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Rishi Sunak unveils ‘five promises’ to get Britain back on track: PM says he is taking ‘urgent action’ on NHS chaos, slams ‘misinformation’ from unions over strikes, and vows to tackle Channel migrants as he delivers first big speech since entering No10

  • Rishi Sunak has made a keynote speech to launch a political fightback in 2023
  • The PM set out five promises for voters to judge him by over the coming year 
  • Include growing economy, halving inflation and tackling Channel migrant crisis 
  • Mr Sunak said he wants everyone to study maths until at least the age of 18 

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Rishi Sunak vowed to work ‘night and day’ to restore ‘optimism, hope and pride in Britain’ today in his first big speech as PM.

Trying to get on the front foot in 2023 amid a crippling wave of strikes, Mr Sunak acknowledged the massive pressures facing hospitals saying he was taking ‘urgent action’ to protect services.

He also slammed ‘misinformation’ from unions over strikes, and said the government will shortly lay out its next move.  

But Mr Sunak said he hoped he was already starting to earn people’s ‘trust’, and spelled out five promises to judge him against this year – including that inflation will be halved to tackle the cost of living, and the Channel migrant crisis will be eased.

He also committed to grow the economy, reduce debt and – perhaps the toughest test – cut NHS waiting lists. 

‘These five promises are the people’s priorities,’ he said. ‘We will halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats.’

In a nod to unrest on his own blue benches, Mr Sunak said that ‘as soon as we can’ the government would ‘reduce the burden of taxation on working people’ – without making any concrete pledge.  

He announced his ‘personal’ ambition for everyone to study maths until at least the age of 18, saying that improving education was as close as it gets to a ‘silver bullet’ in policy terms.

The intervention came after the premier was given a glimmer of hope in a new poll. Although Labour had an eye-watering 20-point lead overall, the Redfield & Wilton research found that Mr Sunak has leapfrogged Keir Starmer as the public’s preferred PM.

The Tory leader was the choice of 38 per cent, compared to 36 per cent for Sir Keir – in an apparent sign that he is stabilising the government following the disastrous Liz Truss era.  

However, the Conservative infighting that blighted 2022 has already resurfaced, with ex-Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries for washing three years of ‘progressive’ Tory government ‘down the drain’. 

Ms Truss’s allies have been making clear their anger that Mr Sunak has ditched her proposals for a radical childcare overhaul.

Rishi Sunak vowed to work 'night and day' to restore 'optimism, hope and pride in Britain' today in his first big speech as PM

Rishi Sunak vowed to work ‘night and day’ to restore ‘optimism, hope and pride in Britain’ today in his first big speech as PM 

Downing Street tweeted out the five promises Mr Sunak asked to be judged on today

Downing Street tweeted out the five promises Mr Sunak asked to be judged on today

The premier has been given a glimmer of hope in a new poll. Although Labour has an eye-watering 20-point lead overall, the Redfield & Wilton research found that Mr Sunak has leapfrogged Keir Starmer as the public's preferred PM

The premier has been given a glimmer of hope in a new poll. Although Labour has an eye-watering 20-point lead overall, the Redfield & Wilton research found that Mr Sunak has leapfrogged Keir Starmer as the public’s preferred PM

Rishi Sunak’s ‘big idea’ of compulsory maths to the age of 18 is mocked as a ‘distraction’ 

Rishi Sunak‘s ‘big idea’ of making maths compulsory to the age of 18 was mocked today as a ‘dead cat’ to distract from the NHS crisis and winter of discontent.

In his first major speech as PM this afternoon, Mr Sunak promised to equip children for the ‘jobs of the future’ by combating high rates of innumeracy in the UK.

Young people will be forced to take ‘some form’ of maths delivered either through new courses or existing qualifications such as A-levels, T-levels and Core Maths. For most the drive is likely to involve practical skills rather than algebra.

But Opposition parties dismissed the initiative as ’empty’ and an ‘admission of failure’ – while Tories urged Mr Sunak to focus on tackling illegal immigration instead.   

