Why Britain, in its anger, will finally dump the Tories this week

“This election is not a referendum on the past,” Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared during a campaign stop this week. How he must wish that were true.

His adversary, Labour’s Keir Starmer, has spent the entire six-week election campaign repeating the mantra “14 years of failure” and invoking the reviled names of former PMs Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, the hallmarks of the Tory brand. Unfortunately for Sunak, Starmer is preaching to an electorate that seems already convinced. On May 22, the day the election was called, the Conservatives’ polling average was 23 percent, with Labour well ahead at 45 percent. After six weeks of relentless sloganeering and tactically astute mud-slinging, the Tories have only fallen further, now languishing at 21 percent.

Labour’s support has also dipped, to 41 percent. However, the lost vote share has largely ended up with right-wing populist Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party – a minor outfit that will win few seats of its own but will prevent the Tories from holding many of theirs.

The Conservatives appear to be a tired and beaten government, ready to surrender the keys to Downing Street after 14 years, and braced for a period of internal ideological conflict in opposition.

Sunak’s campaign strategy, although it is the only one available to him, has in some ways only underscored this. He is forced to stand by a legacy that has few, if any, defenders.

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