Published On: Wed, Jul 3rd, 2024
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‘I spent the entire day with Rishi Sunak – one thing I saw will stick ‘I spent the entire | Politics | News

Unless Britain is facing the single biggest polling upset in the history of democracy, I have almost certainly just spent my final hours with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The experience was jarring. We began by spending hours on the Tory battle bus driving to an unknown location in Hampshire. All we knew was that based on the size of the houses in this leafy part of deepest darkest ex-Tory heartland, the Conservatives really are in trouble if it’s the location of their final day campaigning.

We spent hours touring parts of the country that, even three years ago, you would never have imagined being represented by anything other than a Tory MP.

So, we know the Tories are panicking. By coincidence, as we set out of London we drove past the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, where – if the polls are right – the Conservative Party could soon find itself as an exhibit.

And yet Rishi Sunak demonstrates an uncanny ability to put all the overwhelming odds to one side and meet voters, and the press, as if he’s on course to still be Prime Minister come next Monday.

Of course, he doesn’t for a moment actually believe this, regardless of his emphatic denials that Mel Stride let the cat out of the bag this morning with a tacit concession.

But the ability to get out of bed in the morning with a smile, and get on with the job, is no mean feat, and it speaks to the energy and optimism of a man I have personally known and followed for his entire political career.

Indeed today was poignant for me. I’ve always found Rishi not just pleasant, but a genuinely lovely guy who has an uncanny ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room when he talks to you.

We’ve both been in and around politics for similar lengths of time, and I knew from the moment we first met – at a local village fete where he was my MP – he would go far.

Little could either of us have imagined the turbulence and chaos he would both be involved in and preside over, first as Chancellor then as Prime Minister just six years later.

He’s a good guy, who whilst being responsible for a lot of the chaos since 2019, has also found himself losing the most fraught, costly, and scandal-ridden game of musical chairs in British political history. His bum’s in the final seat and the music’s finished. End of the game.

He did all the usual sort of stuff one would expect from a final-election-campaign-day. He interacted with voters and young school kids, met activists, stuffed envelopes, knocked on doors, and gave a final tub-thumping speech in which he warned Labour could be in power for 5/10/15/20 years unless there’s an effective opposition to them in the next parliament.

By complete coincidence, as far as I could see, he also met one local Tory who revealed she used to be a patient of Mr Sunak’s GP father.

It was no surprise that the PM spent his final day in Hampshire. As well as being the home of a number of seats the Tories must hold if they hope to be an effective opposition in the next parliament, it’s also Mr Sunak’s home turf.

He spent hours trailing around his old stomping ground, before driving hundreds of miles to Northallerton in North Yorkshire to find out whether he’s done enough to keep his own constituents on side and stay in parliament for another five years.

For the first time since my first-ever vote in 2015, I simply do not know where my pencil will cross tomorrow, and the Tories are relying on precisely the sort of voters like me to take heed that Labour needs as strong an opposition as possible.

Nigel Farage will be loud opposition to Starmer should he win Clacton, but whether he’s credible is a different matter.

How many wavering or former Tory voters agree with that argument will be put to the test tomorrow.

For me, I’m just delighted I can finally stop following politicians around on trains and buses for 12 hours a day.

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