THIS is not a General Election campaign: this is Rishi Sunak’s anxiety dream, and we are trapped in it. Our Prime Minister – for now – is imploding, and he is taking the Conservative and Unionist Party with him.

Don’t get me wrong, those 190 years of its existence have proven a thrilling ride for all of us. We’ve all had our highlights, including such great hits as fighting tooth and claw to stop social progress, valiantly defending the interests of the rich and the well-to-do, waging war on the social fabric of this nation, battering working- class people, redirecting people’s anger at their many grievances to the vulnerable – well, we could go on, couldn’t we?

Let’s allow some sympathy for the Tory leader, but mercifully, it will be in passing. Before his tenure, the Tories were already in a right old state. Partying until they were sick whilst ordinary citizens were having Zoom funerals, violating lockdown rules they set themselves. A merry-go-round of corruption and harassment scandals.

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The worst cost of living crisis since the Battle of Waterloo. An English NHS falling over. Three prime ministers in a single parliament. Never-ending civil war. Whipping up Tory supporters into a frenzy over immigration, with nothing to offer to satiate that fury. Liz Truss crashing the economy with deranged right-wing economics.

The fact Sunak sounds like a children’s TV presenter always on the verge of losing his temper in a bad way has, alas, failed to charm the nation. A talented political operator would have struggled in such circumstances, and well, Sunak is the most over-promoted man in British history.

Why did he call a general election at all? Was he high at the time? To avoid an exchange of legal letters, let me assure his embattled team that this was a flippant attempt to understand an act of total madness.

Surely he could have waited for something to turn up, perhaps on the economic front. Did he not consider that if he had waited until the autumn, Nigel Farage might otherwise be busy, campaigning for his dear old chum Donald Trump in the hope of a plum job in the next administration?

It’s one thing needlessly rolling the dice, but since then he seems to have been on a mission to prove he’s actually on an undercover mission to destroy the Conservative Party.

His one big idea was national service, otherwise known as “dictating the free time of young adults, imposing what is normally a punishment for a crime”. That’s gone down like a vat of particularly cool vomit.

Then he committed the most cardinal sin of all –forcing me to defend Keir Starmer. In the televised debate, he accused the Labour leader of hiking taxes on working families by £2000 a year, claiming this came from independent Treasury costings.

This was a lie. A barefaced lie.

And it had the poisonous effect of shifting scrutiny away from where it should be.

Both main parties are being dishonest with the British public. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, both “avoiding the reality that they are effectively signed up to sharp spending cuts, while arguing over smaller changes to taxes and spending.”

There is a huge black hole in the nation’s finances, and unless there are tax rises, that means services will be decimated. “The real ‘tax dishonesty’ is the silence over what happens if they DON’T rise,” says Alfie Stirling, chief economist of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

He says that it means, according to the plans of both parties, either around a further £20 billion a year in cuts to public services by 2029 – that is, back to George Osborne-style cuts – or a £20bn a year increase in borrowing.

Well, bear in mind that these cuts are on top of the austerity that is already baked in. Bear in mind, too, that Labour has ruled out borrowing. The real scrutiny should be about Labour’s refusal to increase taxes on higher earners – thus spelling catastrophe for public services – but Sunak’s lies are helping to deflect from this conversation. And then look what Sunak does. He knows he’s haemorrhaging support among socially conservative older voters.

Surely he should have realised the worst possible thing he could do in those circumstances is to leave the D-Day commemorations early – the 80th anniversary no less – so he could gallivant back to the UK to do yet another TV interview where he could lie more Labour’s tax plans.

Facing an explosion of fury as a result, he then did the worst possible thing he could do: the non-apologetic apology, guaranteed to drive everyone up the wall. Well, the consequences are obvious. The Tories face wipeout. Labour may end up with the sort of majority of seats that many dictatorships would consider OTT – plausibly on a similar vote share as they won in 2017.

That means two things. One, we can all vote according to our conscience, without fearing any possibility of the Tories sneaking back in. But the other should disturb us. Nigel Farage’s Reform party may eclipse the Tories.

If he wins his seat in Clacton – which he may well do – then he could end up defecting to what remains of the Conservatives and becoming their leader. The new opposition could be led by Farage. And when the bubble bursts for Starmer – as it will, when he collides with electoral reality – that should frighten us all.