Tory Party Conference: is Sunak turning into a populist?

At the annual Conservative Party Conference, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday promised to scale back the UK's climate targets, crack down on illegal immigration and ease conditions for motorists. On the other hand, he announced that the HS2 high-speed rail link will end in Birmingham, rather than continuing to Manchester. The Tories are currently well behind Labour in the polls. Can these announcements reverse the trend?

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The Times (GB) /

What women don't want

The Tories can't win elections with male-centric politics, The Times stresses:

“Sunak has done almost nothing to allay any of [women's] concerns. Instead, he has appealed to petrolheads, a predominantly male group, as he fumes about speeding restrictions and promises to fight for cars. Only 3 per cent of voters think that the Conservative party is close to women, while 32 per cent believe Labour understands their concerns, which sounds catastrophic for the Tories. ... Sunak has a chance but he needs to stop obsessing about boys' toys. The idea that the Tories can win with a dad's army of older male voters is deluded.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Culture wars don't win elections

Sunak has no answers to the really important questions, the Financial Times criticises:

“The impression is of a party veering towards rightwing populism and 'anti-woke' culture wars, rather than providing credible answers to the fundamental issues facing the UK today. These are how to accelerate investment, raise productivity and take advantage of the climate transition to boost lacklustre growth. ... After 13 years in power, the Conservatives seem desperate to find ways of clinging on for another five-year term. The new, radically pragmatic Sunak has yet to make a convincing case for what they would do with it.”

El País (ES) /

No one raves about Sunak these days

El País sees a star burning out:

“Sunak has decided to reinvent himself as the man who defies the 'false consensus' and takes bold decisions. The emerging result is a worrying turn towards populist positions close to those of the most reactionary right. He threatens to override international legislation and enforce deportations and detention for irregular immigrants; he has gone back on many pledges to fight climate change; he promises a crackdown in the fight against crime and has taken up the culture war against the trans movement and a revision of the colonial past. Not even the Brexit banner can help a candidate who doesn't seem capable of rekindling the enthusiasm of his fellow party members or Conservative voters.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

A break with well-known Tories

De Telegraaf comments on the announced cancellation of the HS2 high-speed railway line:

“The Conservatives are miles behind in the polls. There is little time left before the elections, which are likely to take place next autumn. With high inflation, low growth and a continuing influx of illegal migrants, something else was needed to show that the party is capable of delivering change. Sunak is showing that he wants to break radically with the prominent personalities in his party. Over the last decade, the HS2 project has been driven by various very different prominent Conservatives like David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.”