Rishi Sunak’s five pledges to fix Britain are big targets – but how easy are they to hit?

Rishi Sunak says they will offer people “peace of mind” – Owl

Richard Vaughan inews.co.uk

Rishi Sunak has drawn up a list of five promises to the British public that he believes will improve people’s lives and public services in a bid to kick-start his premiership.

The Prime Minister said the pledges will offer people “peace of mind” as they enter 2023, which has already been dogged by strikes, record inflation and an NHS that is teetering on the brink of collapse.

But Mr Sunak’s five promises could easily be described as a wishlist, given the external forces that are buffeting the UK economy.

Here i looks at each of his “five foundations” and how achievable they will be for the Sunak administration.

1. “First, we will halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security.”

Forecasts have predicted that inflation will fall from its current rate of 10.7 per cent over the course of this year. The Bank of England has said it expects to see inflation will fall sharply by the middle of this year, as energy costs are unlikely to continue rising as high as it has over the last year and government support will help with this. The cost of imported goods is also expected to settle, while demand for goods and services will also fall due to higher interest rates. Whether inflation will be cut by half remains to be seen, as further flare-ups in Ukraine, another wave of Covid or China invading Taiwan could cause major shocks to the economy. If inflation is halved then Mr Sunak is likely to be claiming success for achievements that have little to do with his government.

Difficulty rating: 3/5

2. “Second, we will grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country.”

If only other governments had thought of this. Prime ministers of all hues have promised to grow the economy and deliver better paid jobs, but if it was so easily done then the UK’s economy would not be among the most misfiring of OECD countries at the moment. Mr Sunak’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, based his entire administration on “levelling up” and spreading opportunity across the UK, while Liz Truss had a near maniacal focus on growth, but both failed. Indeed, analyses by Goldman Sachs says the UK economy will shrink by 1.2 per cent this year, while KPMG says it will contract by 1.3 per cent. This places the UK’s recession near or equal to Russia’s, which is currently facing major international sanctions.

Difficulty rating: 5/5

3. “Third, we will make sure our national debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services.”

Crucially, Mr Sunak does not say when national debt will be falling, or by what measure. The OBR in its analysis of the Autumn Statement late last year predicted national debt to be falling as a share of the UK economy by 2027-28. This would be several years after the next election, after which the Conservatives could well be out of power.

Difficulty rating: 4/5

4. “Fourth, NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.”

Again, Mr Sunak does not say by how much the NHS waiting lists will fall, nor does he say how quickly people will get the care they need. But many voters are likely to argue that getting NHS waiting lists down and speeding up care is the bare minimum that is expected from any government. Given people are currently being treated in ambulances, or even in cupboards due to overcrowding in hospitals, voters would be forgiven for thinking why this promise was not number one on his list.

Difficulty rating: 3/5

5. “Fifth, we will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.”

No 10 has previously said that fixing the small boats crisis was his number one priority after the economy, following the market meltdown caused by Liz Truss’s mini-budget. New laws to clampdown on the Channel crossings have been mooted for some time, but even as recently as this week, Downing Street has been unable to say when the new laws will be published. Much of the problem lies with the European Convention of Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory, and any attempt to scrap the country’s obligations under the convention will spark a serious backlash from Tory MPs, opposition parties and in the Lords.

Difficulty rating: 4/5

Tiverton & Honiton MP demands recall of Parliament over NHS crisis

The MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Richard Foord, has called for Parliament to be recalled immediately over the crisis in the NHS.

What about “Whatchamacallit” the other, rather silent, East Devon MP? Where does he stand on this? – Owl

Learn to pronounce

Philippa Davies www.midweekherald.co.uk

The Liberal Democrats are demanding the Government pass an emergency health plan and declare a ‘national major incident’. 

It has been estimated that up to 500 people each week are dying because of A&E delays. 

In recent days ambulance services across the country have declared critical incidents, while ambulance staff have also been urged to conserve oxygen supplies due to a surge in demand. 

Over the Christmas and New Year period local ambulance services across Devon have been struggling to keep up with demand, with a ‘critical incident’ being declared for several days and patients urged to avoid attending A&E unless their condition is life-threatening. 

In view of the extreme pressure on hospitals and the social care system, Richard Foord wants Parliament to be recalled so that the Government can take urgent action to stop people from dying. 

He said: “This is a life or death situation for large numbers of patients across the country, including here in our part of Devon. 

“Despite the valiant work of our heroic NHS staff, local services are buckling in front of our eyes due to demand – yet the Prime Minister and Health Secretary are nowhere to be seen. 

“Every week I hear from people who are in shock after calling an ambulance or visiting A&E only to learn that ‘emergency’ care now means waiting hours and hours for help. 

“This is a national crisis, and the country is unlikely to forgive the Conservative Government for failing to act while hundreds of people die in parked ambulances or crowded hospital corridors. 

“Nobody should lose a loved one because the Government is asleep at the wheel. 

“Paramedics, nurses, and doctors have been left high and dry by the Government. They need help right now before this crisis gets even worse. 

“I am calling for Parliament to return without delay. The Prime Minister must declare a major incident to put the NHS back on a pandemic-style footing amid soaring numbers of deaths.” 

Reform UK to field candidate against every Tory at next election, says leader

Look over your shoulder Simon!

