What does a prime minister say to his party ahead of three potential by-election defeats? This was the task for Rishi Sunak tonight as he addressed a final meeting of the 1922 committee ahead of the summer recess. The Prime Minister was welcomed into the room with banging on desks (though such stunts often don’t relieve much about the mood).
He began his address by listing the achievements of the government over the past eight months in a bid to show progress, insisting there was a strong conservative record to be ‘proud of’. He then claimed that despite the difficulties his five priorities have faced so far, he would stick by them: ‘The public’s priorities are our priorities’. He hailed the inflation numbers this morning (which exceeded expectations) as evidence the government’s plan was working (even though a government can’t do much to control inflation). Sunak’s reiterated that only once inflation is controlled will they be able to think about tax cuts and more spending.
Sunak attempted to point ahead to rosier times if they stick with the plan: ‘In the coming months, I am going to set out more of what I would do if I had a full term. I was recently described as a full spectrum modern Conservative and you are going to see that in the programme I lay out’. But the ultimate message was one of unity – with Sunak calling on his party to return in the autumn refreshed and ready to win: ‘When we come back, we have a choice to make, all of us. Do we come together and throw everything at winning the next election or not’. Sunak said he had made his choice to win but others now needed to follow.