Rishi Sunak faces grilling by MPs on 5 pledges – can PM boast of progress?

PM will be questioned by committee six months on from big promises on economy, NHS and small boats

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 04 July 2023 12:16 BST
Rishi Sunak’s makes five promises as he sets out big priorities

Rishi Sunak will come under pressure to show progress on the five pledges he made at the start of the year when he is grilled by senior MPs on the liaison committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Today marks exactly six months since the prime minister unveiled his big five promises to the electorate. “No tricks, no ambiguity,” he said in January. “We’re either delivering for you or we’re not.”

Mr Sunak was criticised by Labour for offering targets “so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them” – but the juddering economy and court setbacks on asylum have put his ambitions in serious doubt.

Having arrived at No 10 on a wave of cautious optimism from exhausted Tory MPs, hoping Mr Sunak would lead an economic recovery, the prime minister promised to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce national debt.

The big one – having inflation from the 10.1 per cent rate it stood at in January – looks increasingly in doubt, with the rate stuck at 8.7 per cent.

Mr Sunak also promised to cut NHS waiting lists and “stop the boats”. But waiting lists have risen from 7.2 million to 7.4 million since January. And thwarting illegal Channel crossings looks even more difficult after the High Court knocked back the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Mr Sunak is under growing pressure from his own backbenchers on immigration – with deputy chairman Lee Anderson backing a push for a crackdown on foreign care workers and student visas.

One senior Tory told The Independent there was “angst and irritation” inside the party following the Rwanda decision, with MPs increasingly gloomy after the chances of having steady progress to offer voters in the run-up to the general election in 2024.

The PM’s popularity among Tory members also appears to have taken a hit of late. ConservativeHome’s latest survey shows Mr Sunak in the negative, on –2.7 per cent support, down from 21 per cent positive backing in May. It is the lowest level of grassroots support since he became PM.

Sunak‘s five pledges now look in doubt
Sunak‘s five pledges now look in doubt (via Reuters)

Harriett Baldwin, from the treasury committee, will lead the questioning today on the squeeze on living standards as the PM comes under continued pressure on soaring costs.

Five MPs will focus on public services, with questions expected on the NHS as well as the justice, education systems and the environment.

Mr Sunak will face questions on the net zero strategy from Philip Dunne – the Tory chair of the environmental audit committee – after the shock resignation of Lord Zac Goldsmith, who accused the PM being “simply uninterested” in the climate crisis.

Boris Johnson is also set to cause headaches for Mr Sunak. Senior Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant is set to pose questions on standards and resignation honours, after Mr Johnson’s allies were lambasted over their attacks on the Commons inquiry in Partygate.

Today’s liaison committee will be chaired by Sir Bernard Jenkin, the Tory MP who also sits on the privileges committee attacked by those loyal to the former prime minister.

Ukraine and security matters will also feature, with questioning from home affairs committee chief Dame Diana Johnson and foreign affairs committee boss Alicia Kearns. The hearings usually last around 90 minutes.

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