James Forsyth James Forsyth

Rishi Sunak is about to feel winter’s sting

[Getty Images]

During the Tory leadership contest this summer, it was frequently said that whoever won would face the most politically difficult winter in a generation. In the end, despite winning the contest, Liz Truss didn’t make it that far. But winter is about to sting her successor.   

After the collapse of the Truss premiership, Rishi Sunak needed to steady the ship in his first weeks in No. 10. This has gone reasonably well. The Autumn Statement was given a passing grade by the markets and there is no parliamentary rebellion against it. Westminster is no longer watching nervously to see how the City responds to every cough and splutter from Downing Street.   

Labour is suggesting that the Tories want to make striking nurses a ‘scapegoat’ for the NHS’s failings 

Westminster itself is less frenetic, too. Though the government has had to negotiate with Tory backbenchers over house-building targets, the rebellion has not felt like a threat to the government’s survival. The amendment by the former levelling up secretary Simon Clarke on onshore wind – backed by both Truss and Boris Johnson – has shown the willingness of those who have just left office to speak their minds, even when it is inconvenient to their successors. Yet this rebellion has failed to morph into a more general expression of discontent and a compromise has been reached. 

But winter is blowing in. The first serious blast of cold weather has arrived, and Europe now faces the prospect of a period with little wind and sun, reducing the amount of renewable energy available. The cold will be the biggest test of the continent’s energy infrastructure since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. The UK is currently sending energy across the Channel on interconnectors at the fastest rate since 2016. But the big question is whether, if the situation reverses as demand increases with the cold weather here and the UK needs to import energy, there will be sufficient supplies available.

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