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19 December 2022

The New Year will only bring more Tory divisions for Rishi Sunak

The Prime Minister told MPs to “unite or die” but his time in No 10 has been marked by repeated feuds.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Tuesday marks the last day of parliamentary business in the Commons of 2022 before MPs return to their constituencies for the Christmas recess.

It has been a year of Tory chaos; Rishi Sunak is the third prime minister to serve this year, after Boris Johnson‘s premiership fell apart in July and Liz Truss’s imploded within just 44 days.

The Conservative Party, which has now been in power for 12 years, has plummeted in the polls, and Labour now appears to be a government in waiting – a position which looked out of reach for Keir Starmer 12 months ago.

Sunak told MPs to “unite or die” in his first speech to the parliamentary party after he took office, however his time in No 10 has been marked by U-turns and deep division.

Johnson remains a presence on the back benches, and the Prime Minister has an uneasy truce over Brexit with the right of the party – which could flare up again in 2023.

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Labour, by contrast, presents as a united force and the turmoil of Jeremy Corbyn‘s leadership is a distant memory.

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Tom Watson, the former deputy leader of the Labour Party, takes his place in the House of Lords today. He will be introduced by Peter Mandelson, his former Blairite foe.

Mandelson called Watson the rebel ringleader when Tony Blair was forced to quit in 2007, but the pair teamed up during the Corbyn era. Sources say Watson now wants to use his role to be a mentor to new MPs elected at the next election.

Mandelson and Watson’s rift is one of many within the Labour Party that has begun to heal in recent years. Ed and David Miliband are said to be regularly spending time together when the elder brother is in the UK.

Barely a week goes by for the Conservatives without a fresh row. With a King’s Speech not expected until the autumn, Sunak has time to unite his MPs behind a new legislative agenda. But he will have to hope that the next year does not resemble the last, because while politics has been turned on its head in 2022 one thing remains true: divided parties don’t win elections.

[See also: Rishi Sunak is fighting a losing battle against the nurses]

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