Right wing vote could be split in East Devon – Owl

The leader of Reform UK, Richard Tice, has offered a “cast-iron guarantee” the party will put up a candidate against every Conservative in the next general election, ruling out a 2019-style deal even if the Tories back some of his policies.

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com 

After a speech to relaunch the party, which was level with the Liberal Democrats in some recent polls, Tice said Reform UK already had 600 candidates in place and would stand in every seat outside Northern Ireland.

“Absolutely not,” he told the Guardian when asked if the party could potentially stand aside for Tory candidates who explicitly backed the party’s low-tax policy platform. “It’s a 110%, cast-iron guarantee. We’ve already got 600 candidates, we will stand everywhere.

“I think people are starting to realise that we’re serious about this. For obvious reasons, some people have ignored us until now, but we’ve got momentum. We’re equal or above the Lib Dems.”

The commitment will add to Rishi Sunak’s political woes and could make a Conservative defeat in the general election, expected next year, more likely.

In 2019, what was then the Brexit party greatly boosted Boris Johnson’s chances by standing aside in more than 300 Tory-held seats after he gave commitments on a hard Brexit.

While Tice’s party is unlikely to win a seat in the next election, if it were to take up to 8% of votes, as polling indicates it could, the bulk of these would come from disgruntled Conservative voters, a demographic the relaunch squarely targeted.

Tory MPs might be more nervous still if Nigel Farage, who led the party until March 2021, returned as leader. But Tice said this would not happen, and that Farage would remain focused on his media career.

“He’s done that,” Tice said when asked if Farage might take the helm again. “He’s very much enjoying what he’s doing. I speak to him two or three times a week. He’s on his own really good form and he’s massively supportive of everything that we’re doing.”

Tice’s speech, at a hotel in central London, focused on policies the party has advocated for some time, including an increase in the starting rate for income tax from £12,570 to £20,000, efforts to get people off out-of-work benefits, and policies to assist the NHS, including a period in which frontline staff would pay no income tax.

The costs – Reform UK say the income tax threshold plan would cost £40bn a year – would be recouped through moving people off benefits and cutting government waste, Tice said.

Speaking afterwards, he said the income tax cut would be “the fastest, most dramatic way to help people on the lowest incomes”. “I’ve been talking about it for 20-odd months, but for obvious reasons people have sort of ignored us until suddenly we’ve appeared as having momentum,” he added.

Dismissing Labour as being devoid of ideas, Tice pointed to a newspaper column last week by the Tory peer David Frost urging Conservatives “to fight for the party and not be tempted by a Reform UK vote”, as a sign the government was alarmed.

“You know the Tories are worried when they’re writing in newspapers ‘please don’t vote Reform’,” he said.

‘Calling for kindness and moderation in East Devon in 2023’

Paul Arnott 

May I wish all readers a happy new year, and mention as I do so a few of the wider comments posted on the internet from some councillors I greatly respect? They want 2023 to be informed by kindness and moderation in the way we all speak to one another.

Which of us would disagree? It’s been a central tenet of many faiths from Buddhism to Christianity that the world would be more harmonious if we all lived by the maxims of tolerance and respect.

Unfortunately, there is another factor at play when it comes to national and indeed regional and local politics. It’s almost impossible to hold this meek and worthy line when figures in power are prepared to tell such whopping lies.

2023, however, gives us the greatest opportunity this century to reform these ways. Why? Because in 2022 we all got a PhD in how politicians can lie for the heck of it. And because we now have no alternative.

The key evidence at the start of 2023 is about our health service. When a distinguished professor who chairs the British Medical Association says that the health service is dying, that 500 extra people will certainly lose their lives at A&E per week this winter because the system cannot cope, there is no glib answer a politician can give.

Like many others in East Devon, thousands I think, I became fully aware that the NHS was not safe in the hands of the Conservatives about ten years ago. The scales dropped from my eyes.

May I perhaps offer a fictional comparison? In a healthy society, if a massive great hole appeared in a school playground, parents, teachers and locals would come together to work out why it had happened, what to do about it, and how to commission the work. Cost would be an issue, so this work would be tightly controlled by a local project team.

That is not how the Conservatives have approached the NHS for many decades (though I am content that many voters did not realise this).

By their methods, on hearing that the hole had appeared, one of their number would contact their mate, either the CEO of Fill-A-Hole PLC, or, if Covid is an example, was fortuitously just about to set up that very company.

By the time the first public meeting was called, a plan would be done and dusted, leaving locals to wonder what had just happened. Filling the hole would then become part of Fill-A-Hole PLC’s “work-stream”, the actual fulfilment of the repair put in the hands of a recent graduate who could take the blame if it went wrong.

This is where we have got to with the NHS. Leading members of the Conservative party have believed their entire adult lives that the health service would be better delivered by private companies. Not even the havoc of privatised railway companies has cured them of this obsession.

As it happens, their pals will not let them forget this, if for some reason a Conservative becomes a bit wet round the edges, because private finance, its lobbyists, and its many billions of US cash looking to invest, is always knocking at the door. Usually at Conference time bearing a healthy donation to the party.

So, this is the truth, which if accepted can lead to kindness and moderation. People like me saw, at the point where in-patient beds were shut in Axminster, Honiton, Ottery and Seaton in recent years, that this other private sector agenda riddles the government’s handling of the NHS like a disease. First break it, then privatise it.

The Tories have broken it – the next stage is up to us, the people. Will we passively accept what is happening, or use our votes and voices in 2023 to demand the unvarnished truth?