Sunak promises measures on growth and waiting lists

Rishi Sunak on Wednesday outlined five promises by which the public should judge him in the next general election, including growing the UK economy and cutting NHS waiting lists.

In his first major domestic policy speech as Prime Minister, Sunak said he wanted to bring “peace of mind” to a country facing a recession, strikes and a collapse of key public services, particularly the NHS.

Sunak named “people’s priorities” and pledged to halve inflation, boost the economy, reduce the public debt burden, cut NHS waiting lists and “stop the boats” illegally transporting people across the English Channel. Some of his self-imposed economic tests just seemed to pass.

Sunak also confirmed his plan to require all young people in England to study some form of mathematics by the age of 18, although the goal would only be met if the Conservatives win the next election.

“We will rebuild trust in politics by taking action or not at all,” he told an audience at the Olympic Park in east London. “That’s why I’m asking you to judge us on the effort we put in and the results we’ve achieved.” The Tories are far behind Labor in opinion polls.

Some of the economic tests Sunak has prepared for this Parliament are broadly in line with what independent economists and the Bank of England expect.

Economists estimate that consumer price inflation in the UK peaked in November last year when it fell to 10.7 percent and forecasts expect the rate to halve this year.

Even in its most pessimistic forecast, the BoE assumes that the economy will grow until the end of 2024. Sunak’s pledge to reduce the national debt was not clear enough to determine if it would be easy to achieve.

His pledge to cut the NHS’s record waiting lists – more than 7 million patients in England were waiting for non-urgent hospital treatment last month – is politically crucial, but he didn’t say how big the reduction he was achieving hoped.

The pledge comes amid warnings from senior health service officials about the unprecedented strain on the NHS from rising flu and Covid-19 cases, the backlog of waiting lists, industrial disputes and job vacancies.

Sunak also confirmed he would pass new legislation to ensure anyone entering the UK illegally would be arrested and quickly deported, although his promise to “stop the boats” could prove difficult.

Nadine Dorries, a former Tory cabinet minister and close ally of ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been scathing about Sunak’s program, deriding his plan to “continue teaching math with teachers we don’t even have.”

“Three years of progressive Tory government going down the drain,” she said on Twitter.

Dorries also claimed Sunak will abandon a promised “bonfire of EU legislation”.

Labor also criticized Sunak’s math pledge. Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “He cannot keep this warmed-up, empty promise without more math teachers, but the Government has missed its target for new math teachers year after year as existing teachers are leaving in droves.”

https://www.ft.com/content/a9e78359-1be0-40c5-822f-86b73c485376 Sunak promises measures on growth and waiting lists

Adam Bradshaw

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