Rishi Sunak announces plans to tackle illegal migration
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The Prime Minister insisted the Government was “working flat out to provide peace of mind” to the nation after a horrendous 12 months marred by war, inflation and political turmoil.
But in a message to mark the start of 2023, Mr Sunak said, “I know we will get through these winter days” and pledged to “build a better future” for generations to come.
With waiting lists hitting a record-breaking seven million, he said the NHS is the “first priority for many people up and down the country”.
Writing in today’s Sunday Express, he said there is “every reason to believe we will emerge stronger” from a year of upheaval.
And in a separate video message, Mr Sunak said he wanted to bring a sense of “fairness” to modern Britain, and was optimistic about the future.
He added: “I know it’s been tough but I’m really confident that better times lie ahead. I may have only had the job for several weeks but actually I feel good about the future.
“I feel positive about the change that we can bring so we can improve people’s lives, so we can deliver the peace of mind people are looking for in the here and now – whether it’s around energy bills or making sure that backlogs in the NHS are reduced, but also that we can build a better future for our future for our kids and grandkids.”
The PM’s words come as Conservatives face a crisis in the opinion polls ahead of a general election expected next year, with one putting the Tories on just 19 percent – 26 points behind Labour.
Signalling that voters can expect bold action in the coming months, Mr Sunak:
Insisted he has “got a plan to get borrowing and debt under control”;
Said the Government is looking at ways to “protect the public and minimise the disruption and anguish caused by strikes”;
Vowed he “will not rest until every child is given the opportunity of a world-class education”;
Said it was unfair to “subsidise” people who come to the UK illegally;
And promised to stand by Ukraine for “as long as it takes”.
Describing his confidence the British people will rise to this year’s challenges, he said: “Every day, people are working to make lives better, striving for their families, and putting other people first.
“That’s why I know we will get through these winter days. That’s why I know better times lie ahead.”
Mr Sunak’s hopes for the next 12 months have been echoed by Boris Johnson.
The former Prime Minister said yesterday: “I want to tell you why I am looking forward to 2023 and why I am confident that things will get better
“Our post-Covid, post-pandemic UK will finally start to take advantage of all our new freedoms, lengthening our lead as the best place on Earth to invest, to start a business, raise a family or to just hang out in the pub which is what I propose to do this New Year’s Eve.”
But senior Tory MPs have warned that the Government must deliver improvements in the next “crucial” six months to stand a chance of staying in power.
Brendan Clarke-Smith, who in 2019 became the first Conservative in more than a century to win the “Red Wall” seat of Bassetlaw, Notts, warned the issue of people arriving illegally in small boats was now an “existential threat to many of us” and said the public wanted results.
Polling for the influential Policy Exchange think tank lays bare the scale of pressure the Government is now under to tackle the cost of living crisis and bring down NHS waiting lists.
The research exposes key weaknesses the Government will have to address ahead of the election.
Seventy-three percent of people disagreed the Government has a “clear sense of purpose”. Only 22 percent said the Government is “willing to take tough decisions for the long term”.
When asked to choose the three most important priorities for the Government in 2023, the top three choices were:
Bringing down inflation (48 percent);
Reducing hospital waiting lists (also 48 percent);
And building more self-sufficient energy infrastructure, such as wind, solar, and nuclear (38 percent).
The polling suggests Mr Sunak will have to boost the performance of the NHS to stand a chance of staying in No 10.
When asked what would give the Government the best chance of winning an election, by far the most popular choice was improving the NHS (44 percent).
This came ahead of tackling the cost of living (29 percent) and dealing with the small boats crisis (26 percent). The research by People Polling also reveals Conservative and Labour voters now share key concerns about the challenges facing the country.
Bringing down inflation was a priority for 54 percent of people who backed Labour in 2019 and 43 percent who voted Tory.
Reducing NHS waiting lists was the top cited priority for Labour voters (55 percent) and 44 percent of Tory backers.
When asked to name three areas where spending could be cut, the most common responses were:
Cancel the High Speed 2 rail project (46 percent);
Reduce public spending on international aid (46 percent);
Reduce spending on public sector equality and diversity initiatives (31 percent).
Iain Mansfield, Director of Research at Policy Exchange, said the “public is united” in concern about the cost of living and the NHS, adding: “The Government must demonstrate progress here if it hopes to win the next election.”
But the Prime Minister will be encouraged by analysis of polls which suggests landslide win for Labour is not a certainty. It predicts today’s “wavering” voters will prove crucial to the ultimate result. In the highly contested Red Wall seats undecided voters can make up a third of the electorate.
According to the Sunday Times, pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain’s Wavering Wall report found the bulk of these non-declared voters are “shy Tories” – people who are likely to vote Conservative but do not want to say so at this stage.
The report states: “It appears that since the spring, Conservative-leaning voters have been becoming wavering voters rather than switching to Labour.”
And former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost noted that while polling showed only 40 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019 now plan to do so again”, only “nine per cent of the 2019 vote has switched to Labour”.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said the “essential task is to bring back our 2019 voters and give them what they wanted: to get Brexit done, and deliver political and social change.”
Veteran Tory Michael Fabricant has set out how he believes the Conservatives can beat Labour.
The 72-year-old MP for Lichfield said: “There is no deep enthusiasm for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. Their support is large but shallow; people don’t know what they stand for.
“But for the Conservatives to have any hope of winning the next election, they will have to start delivering. Delivering a strong economy, not austerity.
“Delivering secure borders, not porous immigration. Delivering supremacy of our laws, not ones that can be overturned by a foreign court. Delivering pride in our nation, not embarrassment. In short, less talk, more delivery.”
Commons defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said the Conservatives would not hold on to power simply by demonstrating fiscal unity and discipline.
Arguing that it needed “zingers” that will make people sit up and say “Yes, that’s why the Tories should keep the keys to No 10”, he said: “The next six months are crucial in selecting and implementing our big ideas.”
And South Thanet Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay is confident Labour can be kept out of power if the Government takes decisive action.
He said: “We need to show clear blue water between us and the Labour Party who now need to be put under scrutiny as the pro-woke, open-border constitutional vandals we know them to be.”
Former security minister Sir John Hayes said the Government can “inspire people to have faith in it again” if it delivers on its strengths such as law and order.
The South Holland and The Deepings MP said: “You need to concentrate on the areas where you can make a difference.”
And Great Grimsby Conservative MP Lia Nici called for people to see the benefits of Brexit in the year ahead.
She said: “2023 is the year where we need to take full advantage of our hard-won Brexit freedoms. The Government has started, but we still have much more we can do.”
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