Has a prime minister, in peacetime, ever faced such a dire situation as that which now confronts Rishi Sunak?

Dreadful local election results (particularly here in Sussex), confusing messages ‘we have a plan’ (but what is it?), terrible poll ratings (the latest YouGov puts the Tories 30 points behind Labour) defecting MPs’ (two in the last fortnight and probably more to come) and swathes of rebellious backbenchers.

Meanwhile, Labour seem to be going from strength to strength - successful local elections, strong poll ratings, a united party in Parliament (apart from the odd murmur about allowing Natalie Elphicke, from the Tory right, to defect) and a leader who, if not overwhelmingly popular, is well ahead of Sunak in the polls.

So the next election is a foregone conclusion, or is it?

Here’s an alternative scenario –Rishi’s dream – starting with the three big policy areas that are currently doing Sunak and his team such damage.

First, the economy. Official figures now show that the UK is out of recession - no cause for hanging out the bunting but if, and it’s a big if, this trend continues and accelerates, there’s just a chance that come the autumn (or even later, don’t forget Sunak need not call an election until January next year) that, as inflation falls, people will be starting to feel slightly more optimistic, or less pessimistic, about the economic outlook.

Then there’s the health service. OK. anyone who’s recently been unlucky enough to spend time in A&E at the Royal Sussex County Council will know that the crisis is still with us. But if the NHS doesn’t hit any major icebergs over the next few months, big assumption I know, it could mean that waiting lists start to fall and people might just start believing that the money the Government has been putting into the health service was beginning to pay dividends.

Then there’s the boats. Here, I fear reality comes crashing in on Rishis’ dream. It’s difficult to see how at a cost of £1.2 million for every asylum-seeker deported to Rwanda, this is ever going to look like a successful policy. Indeed, the record numbers currently crossing the channel suggest that the ‘deterrent effect’ of telling would-be asylum-seekers that once they land on British shores, they’re going to be deported to Rwanda, is clearly having zero impact. Difficult to see how this might change.

But two out of three policy ‘successes’ is not too bad and there are other factors that might just give Rishi some cause for cheer.

First, with Labour so far ahead in the polls, and doing well in the local elections, the worry for the party must be low turnout. Why bother voting when Labour are clearly a shoo-in, many of its potential voters might start thinking.

Then there’s the possibility of Labour’s vote being dented by ongoing anger about what is seen as Labour’s failure to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza. Younger voters are clearly one area of concern but perhaps more significantly is that in a number of so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats in the Midlands and the North – seats that Labour must win - substantial numbers of Muslim voters might be prepared to vote against Labour in protest, as they did in the recent local elections,

Another factor that Labour strategists are counting on is increasing their representation north of the border. Currently there is just one Scottish Labour MP, the party is hoping to up this to 25 in the wake of the ongoing collapse in support for the SNP. But with the experienced John Swinney now at the SNP’s helm, the party could stabilise and deny Labour its hope of a Scottish bonus.

And in Wales, usually fertile ground for Labour, things could also go pear-shaped with the new Labour leader, Vaughan Getting, under fire for accepting money from a dodgy donor and the imposition of a 20-mile speed limit across the Principality, both potentially threatening support for Labour in Wales.

But I’m now running out of ways of keeping Rishi’s dream alive. The likelihood of all these factors coming together and saving Rishi’s bacon, or at least denying Labour a working majority, are remote. Polling guru Professor John Curtice puts it at about 1% (and that’s probably on the optimistic side).

So having tried my best to give Rishi and his fellow Tories some hope, I have to admit failure. Barring some major unforeseen event (and I admit we’ve had a few of those in recent years) I can’t see any other outlook for the next election than a Labour victory – but a landslide? Probably not.

Ivor Gaber is Professor of Political Journalism at the University of Sussex and a former Westminster political correspondent.