Rishi Sunak has confidently backed himself to remain prime minister for another term as he insisted the Conservatives were on track to win the next general election, despite an absolute drubbing in the local elections.
Asked whether he would still be prime minister after the next general election, Mr Sunak replied: “Yes. I’m working really hard to deliver for the British people.
“That’s my priority, that’s what I am thinking about. I’m confident we can deliver for people. I know that things are tough right now, but I think we have made good progress in the six months that I’ve been in the job. I’ll just keep at it.”
The prime minister also explicitly ruled out doing any sort of deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after a general election and told reporters he was “not particularly interested in any chat or anything about coalitions”.
“I have been clear and I will be clear. I’m not interested in coalition,” he added as he explicitly ruled out any deal with the DUP, which propped up the Theresa May government in 2017.
Mr Sunak’s optimism about his election prospects flies in the face of recent polls showing the Conservatives trailing Labour by 17 points.
It also ignores what happened at the ballot box in this month’s local elections, as the Conservatives haemorrhaged councillors in the wake of a Labour, Lib Dem and Green wave, losing more than 1,000 seats.
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If the performance is extrapolated out to projected vote share in a general election, Labour would be the largest party just shy of a majority, with the Tories losing dozens of seats.
Sir Keir Starmer, meanwhile, has equivocated on whether he will do a deal, telling me last week that he would not be going into any arrangement whatsoever with the SNP while refusing seven times to rule out a deal with the Lib Dems.
This is a change of position from a year ago when the Labour leader clearly ruled out any sort of deal with any political party and explicitly said that included the Lib Dems.
The position reflects the reality that Labour may well find itself needing to do a deal with the Lib Dems after the election, expected in the autumn of next year.
Sir Keir doesn’t want to rule out a deal only to then u-turn should he win the election – but fall short of an outright majority.