Nigel Farage swiped that ‘quadratic equations’ would not help fix ‘broken Britain’. 

He suggested that 18-year-olds should play darts instead to brush up on numeracy skills. 

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In his speech, Mr Sunak said: ‘I want to make five promises to you today. Five pledges to deliver peace of mind. Five foundations, on which to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.

‘First, we will halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security. Second, we will grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country. Third, we will make sure our national debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services.

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

‘So, five promises – we will: Halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats.

‘Those are the people’s priorities. They are your Government’s priorities. And we will either have achieved them or not.

‘No trick… no ambiguity… we’re either delivering for you or we’re not. We will rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all. So, I ask you to judge us on the effort we put in and the results we achieve.’

Mr Sunak signalled a renewed focus on tackling the delayed discharges clogging up hospital beds.

He is bringing forward an ‘urgent care recovery plan’ later this month, coupled with a recovery plan for primary care to improve access to GPs.

But the PM warned the country cannot afford the double-digit pay rises demanded by militant union bosses, and also confirm plans for ‘tough’ measures to limit strike disruption.

The strategy for building a better Britain includes plans to make maths compulsory to the age of 18 in order to boost skills and productivity.

He said the UK is an outlier and it is time to ‘reimagine our approach to numeracy’ – warning that the current approach to maths is ‘letting our children down’.

Mr Sunak said: ‘This is personal for me. Every opportunity I’ve had in life began with the education I was so fortunate to receive.

‘And it’s the single most important reason why I came into politics: to give every child the highest possible standard of education.

‘Thanks to the reforms we’ve introduced since 2010, and the hard work of so many excellent teachers, we’ve made incredible progress.

‘With the right plan – the right commitment to excellence – I see no reason why we cannot rival the best education systems in the world’.

Mr Sunak conceded that introducing maths to 18 will take longer than the two years remaining in this Parliament.

He emphasised the importance of numeracy, stressing ‘our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills’.

In a series of stringing tweets Ms Dorries castigated the change and Mr Sunak's wider political direction, accusing him of spurning changes made under Mr Johnson, her close friend and ally.

In a series of stringing tweets Ms Dorries castigated the change and Mr Sunak’s wider political direction, accusing him of spurning changes made under Mr Johnson, her close friend and ally.

‘Right now, just half of all 16 to 19-year-olds study any maths at all. Yet in a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills than ever before.

‘And letting our children out into the world without those skills, is letting our children down’.

The Government does not envisage making maths A-level compulsory for all 16-year-olds.

Ministers are instead exploring existing routes, such as the Core Maths qualifications and T-Levels, as well as more innovative options.

Whitehall sources said the NHS crisis has risen to the top of Mr Sunak’s domestic agenda in recent weeks and he is now involved in intensive daily meetings to ‘get under the bonnet’ of the NHS.

‘It is something he will be very focused on this month, and probably next month as well,’ a source said.

Dorries fury as sale of Channel 4 is dropped 

Plans to privatise Channel 4 have been dropped, it was revealed today, sparking a furious political row,.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, recommending the Government drops a plan to sell off the broadcaster devised under his predecessor Boris Johnson.

She said that the sale was ‘not the right decision’ and would adversely affect independent production firms at a time when the economy is under pressure.

But the revelation by Global’s The News Agents podcast was slammed by Ms Donelan’s predecessor Nadine Dorries, who led the drive for privatisation.

In a series of stringing tweets she castigated the change and Mr Sunak’s wider political direction, accusing him of spurning changes made under Mr Johnson, her close friend and ally. 

‘Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down,’ she said.

‘A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?’

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Turning to the NHS, Rishi Sunak said that ‘something has to change’, but he stressed that would not change the ‘founding principles’ of the health service.

‘We will always protect the founding principles of an NHS free at the point of use. But what it does mean is an NHS where patients are in control with as much choice as possible, where we’re comfortable with the NHS using more independent capacity, if that’s what it takes to get patients quicker and better care,’ he said.

