Sunak's last trump card: Is England's Euro glory his only path to political survival?

23 May 2024, 11:00 | Updated: 23 May 2024, 11:14

Rishi Sunak's last trump card: England's Euro glory his only path to political survival?
Rishi Sunak's last trump card: England's Euro glory his only path to political survival? Picture: Alamy/LBC

By StephenRigley

When Rishi Sunak met Gareth Southgate a few weeks ago they joked about who has the toughest job.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Now as they enter the summer that will define both their careers, the dynamic between the two men has twisted and Rishi's future may lie in the hands of the England manager.

Southgate's dynamic young side are one of the favourites for this summer's Euro 2024 in Germany.

A favourable draw including group games against Slovenia, Denmark and Serbia should see a rampant England sweep through to the quarter finals on...July 5 and 6!

I can''t believe for one moment that Rishi - a Southampton fan - is not aware of the power of sport to engulf the nation in a patriotic fervour and the political capital that can produce..

Ever since wily Harold Wilson ushered an uncomfortable Alf Ramsay onto the balcony of the Royal Garden Hotel to receive the acclaim of England fans after the 1966 World Cup win, the fortune of many Prime Ministers has mirrored the successes or failures of the nation's football team.

Wilson himself was on the losing side four years later when Ramsay's team of stars were surprisingly dumped out of Mexico 70 by an unheralded West German side and Ted Heath's Tories won the election.

Fast forward 20 years. The England team of Gascoigne, Shearer and co were emerging from a hooligan induced gloom into the era of 'Cool Britannia.'

At the centre of this new found love of the beautiful game was Tony Blair.

One of the defining videos of the Blair era was the athletic PM playing head-tennis with Kevin Keegan. He was good at it and held his own with the former Liverpool, Newcastle and England legend.

There is no doubt that a successful football team produces a feel good factor like no other. Anyone who remembers Euro 96 will never forget the way the St George's flag was reclaimed from the hooligans and 'It's coming home' became the soundtrack of the summer.

I'm sure when they brainstormed the date in Downing Street, Sunak's advisors will have been fully aware of the power of the football and the cynical among them will have been fully aware that thousands of young voters will be in Germany following the team.

As it stands Rishi's Conservatives lag more than 20 per cent behind Labour in the polls.

Any feelgood factor he may have hoped inflation or immigration figures would bring has not materialised and the Conservatives are facing a wipeout at the polling stations.

As the heavens opened and a drenched Rishi stood in the Downing Street rain he may have been thinking that his last remaining trump card will be hundreds of miles away on a German football field.

Instead of Jeremy Hunt and James Cleverly is his future in the hands of Harry Kane and Jack Grealish. Could they give Rishi his much needed feelgood factor.

And then maybe on July 5 he is coming Downing Street.