Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
28 March 2023

Would Rishi Sunak win a fight over competence?

Labour advisers fear the Conservatives have the crucial advantage of actually being able to do things.

By Freddie Hayward

Rishi Sunak is taking us back to the Noughties, when it was fashionable to scorn teenagers in parks and asylum seekers in the Channel. The Prime Minister’s pitch to the electorate is a combination of competent government and harsh rhetoric on emotive policies such as immigration and crime. His latest gambit is antisocial behaviour (yet another example of Westminster approaching a consensus, on problems if not values). The proposals include giving landlords the power to evict noisy and disruptive tenants within two weeks. One for the youth vote.

Will this strategy work? Fight on competence and, as one Labour adviser cautioned recently, the Conservatives have the upper hand. Being in government, they can do more than make promises. They can actually do things. “Look, here we are passing laws to stop the boats crossing the Channel.” The opposition is left lodging parliamentary questions and chewing over its slogans.

Being in power can also be a hindrance. Pointing at migrants might not cut it. Voters need only lift their eyes to a train station display or break an arm or visit Dover to acquaint themselves with the government’s relationship to competence. Things may have improved under the latest regime, but how does the government unburden itself of the past thirteen years?

More importantly, for the Conservatives to lose, Labour must win. The question occupying some in Labour is whether to apply that to immigration. Does the party need to win on the issue or simply not lose? One shadow minister expressed concern to me that Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, is so infatuated with law and order that she cedes the issue of immigration to the Conservatives. Her performances in the Commons when the bill is under debate have certainly been withering. But she leaves her attack in parliament – one for the press gallery, not the voters. Which does Labour want to convince?

Read more:

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Rishi Sunak wants to get tough on crime – but are the Tories credible?

Rishi Sunak is continually being tested on Tory sleaze

John Curtice on how the Tories are “stuffed”

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action