The PM knows that he’s in trouble, and his change of tack proves it
By Camilla Tominey ASSOCIATE EDITOR
First came a reshuffle in which Suella Braverman was ejected from the Home Office and Lord Cameron appointed as Foreign Secretary – prompting mixed feelings among Conservatives nearing the end of their tether. Then the Supreme Court ruled against the Government’s Rwanda plan, not only putting the kibosh on Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” but overshadowing the news that inflation had been halved. Capped off by an excoriating departure letter from Mrs Braverman, it’s fair to say Mr Sunak has had better weeks. Yet his choice to reset the dial with a speech yesterday – two days before the Chancellor is due to deliver his Autumn Statement – raised eyebrows, not least when he used it to come up with… another five-point plan. Having pledged to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats, the Prime Minister took to the lectern at the Enfield Centre in north London to add another “five long-term decisions” into the mix – reducing debt, cutting tax and rewarding hard work, building domestic, sustainable energy, backing British business, and delivering world-class education. Onlookers could have been forgiven for wondering how he was going to achieve the latest goals when only one of the first five targets – halving inflation – has so far been met (and there’s even a debate about that). As with the return of David Cameron to Cabinet, however, the last-minute move carried the whiff of desperation. Apparently Mr Sunak intended to deliver the speech last week before being overtaken by events. But it seems events may also have overtaken the Autumn Statement. The thinking was that the Chancellor would save major tax cuts for next Spring’s Budget. But after a weekend of Jeremy Hunt expressing his desire for taxes to come down, an online campaign promising to “cut tax and reward hard work” and the sudden emergence of £25 billion more “fiscal headroom”, the Government appears to have decided to try to win the next election rather than face a 1997-style wipeout. As well as taking the fight to Labour, behind the scenes, Mr Sunak is trying to shore up the support of backbenchers. He made a rare appearance in the Commons tea room on Wednesday and he has invited Right-wingers to drinks this week.it follows MPS, including Dame Andrea Jenkyns, the former skills minister, having submitted letters of no confidence to the chairman of the 1922 Committee. Lord Cameron addressed the committee last night, having apparently been told by No 10 to “tone down the centre-left rhetoric”. According to one backbencher: “The threat to Rishi isn’t just coming from the Right – anyone with a seat they want to retain is very unhappy with the direction of travel.” More experienced Tories have apparently had to caution so-called Red Wallers about the risks of triggering a noconfidence vote without agreeing on a potential successor. Suggestions that the Right are galvanising around the newlyliberated Mrs Braverman, however, appear wide of the mark. Some Right-wingers are talking up “good performer” Penny Mordaunt, with others suspicious of Kemi Badenoch because of her historic links to Michael Gove. “There’s a growing sense that the penny has finally dropped inside No 10 of the desperate mess we are in. That’s why we’ve suddenly got all this talk about tax cuts. They seem to have woken up to what we’ve been telling them for months - that we are going to lose, and lose badly, unless we change course,” said one.