Sunak just set a huge trap for Starmer if Labour wins this election - Mark White analysis

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak will leave a present for Starmer if he enters Downing Street

Mark White

By Mark White

Published: 26/05/2024

- 07:34

Updated: 26/05/2024

- 08:02

An early election will save Sunak an agony and potentially set up Starmer

There are many within Rishi Sunak’s own party who’ve publicly and privately questioned the logic in calling an early general election.

But a quick glance at the latest small boat migrant figures shows how in one key area, going early might well be the smarter option.

The milestone mark of 10,000 Channel migrant arrivals was reached on Friday morning, a full month ahead of the point where that figure was passed last year.

Indeed, the numbers who’ve crossed the Channel so far this year are more than 35% up on the figure for those who made the illegal journey at the same point in 2023.

And inevitably, as the weather improves in the months ahead, the number of small boat arrivals will surge significantly.

Last year, Rishi Sunak was able to point to a 36% reduction in Channel migrant arrivals in the UK.
He told us that his government’s plan to stop the boats was working.

This year already, those gains have been completely wiped out.

And with Border Force officials predicting a bumper summer of Channel migrant activity, the months ahead would likely leave the Conservatives in an extremely difficult position.
Going to the country after a summer in which last year’s gains had been totally reversed, would be a difficult sell.

So clearly, going early allows the Tories to avoid the worst of the negative publicity associated with a busy year of migrant arrivals.

There’s another potential benefit in bringing the election forward.

Rishi Sunak won’t have to prove that the Rwanda scheme, if it ever gets off the ground, is the deterrent he’s convinced it will be.

After spending close to half a billion pounds on Rwanda, if those flights don’t have the desired effect in breaking the people smuggler’s business model, that stop the boats pledge would be in tatters.

Having said that, I found it surprising the Prime Minister used his first round of media interviews since calling the election to indicate that no Rwanda flights would take off before the election.
Instead, he spoke of the ground work having been laid to allow the flights to immediately take off if his party is re-elected.

It’s possible he’ll manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat and get one or two Rwanda flights off in the days before the election.

Either way, it still offers a clear dividing line between the Tories, who plan to push ahead with their proposals to send many asylum seekers to a safe third country, and Labour, who say they’ll scrap the plans.

On issues around the improving economy and falling legal migration levels, there are strong arguments for an election later, rather than sooner.

But when it comes to facing the nation on the government’s record in stopping the boats, there are definite advantages in cutting your losses and bringing forward that day of reckoning.

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