This is the best thing Rishi has ever done

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

I love it. Yes, the visuals were terrible – Rishi standing in the pouring rain as if he’d locked himself out of No10 – but calling a general election is inspired. Short of launching a nuclear missile, it’s the one major thing a PM can do to change everything. By hitting that button Rishi has scattered the opposition – Labour and Tory – onto the doorsteps and forced the public to consider the issues seriously.

It’s the happiest day of his premiership, if only because its end is now in sight.

“You should’ve waited,” some will say. For what? Never again will he get such a happy alignment of events: the fall in inflation, Rwanda beginning to deliver results, even the atmosphere of consensus around the infected blood scandal or Craig Mackinlay’s return to Parliament (what a brilliant, brave man, by the way). For the first time in a long time, a Government looks as if it is moderately in control of events.

Waiting longer, to see how things pan out, would’ve been the greater risk: launching an election campaign as the weather brightens and prices fall is far smarter. The alternative was to kick it to the end of the year and force us to think about politics close to Christmas, when we should be busy shopping, or go to vote in the chill Autumn rain. No thank you. After July 4, we can turn off GB News and enjoy the summer in peace.

Of course, a handful of crazy backbenchers have written to journalists saying “now is the time for a leadership ballot” – but to suggest this mid-election immediately makes them sound even more fringe and absurd. The time for sacking Rishi is very much past. The Tories are stuck with him.

Had this story not broken at this moment, we’d likely be dissecting Johnny Mercer’s leaked complaint that No10 is politically inept and needs to deploy its talent better. Well, Johnny, you can go back to Plymouth and crack on with the task at hand. Nothing settles the internecine nonsense at Westminster better than emptying it of MPs and forcing them to rediscover their constituencies (don’t canvas at night: crime is bad and the police have stopped doing anything about it).

As for Labour: boom! It’s over to you, comrades. For four years, Keir Starmer has done nothing but remind people he is not a Conservative: an attractive pitch, but a shallow one. Now the Tories can say: “Here are our achievements, here’s what we stand for. What will Labour actually do?” The opposition didn’t get off to an auspicious start with a thin pledge card launch headlined “My First Steps” – as if Keir were out on parole and trying to stay clean. Most voters couldn’t identify him from Adam. Suddenly they’ll be compelled to take a closer look.

And, yes, the vast majority will vote Labour whatever they see, because most of us decided who to vote for months, perhaps years ago (somewhere around Partygate). We are impatient for change. The longer the Tories waited for an election, the more they got on our nerves the drunk who doesn’t know when to leave the party – testing one’s patience to the point where they looked not just incompetent but shameless and sad.

Guys: you cannot win. Own this fact; go out like gentlemen, with a good clean campaign, minimising the losses with a final display of decency that marks you out from the “River to the Sea” rabble. If you’re lucky, you can enter opposition with honour and establish a strong base from which to rebuild your reputation.

Some early predictions: the Reform poll numbers will drop, not as people come home to the Tories but run away from Labour. The Lib Dems won’t break through as dramatically as predicted. My experience is that people have some bizarre idea that they are good at local things (allotments, badger parks etc), so vote them into council seats; but they know that if they entered government nationally, they’d transform us into Cuba with the single transferable vote.

And brace yourself for more Tories to fall on election night than at the Somme.

We all have a list. There are people I’d move heaven and earth to save – Britain needs Jacob Rees-Mogg in Westminster – and constituencies I’d move to just to vote the fake Conservative out (sadly the house prices forbid it). Fourteen years of broken promises will turn 2024 into an election of retribution, and thus even those who are sick to the back teeth with Sunak must give him credit for calling one and inviting us to tear off the band aid.

Let it rip!