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Sunak’s Popularity Plummets as “Five Families” Rebel

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Rishi Sunak’s approval ratings have now sunk to the same dismal levels that finally forced Boris Johnson’s resignation last year.

On top of that, the Prime Minister now faces an onslaught from the influential “Five Families” of Conservative factions demanding a harsher approach on immigration. 

With Sunak’s authority diminished, these rebels are circling for the kill. 

Unable to appease both sides, Sunak is trapped trying to navigate between hardliners baying for blood and anxious moderates fearing lasting damage.

On the other hand, Sunak’s dismissal of open revolt as mere debate rings hollow against the stark reality facing him. 

Unless Sunak can work some political magic, his hold on power continues to be extremely fragile.

Rishi Sunak’s popularity as Prime Minister continues to sink to new lows. According to recent polling by YouGov, his net favorability rating has fallen to -49, a ten point drop since late November. 

This puts Sunak’s current rating on par with Boris Johnson’s dismal favorability during the final days of his premiership. Johnson’s net rating bottomed out at -53 just after he resigned last year amidst scandals and allegations of sleaze.

Sunak must have had hopes to gain some political capital by passing his controversial Rwanda asylum bill through the Commons. However, even this minor victory has not stopped the prime minister’s declining public perception. 

The YouGov poll, conducted before the Rwanda vote, found that 70% of Britons now view Sunak unfavorably, compared to only 21% with a favorable opinion. This gives Sunak the lowest net favorability score he has ever had.

Additionally, Sunak’s unpopularity now matches that of the Conservative Party overall, which stands at -49. When Sunak first became prime minister, there was hope among Tories that his better ratings would lift up the party’s dismal public standing. However, it is clear this has not happened, as Sunak’s reputation deteriorates.

While Sunak hits new lows, Labour leader Keir Starmer has also seen his net favorability fall to -22. But Starmer still remains far more popular than the struggling Sunak. 

The public has clearly soured on Sunak and the Conservatives. Barring a dramatic turnaround, Sunak risks falling even further as the next election approaches.

Sunak is also facing growing dissent within the Conservative party over his controversial Rwanda asylum policy. A faction of right-wing Tory MPs known as the “Five Families” have joined forces to pressure the Prime Minister to toughen up the Rwanda deportation bill. The five groups threatened to abstain or even vote down the bill unless their demands were met.

The vocal opposition from the ‘Five Families’ of Conservative rebel MPs poses a serious threat to Rishi Sunak’s already tenuous grip on power. Their demands to toughen up the Rwanda asylum bill have forced Sunak into promising concessions, despite his limited room for maneuver. Should the factions make good on threats to vote down the legislation entirely, it would deal a crippling blow to Sunak’s fragile authority.

As Rishi Sunak faces pressure from rebel Tory factions over his Rwanda asylum policy, the so-called “Five Families” leading the charge have emerged as a formidable threat. 

At the forefront of the hardline resistance is The European Research Group or the ERG of right-wing Brexiteers has revived its ‘star chamber’ of lawyers to scrutinize the bill.    says it needs “significant amendments” and has been pushing for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention  on Human Rights. The ERG’s influence has grown again after waning under Boris Johnson.

Also in the five-families is the newly formed  , founded in May 2022, which boast around 25 members including influential Red Wall MPs. It aims to shift the party rightwards on tax cuts and social issues. New Conservatives founder Miriam Cates, who abstained on the Rwanda vote, says the bill currently was too “defective”.

The Common Sense Group of Tory right-wingers stands for “authentic Conservatism” and weighs in on immigration and culture war issues. Led by MP John Hayes, a close ally of Suella Braverman, it takes a hard line on reducing both legal and illegal immigration.

The 55-strong Northern Research Group, led by John Stevenson, formed to lobby for investment in northern England. But its ranks also include Brexiteers who see immigration as a key issue.

The pro-Liz  Truss Conservative Growth Group prioritizes tax cuts and deregulation but also wants tougher immigration policies. Former minister Ranil Jayawardena chairs the group of around 50 MPs.

