Editorial: Rishi Sunak's move to the right is appropriate but overdue

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​There is a simple statistical reason why the Conservatives, currently in Manchester for their annual conference, fear this is their last conference before losing power.

When the general election is held next year – and it has to be held next year unless it is held in the very opening days of 2025 – the Tories will have been in power for 14 years.

No party, Conservative or Labour, has since the Second World War won a general election after such a long stint in office. The public gets tired of governments after such a long spell, as it is doing with the current administration. The Labour Party lead over the Conservatives is not as a big as it was a few months ago, but it remains double digits.

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Rishi Sunak is being accused of pivoting to the right in order to pander to prejudices and secure re-election. He has become more outspoken on immigration, on the ultra low emissions zone in outer London, on 20mph limits, on slashing the scale (and thus cost) of the HS2 high speed rail link, and on reforming benefits. On tax cuts however, a perpetual demand of the Tory right, Mr Sunak’s chancellor says now is not the time.

Now is indeed not the time, because this has been a big spending government. The importance of some of these issues was understood at the start of the Conservative rule in 2010: George Osborne embarked on much-derided ‘austerity’, which was in fact an overdue return to UK fiscal responsibility, and benefit reform, like austerity, was championed by David Cameron’s government and brought in long overdue measures like the benefits cap, but ran out of steam.

As Ukraine shows, money is needed in defence. And Northern Ireland is a further issue on which the government should have moved to the ‘right’ – unapologetically defending the nation state, ie the UK, from separatist tactics of attrition in Scotland and NI.