‘We all share the same objective when it comes to the NHS, to continue providing high quality responsive health care for generations to come. And that’s what we’re going to deliver. Our vision for change will revitalise every aspect of our lives, better jobs, stronger communities, world class education, an NHS built around patients.’

Mr Sunak spoke at length about family, calling it ‘something that politicians struggle to talk about’.

‘We live in a world today where family can and does take many forms. But whatever your family looks like, it doesn’t matter. As long as the common bond is love. We shouldn’t be shy about it.

‘We need to support parents to manage the demands of modern workplaces without weakening the irreplaceable bonds of family life. And we’re going to roll out family hubs to offer parents the support they need.’

Mr Sunak conceded that his vision for the country will not happen ‘overnight’.  

‘As well as peace of mind today, this afternoon I’ve also set out a vision for a better future for our children and grandchildren. Now we’re not going to get there overnight, or even in this Parliament. But this is the journey we are on,’ he said.

‘And despite all the challenges we face, all the anxieties that people feel, I know we can get there. Others may talk about change, I will deliver it. I won’t offer you false hope or quick fixes, but meaningful lasting change.

‘I want people to feel something that they do not always feel today – a belief that public services work for them, and knowledge that if you work hard in the good times, the state will be there for you during the bad.’

Ambulances wait outside Portsmouth Hospital due to shortages of rooms as patients wait inside the vehicles for hours

Ambulances wait outside Portsmouth Hospital due to shortages of rooms as patients wait inside the vehicles for hours

Backlash at PM over jettisoning Truss’s childcare shake-up 

Rishi Sunak tried to see off a growing Tory revolt over soaring childcare costs today as he played up the importance of family.

The PM is under increasing fire over a decision to scrap a plan to reform pre-school care to help parents afford places and return to work. 

He has axed proposals outlined by his brief predecessor Liz Truss to ditch mandatory staff-child ratios in nurseries, aimed at reducing overheads. 

Plans to extend free care for toddlers from 30 to 50 hours a week are also under review. 

Previous criticism was limited to supporters of Truss, but today backers of the PM himself urged action, including Education Committee chairman Robin Walker.

In a speech in east London this afternoon Mr Sunak insisted he was committed to improving the situation for hard-pressed families, saying ‘we need to support parents to manage the demands of modern workplaces without weakening the irreplaceable bonds of family life’. 

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Ending his speech, he said: ‘I guarantee that your priorities will be my priorities. I pledge that I will be honest about the challenges we face. And I will take the tough but necessary decisions to ensure our great country achieves its enormous potential.

‘I will only promise what I can deliver, and I will deliver what I promise.’

However, Mr Sunak’s pledges risked being overshadowed by the Conservative civil war reigniting. 

After it emerged Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has recommended dropping plans to privatise Channel 4, her predecessor Ms Dorries wrote on Twitter: ‘Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down.

‘A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?’

A second tweet hit out at the announcement on maths. ‘A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don’t yet even have to do so,’ she wrote.

‘Where is the mandate – who voted for this?’

The speech comes against a bleak backdrop of problems in the NHS following the pandemic. A string of hospital trusts and ambulance services have recently declared critical incidents as they struggle to deal with the combination of record backlogs and surging flu and Covid cases.

Some health chiefs have claimed delays are leading to 500 excess deaths a week.

Downing Street said ministers had been ‘upfront’ with the public that the NHS would face an ‘extremely challenging winter’ following the pandemic.

Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said the PM was ‘confident’ that the health service had the funding it needed, but acknowledged that some people would face long delays for treatment.

‘We expected to see backlogs and waiting times go up… that is what we are seeing play out,’ said the spokesman.

‘We are confident we are providing the NHS with the funding it needs to deal with these issues,’ he added. Asked if the NHS is in crisis, he said it was ‘an unprecedented challenge’.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the Government is focused on ‘getting the people out of the hospital who don’t need to be there’ in order to ‘speed up the ambulance handover delays’.

Mr Sunak’s plans will involve a big focus on improving social care to make it easier to discharge elderly patients

Source: Daily Mail UK

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