While the bill narrowly passed its first Commons vote, 29 Tory MPs abstained and the “Five Families” have warned they could still sink the legislation if it is not amended to their liking. They are demanding changes to restrict asylum seekers’ ability to appeal deportation to   and want ministers to have the power to override injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights. 

However, the Prime Minister has limited room to appease the right-wing factions. The Rwandan government insists any deal must respect international law. 

Meanwhile, One Nation Tories have cautioned against damaging Britain’s reputation on human rights. Sunak risks further inflaming tensions within his party when the bill returns for detailed scrutiny in early 2024.

With the Conservatives trailing far behind Labour in polls, and S unak’s own popularity plummeting, he can ill-afford to alienate the party’s right-wing base. Their defiance underscores deep ideological divisions within Tory ranks. However, appeasing the hardliners risks alienating moderate Conservative voices. Sunak is caught between the competing forces, his leadership under siege from all sides.

This outside pressure led Sunak to promise he will listen to “good faith amendments.” But he must also placate moderate One Nation Tories who argue against upending international law. Sunak has limited room to maneuver as rebels demand concessions. Their threats to sink the Rwanda bill entirely could severely damage Sunak’s premiership.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak jokingly acknowledged the “five families” of Conservative rebel factions demanding a tougher Rwanda policy, quipping that “Christmas is also a time for families, and under the Conservatives we do have a record number of them.” 

In response, Labour leader Keir Starmer accused Sunak of “indulging his backbenchers, swanning around in their factions and their ‘star chambers’, pretending to be members of the mafia.” Starmer urged Sunak to “get a grip and focus on the country” rather than appeasing right-wing MPs he likened to mobsters.

While Sunak faces intense pressure from Conservative rebels over the Rwanda asylum bill, he has defiantly dismissed their dissent in a recent interview. Speaking to the Spectator, Sunak brushed off the party infighting as mere “debating society” behavior.

“What the country wants is a practical government that is making a difference to their lives and changing things for the better, not a debating society,” he stated.

Sunak brushed off accusations that he has been “tetchy” under pressure, declaring, “I don’t understand that. I am fighting for the things I believe in. There’s nothing tetchy. But I am passionate.” He remains firmly committed to his “stop the boats”, saying “I do ultimately want to stop the boats, because there isn’t an acceptable amount of illegal migration.”

Sunak’s dismissive attitude towards the rebels also raises concerns. Brushing off serious factional strife as mere ‘debating society’ antics indicates a failure to grasp the severity of the situation. Sunak’s professed confidence that he is making progress rings hollow when aligned against the reality of a party in open revolt.

While centrist Tories may seek amendments to the bill, and right-wingers push for harsher measures, Sunak avoided committing to a timeline for deportation flights to Rwanda. He only said he is “keen to crack on with it.” Sunak also noted Rwanda would not take deportees denied legal recourse to challenge removal.

Despite turmoil within his party and dire polling numbers, Sunak insisted he is making progress and enjoys being Prime Minister. As he stated, “Of all the things I said I would do, I’ve made progress. And that is fulfilling.” He compared himself to Margaret Thatcher, proclaiming “I have always said I’m a Thatcherite in the truest sense.”

Despite projecting Thatcherite confidence, Sunak lacks the Iron Lady’s command of her party.

But still, Sunak remains defiant amidst attacks from all sides of his party over his policies. While dismissing rebel MPs as a “debating society,” he still faces threats they may vote down legislation or force concessions. Sunak is portraying confidence, but uniting his party looms as a major ongoing challenge.

Unless Sunak can miraculously stabilize his position, the Prime Minister may face the same fate as his short-lived predecessors. The ‘Five Families’ appear intent on making Sunak the latest victim of the Tories’ insatiable regicidal tendencies. Surviving their plot will require political skills that Sunak has yet to demonstrate. For now, he remains perilously at the mercy of forces within his party beyond his control.

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