Promises, promises. Politicians can’t help making them and can’t stop breaking them.

Rishi Sunk began 2023 by making a bunch of them.

They were, he said, “five pledges to deliver peace of mind, five foundations on which to build a better future for our children and grandchildren”.

You’ll doubtless have felt reassured ever since.

The Prime Minister said he would halve double-digit inflation; grow the economy; ensure the national debt was falling; cut waiting NHS lists; and “stop the boats”, perhaps with a new law.

Sceptics reckoned the economic tests would be passed regardless, as international factors including Covid and Ukraine had forced inflation up and hurt the economy, and change seemed likely on both fronts.

That left the NHS and small boats as the tasks in which the PM seemingly had most agency. 

But the NHS is an oil tanker of an institution not easily rerouted, while it was never clear how a law would deter desperate migrants ready to risk their lives to cross the Channel. 

However Mr Sunak’s promises were about more than metrics.

They were a message to the country and to the Conservative party.

Barely ten weeks into the job after the disintegration of Liz Truss, the PM wanted to reassure the public the crazy, five-chancellors-per-year times were over.

He promised his party salvation. He was their best chance of pulling it out of a nosedive and piloting it back to stability and electability. In return, it had to focus on delivery, not feuds.

But as he would find out, the Tory party is even harder to steer than the health service.

January also saw Mr Sunak make his first visit as PM to Scotland

At a “private and informal” dinner with Nicola Sturgeon in Inverness, the pair had a “robust” exchange on independence.

The PM talked up the Union’s benefits - he announced the location of two Treasury-backed Green Freeports while north of the border - and Ms Sturgeon stuck to her plan to use the general election as a ‘de facto’ independence referendum.

The PM also weighed into the row over Holyrood’s gender reforms, insisting it was “entirely reasonable” to consider blocking the Bill which MSPs had passed the previous month.

It was a sign that unlike Boris Johnson and Ms Truss, who had little time for Scottish affairs, Mr Sunak, assisted by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, intended to get more involved. 

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Four days later, Mr Jack blocked Holyrood’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which aimed to simplify the process for trans gender people to change their sex in the eyes of the law.

It was an act which cast a shadow the length of 2023 on Holyrood-Westminster relations.

Ms Sturgeon called it a full frontal assault on devolution.

Humza Yousaf later made it a dividing line in the SNP leadership contest, promising a legal challenge to the move to make him look progressive and Kate Forbes look antediluvian.

While “muscular Unionism” and trying to outfox the SNP characterised the PM’s Scottish operation in 2023, south of the border his party was defined by scandal and disarray.

As if to mock his Day One promise of “integrity, professionalism and accountability”, Mr Sunak’s own MPs seemed hell-bent on reprising the Tory sleaze vibe of the 1990s.

The cavalcade of sinners began with Mr Sunak sacking Nadhim Zahawi as Tory party chairman for a ‘serious breach’ of the ministerial code over a £4.8million tax bill.

February brought the PM better news, as he and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed the “Windsor Framework” which they hoped would fix deficiencies in the post-brexit Northern Ireland Protocol that Mr Johnson had shrugged off.

In March, it emerged Mr Johnson - having already made his brother a lord - had nominated his father for a knighthood.

There was more scandal the following month, as Dominic Raab quit as deputy PM and justice secretary after a bullying investigation found he was “intimidating” towards officials.

Mr Sunak also returned to Scotland to speak at the Scottish Tory conference in Glasgow. 

It descended into a farce, as his aides tried to bar journalists from a Q&A with a select few, leading to an hour-long stand-off between Downing Street and the press at the SEC. 

In June, Mr Johnson was again in the news, resigning as an MP before he could be pushed following a move to suspend him over the Partygate affair. 

The Commons Privileges Committee found the former PM committed “repeated contempts” of parliament by deliberately misleading MPs about breaking Covid lockdown rules.

They also said he and his proxies had tried to intimidate the Committee’s members. Mr Sunak was branded a coward after missing the vote condemning Mr Johnson’s misconduct.

