End the agony Rishi, call an election - Alex Cole-Hamilton

The end of this week marks the last moment at which Rishi Sunak can feasibly call a general election and have it coincide with the English local elections in May. He’s stated that he won’t do that, but there is still a chance he might.
Rishi Sunak visits an apprentice training centre at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) on March 18 in CoventryRishi Sunak visits an apprentice training centre at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) on March 18 in Coventry
Rishi Sunak visits an apprentice training centre at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) on March 18 in Coventry

If threats to depose him as Prime Minister from within gather momentum, the one ace he has up his sleeve is his ability to visit the King and pull the plug on this entire parliamentary session. I sincerely hope that’s what happens.

If he doesn’t go to the country, then for those of us who spend our lives thinking about politics and have been on a state of high election alert since Christmas, it’s going to feel like a sneeze that didn’t go off. But more importantly, if it will provide proof if any were needed that his first consideration is the preservation of the Conservative party and not the good of the nation. Can you remember the last time it felt like we had any kind of stability or even morality in government? I struggle to.

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Cast your mind back to Theresa May. Her “strong and stable administration, governing in the national interest” soon became decidedly weak and wobbly, particularly after she lost her majority. That led to a Brexit psychodrama that constipated the workings of parliament for the best part of two years.

Then we were given Boris Johnson. Laying aside his lies to the Queen in order to try and prorogue parliament and his poor handling of the pandemic, his premiership will be forever remembered for Partygate. While women gave birth alone and loved ones were prevented from saying goodbye to Covid victims dying in intensive care, he was living it up with his mates, in total violation of the very rules he was instructing others to follow.

He left in ignominy and was followed by Liz Truss. In less time than it took for a lettuce to reach its use-by date, she crashed the economy and sent mortgage rates skyrocketing. Now, in some weird alt-right revisionist history, she’s trying to claim that that economic firestorm was actually a fever dream of the “liberal establishment media”. I genuinely think that she believes she will return in glory, when we understand what we could have had under her.

That left us with Rishi Sunak. A man who seems determined to tear up our commitment to fighting the climate emergency, to deport planeloads of refugees to Rwanda in defiance of international law and who refuses to return the money of a donor embroiled in a racism row. This is a man who every day diminishes the standing of the country and the great office he holds.

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There is no strategy, no long-term game plan to get our country back on its feet, just a constant sense that he is casting around in the hope that something will turn up and reverse the slide to electoral oblivion. That’s no way to run a country. It’s why Lib Dems are like caged tigers right now. We’re desperate to get out there and take our message of new hope and the promise of change to the people.

People need an end to long NHS waiting lists, to rising violence in schools and the pound in your pocket feeling like it just doesn’t go as far as it used to. But Rishi Sunak can’t or won’t give these issues the attention they deserve. It’s why we urgently need a general election to get the Conservatives out of power. For so long we’ve lurched from one outrage to another and the country just can’t take any more of this.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP is Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats