Rishi Sunak Back in Hot Seat After Losses, but His Ouster Is Unlikely

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain could find himself in a familiar predicament after his Conservative Party went down to defeat in parliamentary elections in two districts on Thursday: isolated, embattled and the subject of whispered plotting by restive Tories bent on pushing him out for a new leader.

The crushing loss of two seats in once-reliable Conservative areas capped another dismal week for Mr. Sunak. Economic data confirmed on Thursday that Britain had fallen into recession at the end of last year, undermining one of the prime minister’s five core pledges — that he would recharge the country’s growth.

Yet the scheming against Mr. Sunak, analysts said, is no more likely to go anywhere than it has during his previous leadership crises. However desperate the political straits of the Conservatives, they would find it hard, at this late stage, to replace their languishing prime minister with someone else.

With the party divided between the centrists and those on the right, and a general election looming within months, the conditions for an internal party coup — of the kind that drove out the last two Conservative leaders, Liz Truss and Boris Johnson — are growing more difficult by the day, according to analysts.

Mr. Sunak could yet be purged like Mr. Johnson and Ms. Truss. But his more likely fate, these analysts said, is to be swept from office by the opposition Labour Party, which captured the two seats on Thursday resoundingly and has led the Conservatives by double-digit margins in national polls for more than a year.

“I wouldn’t completely dismiss the idea that he could be gone by the end of the month, but it seems to me quite unlikely,” Timothy Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, said of Mr. Sunak. “I think most Tory members of Parliament are still persuaded that would make them look ridiculous.”

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