Exactly a year ago today Sunak was handed the keys to N.10. Presenting himself as a steadying-force after Liz Truss, it seemed the only way was up for the PM-to-be.
One year on, perhaps the most unelected Prime Minister in history, may already rank as one of the worst. As his rapidly diminishing group of friends don paper hats, blow up balloons and grab last minute cards from the corner-shop to celebrate this most ignominious anniversary, what does Sunak credibly have to celebrate after 365 days holding office?
Let's start with his successes. Or at least, what he probably considers them to be.
Agreed in February, but implemented a few weeks ago, the Windsor Framework is one of Sunak's most notable achievements. But - spoiler alert - that's not saying much.
While the framework addresses some issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol - and struck a more mature and less acrimonious approach to our closest neighbours and allies - patting Sunak on the back for sealing this particular deal is a bit like thanking the guy who’s just spilled red wine all over your white carpet for gently dabbing at it with some kitchen roll.
The Framework was only required because of the shambolic Brexit deal, lied about and forced through by the Conservatives. Indeed, last month Lord Frost admitted that when he and Boris Johnson negotiated the Protocol, they "always hoped" it would collapse. And remember, Sunak was a Brexiter before Johnson and was pretty jazzed about the deal and the NI Protocol during the 2019 election.
'AND REMEMBER, SUNAK WAS A BREXITER BEFORE JOHNSON'
Next up we have the UK's trade deals with Australia and New Zealand. Described at the time as "historic", it has since become clear that they meant historically bad.
Both deals, celebrated by Sunak as Chancellor and implemented in August as Prime Minister, have undercut British farmers, off-shored animal cruelty and trashed our climate commitments and all to potentially reduce UK GDP. Result! The terms of these deals were so one-sided that antipodean broadcasters openly mocked the UK and worse still, George Eustice, Agricultural Secretary at the time of the negotiations, has admitted that the Australia deal is "actually not very good for the UK".
The only other deal to come out of Sunak’s premiership is the UK’s accession to CPTPP and unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much besides an even greater dilution of UK standards and environmental protections.
And while we’re on the subject of bad trade deals, the less said about the stalled India negotiations the better.
Then there’s ‘Stop the Boats’. Sunak may boast a 20% fall in dangerous crossings this year, but many experts agree this is more down to the miserable summer, than the government’s plan which has seen hundreds of millions of pounds wasted, our international reputation sullied and which is still likely to be deemed unlawful.
'THE GOVERNMENT'S PLAN WHICH HAS SEEN HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF POUNDS WASTED, OUR INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION SULLIED AND WHICH IS LIKELY TO BE DEEMED UNLAWFUL'
And like Brexit, thanking Sunak for any action on this issue is ironic when this government not only orchestrated the problem by closing safe routes, but continually exploits it for electoral gain.
Now the unmitigated failures, the stuff even Greg Hands won’t try to spin as positive.
Many predict that Sunak will struggle to halve inflation by the end of this year; a pledge that looked like an open goal when he made it in January. Something that would happen regardless of anything he did. This failure in particular will sting for the man who rode to power on the fiscal competence ticket.
There’s also the ongoing, and widespread, industrial action in almost every public sector, which is having effects far more severe than a few cancelled trains. The NHS is currently estimated to have almost 8 million people waiting for appointments in England alone. That’s one in every seven people.
Add to this the collapsing schools, the cancelling of HS2 and the unparalleled tax burden on working people. All in all, it isn’t a great record. But since when has a complete failure to deliver for the public mattered to the Conservatives? So long as Sunak can win elections, that’s all that matters. But even in the field of narrow political self-interest, he has come up short.
And that brings us to last Thursday, when the Tories suffered a double by-election defeat in Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire; a damning result which brings Sunak’s grand total to eight by-election defeats out of nine. Four of which have been in Tory strongholds.
'WHICH BRINGS SUNAK'S GRAND TOTAL TO EIGHT BY-ELECTION DEFEATS OUT OF NINE'
In the context of the last year, and Sunak’s limited successes, most see the by-election outcomes as confirmation that Labour can, and will, oust Sunak and the Tories at the next General Election, securing a sizeable majority in the process.
But there is a danger to this consensus.
In the two most recent by-elections, Labour’s margin of victory in both seats was exceeded by the number of votes cast for Reform UK. Had Reform stood aside to help the Tories (like UKIP and Brexit Party did in 2017 and 2019), then last week's headlines could've read very differently.
This reinforces the fact that those who want the Tories out of power can’t rely on our flawed electoral system to give them the government they want next year.
'THOSE WHO WANT THE TORIES OUT OF POWER CAN'T RELY ON OUR FLAWED ELECTORAL SYSTEM'
And for this reason, Best for Britain is launching the most powerful tactical voting operation the UK has ever seen at GetVoting. Using gold-standard MRP polling, it will help voters choose the best placed candidate to topple the Tories, so that we don't find ourselves celebrating Sunak's second anniversary at this time next year.
You can sign up for GetVoting tactical voting alerts. GetVoting launches in 2024.