Over the summer, Dougas Ross’s Tories slid in the polls north of the border while Mr Sunak’s party was barged aside by Labour south of it. 

On July 20, Mr Sunak’s claim to be a winner hit the skids amid three byelections. The Liberal Democrats gained Somerton & Frome, where a Tory MP had quit over sexual misconduct, while Labour gained Selby & Ainsty, where the MP quit in support of Mr Johnson.

In Mr Johnson’s old Uxbridge & South Ruislip seat, however, the Tories held on after fighting a single-issue campaign against the expansion of London’s anti-pollution ULEZ charge.

Mr Sunak duly diluted his environmental pledges in a hunt for votes, earning both criticism from within his party, and confirming just how badly the Tories were doing in the polls.

In October, the Tories spectacularly dropped the ball at their party conference in Manchester by allowing the event to be dominated by them cancelling the HS2 leg to, er, Manchester. 

A textbook example of how not to do politics, Mr Sunak’s cack-handed retreat on high speed rail was slammed by Tory grandees, including his predecessor David Cameron.

In his keynote speech, Mr Sunak improbably presented himself as the face of change, bemoaning “30 years of a political system that incentivizes the easy decision, not the right one”, despite the Tories being in power for 17 of them.

October brought more by-election misery, with Labour gaining Tamworth (another sexual misconduct resignation) and Mid Bedfordshire (Johnson ally Nadine Dorries quit after failing to speak in the Commons for a year while doing a second job as a TV host).

In an ominous sign for the Tories, the right-wing Reform Party founded by Nigel Farage won more votes than Labour’s margin of victory in both seats. Reform has said it will stand in every seat in Britain at the general election, potentially splitting the Tory vote countrywide.

In November, the King’s Speech failed to shift Mr Sunak’s fortunes or end Tory feuding. 

The PM sacked Suellla Braverman as Home Secretary after she defied No10 by writing a newspaper article accusing the Met Police of bias.

In the ensuing reshuffle, the PM made David Cameron Foreign Secretary, ennobling a man he had accused of poor decision-making in his conference speech. Besides infuriating MPs who were passed over, Mr Sunak’s retread destroyed his pitch to be Mr Change. 

Ms Braverman, with an eye to replacing Mr Sunak, savaged his record on immigration, accusing him of gutlessness, breaches of trust, and misleading her about his intentions.

Within hours, the UK Supreme Court threw out Mr Sunak’s £300m plan to send Channel migrants to Rwanda for asylum processing on the grounds it was unsafe to do so.

The PM promised emergency legislation saying Rwanda was safe (despite the evidence seen by the court), but the minister in charge, Robert Jenrick, quit saying it wouldn’t work. The Rwanda Bill cleared its first Commons vote, but various groups of Tory MPs (not to mention the Lords) are set to amend it to a standstill in the spring.

The Chancellor cut National Insurance and hinted at more tax cuts ahead of the election. 

Baroness Mone of Mayfair, who owed her title to Lord Cameron, returned to haunt the Tories, as she U-turned on previous denials over a multi-million pound PPE deal.

The peroxide pariah capped a grizzly year for the PM. 

The cost of living crisis still crushes millions. The Tories are furlongs behind Labour in the polls, yet cannot resist infighting.

Two more by-elections loom in the New Year, both rooted in the misconduct of Tory MPs.

The Scottish Tories can claim a marginally better year thanks to a pugnacious Scotland Office under Mr Jack winning its legal fight on GRR and sinking the deposit return scheme.

But Mr Sunak’s sagging credibility drags down Mr Ross’s party too. 

Twelve months after his five promises, the PM can only tick off halving inflation. 

NHS waiting lists (and doctors’ strikes in England) are up, recent data suggests the UK is in recession, government debt is colossal, and the small boats issue remains unresolved. 

The Prime Minister faces a pincer movement at the polls from Labour and the LibDems on the centre-left and Reform on the right. His own troops have lost faith in him.

Mr Sunak told the Tories he could help them win. Sir Keir Starmer says change is coming. 

Which promise do you believe?