looked broken since D-Day debacle… he needs to buck up urgently or next 3 weeks will be painful for Britain


POLITICS is a cruel game and it is certainly a contact sport.

I don’t think Rishi Sunak is a bad bloke. But I do think he has made some dubious choices and I think he can be a technocrat with a tin ear, to put it mildly.

World leaders Olaf Scholz; Justin Trudeau; Emmanuel Macron; Giorgia Meloni; Joe Biden; Fumio Kishida; Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen at G7 summit

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World leaders Olaf Scholz; Justin Trudeau; Emmanuel Macron; Giorgia Meloni; Joe Biden; Fumio Kishida; Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen at G7 summitCredit: AP
The PM has looked broken, and that mood has seeped into his wider campaign, since his D-Day debacle last week

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The PM has looked broken, and that mood has seeped into his wider campaign, since his D-Day debacle last weekCredit: PA

And frankly, the way he got the job was always going to be a major obstacle for him to overcome.

The old Tory saying that “he who wields the knife never wears the crown” may need an update for the modern age, but there is still something to it.

He was the princely upstart who lost the fight for the crown as a punishment beating from the true-blue Tory faithful, furious at him for pushing the knife into King Boris — even if many other hands followed.

But by dint of the Liz Truss spasm, he landed the prize regardless.

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And he should be commended for having the sense of duty to try to pick up the pieces, when he would have been well within his rights to say, “I told you so”, from a Californian sun lounger.

Yet the crown has weighed heavy on the young-ish prince . . . and he is one of those people who clearly finds it difficult to hide his mood and feelings.

You have to wonder how many times he has thought what this election campaign would have been like as the most popular Chancellor in modern history, still serving under the most successful Tory leader since Thatcher.

But he made his bed.

Yet only the most partisan would have watched his performance on Sky News on Wednesday evening and not had some sympathy for the guy, who looks very much like Tigger de-bounced.

In fact, since his D-Day debacle last week, the PM has looked broken, and that mood has seeped into his wider campaign.

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He duffed up Starmer in the first TV debate but the spark had gone this week and it showed. D-Day has clearly pierced his heart, not least because the cock-up was so easily avoidable.

As one veteran’s granddaughter told The Times, the Sunaks had “spent loads of time with each of the veterans” that day and it was a “shame” it ended in a row.

“They were really engaging, really sincere, saying it was important for all these commemorations to go ahead.”

But them’s the breaks, as a wise man once said.

Sunak duffed up Starmer in the first TV debate but the spark had gone this week

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Sunak duffed up Starmer in the first TV debate but the spark had gone this weekCredit: Getty

Sunak needs to shake it off and buck up urgently, or the next three weeks are not just going to be painful viewing but dangerous for Britain.

I’m writing this from Puglia, in southern Italy, where the PM is taking part in what is likely to be his last major appearance on the world stage.

There’s a bit of a Broken Leaders Club vibe to this whole G7 summit.

Nervous and tetchy

Joe Biden is so far gone it’s getting embarrassing, Emmanuel Macron has his own election woes to worry about, Germany’s Scholz is facing the march of the Right too.

Canada’s Justin Trudeau is historically unpopular and even the bloke from Japan has his own party woes and a polling rate in the toilet.

He needs to stop moping and start fighting, or it will be more than D-Day on his political tombstone

Only host Giorgia Meloni is smiling, with her Brothers of Italy party shoring up her position at last week’s EU elections.

I asked Sunak to his face on Friday afternoon if he was down in the dumps and deflated.

His meek reply of “absolutely not” was about as convincing as when Labour say they won’t put up taxes.

And D-Day is haunting his foreign policy legacy.

The po-faced Premier is trying to move on, but he is still dogged by questions like whether he had apologised personally to Macron for snubbing the French ceremony last week.

It will enter political folklore as the gaffe of this election, despite the fact polling would suggest it has done nothing to actually change the dial.

Sunak is trying to put a brave face on it but clearly knows he can’t put a single foot out of step here in Italy, so is nervous and tetchy.

There’s an irony to this too, as if you look back at Sunak’s short tenure — and shut your eyes to the Channel — he hasn’t been a terrible PM on foreign stuff.

The Windsor Framework took some deft handling with Brussels and we are punching well above our weight on the global response to AI.

We were the first country to green-light jets and pilot training for Ukraine too, under his leadership.

And unlike other countries, not least the US and parts of Europe, support for the stricken nation has not become a political football.

It is a testament to Sunak, like Johnson before him, that his likely successor is at pains to stress there will not be a smidgen of difference in policy toward Ukraine.

So he needs to perk up quickly, get back on the stump and start throwing some proper punches again.

Because if he carries on like he has for another week, the result of July 4 is going to be catastrophic for his party.

He’s been the punching bag once before with an electorate who were willing to risk a clearly unprepared and worrying candidate to make a point that they wanted change.

But this isn’t a Tory party in-fight any more. This is the future of the nation.

D-Day has clearly pierced his heart, not least because the cock-up was so easily avoidable

He needs to stop moping and start fighting, or it will be more than D-Day on his political tombstone.

Instead, it will be him carrying the can for a Labour landslide so large it risks the fabric of our constitutional set-up.

No one can blame Sunak for not sticking around for Opposition, but there does actually have to be a Tory party left on July 5.

Rishi Sunak and Giorgia Meloni at the summit

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Rishi Sunak and Giorgia Meloni at the summitCredit: Alamy



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