Rishi Sunak faces criticism from his right-wing Conservative Party over his “shameful China policy” and his failure to build any more homes. He is trying to minimize the fallout following the disastrous local elections in England last week.
The UK Prime Minister will convene his Cabinet on Tuesday to try to quell the growing unrest within the party. He will urge his colleagues to work together following the loss last week of around 1,000 Tory Council seats.
The former Tory leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, launched a harsh attack on Sunak on Monday for its “shameful decision” to send his Investment Minister to Hong Kong. This was the first time in five years that a British minister visited the territory.
The Tory party is divided again over the housing crisis in Britain. This shows a growing split between north and south ahead of the general election expected next year.
Lord Dominic Johnson’s visit to Hong Kong, to “renew UK investment ties” with the city and to promote trade has angered Conservative Party China hawks.
Johnson said that he will talk with the Hong Kong Administration about boosting trade, investment and collaboration in clean growth, arts, and culture, as well as fintech and financial services.
Duncan Smith stated that the visit was part “project kowtow”. This is a reference to Sunak’s efforts to engage in economic engagement with China despite Beijing’s repressive measures in Xinjiang, and its crackdown against civil liberties in Hong Kong.
Johnson said that the government would not “look the other way about Hong Kong” or “duck [its] historical responsibilities towards its people.” We will continue standing up for them and calling out any violation of their rights.
Duncan Smith said, “It is astonishing that a minister from the government of Britain would visit Hong Kong when the Chinese have thrown out the Sino-British Agreement”. The 1984 agreement set terms for the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from British rule to Chinese in 1997.
He said that “our policy towards China is weak. We chase business connections and Xi laughed at us,” referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping. He referred to the fact that China’s Vice-President Han Zheng was present at the coronation ceremony of King Charles, and described him as “the architect of the crackdown against people in Hong Kong”.
Sunak was also attacked by the right of his own party for his decision to abandon housebuilding targets in 2013. Simon Clarke said Sunak made a “major error” during Liz Truss’s brief administration.
Clarke, a MP from Teesside told BBC that the government tried to appeal “to the worst instincts of the public” and this had backfired during last week’s elections.
“In these results, one theme stands out to me above all the others. . . “We cannot out-Nimby both the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens”, he said.
One Tory MP in the South of England disagreed with Clarke’s conclusion. Theresa Villiers said that the elections showed how concerned people are about protecting their local environment.
Villiers said that councils need to have more control of where houses are built in order to protect green fields. Southern Tory MPs worry about the threat posed by the Lib Dems who won more than 400 seats in the last election.
Sunak has also been urged by right-wing Tory politicians to cut taxes. Meanwhile, many Tory MPs from northern England are calling for more public spending in order to fulfill the promises made to the “redwall” by the party.
Labour leader Sir Keir starmer will tell his shadow cabinet to not rest on their laurels this week after achieving “great” results at the council elections. He also suggested that the main opposition could win a majority in the next general elections.
He will refer to Jeremy Corbyn as the former leader of the hard-left party. “But there’s a lot scepticism out there about politics and we now need to move from reassurance into hope.”