Rishi Sunak’s Dismal Task: Leading U.K. Conservatives to Likely Defeat

A few days before Britain’s Conservative Party suffered a stinging setback in local elections on Thursday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recorded a short video to promote some good news from his government. In the eight-second clip, Mr. Sunak poured milk from a pint bottle into a tall glass, filled with a steaming dark beverage and bearing the scribbled figure of 900 pounds on the side.

“Pay day is coming,” Mr. Sunak posted, referring to the savings that an average wage earner would supposedly reap from a cut in mandatory contributions to Britain’s national insurance system.

The mockery soon started. He’d added too much milk, some said. His numbers didn’t add up, said others. And why, asked one critic, would Mr. Sunak choose a pint bottle as a prop days after the opposition Labour Party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, had skewered him in Parliament as a “pint-size loser?”

However partisan her jab, loser is a label that Mr. Sunak is finding increasingly hard to shake, even among his members of his own party. In the 18 months since he replaced his failed predecessor, Liz Truss, Mr. Sunak, 43, has lost seven special parliamentary elections and back-to-back local elections.

This past week’s local elections, in which the Conservatives lost about 40 percent of the 985 seats they were defending, were merely the latest signpost on what analysts say is a road to thumping defeat in a general election. National polls show the Labour Party leading the Conservatives by more than 20 percentage points, a stubborn gap that the prime minister has been unable to close.

The drumbeat of bad news is casting fresh scrutiny on Mr. Sunak’s leadership and the future of his party, which has been in power for 14 years but faces what could be a long stretch in the political wilderness.

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