Labour dismisses Rishi Sunak’s five new pledges as mostly ‘so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them’ – as it happened

Last modified: 07: 28 PM GMT+0

Prime minister urges public to judge him on whether he delivers on new pledges but Labour says most ‘were happening anyway’. This blog is now closed


Here is a round-up of the day’s main headlines:

  • NHS waiting times are too long, Rishi Sunak has admitted in a new year’s speech that saw him urge hospitals not to cancel elective surgeries despite the severe pressure on A&E departments. The prime minister did not say whether people should expect immediate improvement in the health service, after reports of unnecessary deaths due to long ambulance response times and difficulties transferring patients into hospital.

  • Plans for all pupils in England to study maths up to the age of 18 to tackle innumeracy and better equip them for the modern workplace were also confirmed by the prime minister. Looking forward to the year ahead, Sunak said he knew people were approaching 2023 with “apprehension”, and voiced hopes of restoring optimism. Though he repeated a promise to tackle strike action, Sunak did not give any details about legislation. He promised to say more in “the coming days about our approach”.

  • The Labour party says the five Rishi Sunak promises will mostly be easy for him to achieve. In a press notice it says the pledges are “all things that were happening anyway; are so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them; or are aimed at fixing problems of the Tories’ own making”.

  • Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, says the Rishi Sunak speech shows he is “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to dealing with the NHS crisis. In a statement he says: “People will be dismayed that Rishi Sunak still doesn’t have a proper plan to deal with the crisis raging in the NHS. He is asleep at the wheel while patients are treated in hospital corridors and the health service is stretched to breaking point.”

  • Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, says Rishi Sunak’s speech suggests he is “detached from the reality” of what is happening in the NHS. She made the comment in an open letter to Steve Barclay, the health secretary, released to the media.

  • The former Conservative treasurer Peter Cruddas, a key ally of Boris Johnson, is set to launch a Momentum-style grassroots campaign to overhaul party democracy. The movement – Conservative Democratic Organisation – will have Lord Cruddas as president and aims to give members full say over candidate selections “with minimum interference by CCHQ [Conservative campaign headquarters]”, including the power to deselect MPs. The move has been endorsed by the former home secretary Priti Patel, who is also close to the former prime minister.

  • Jeremy Hunt has confirmed that he will announce plans to reduce energy support for businesses in the Commons next week, telling industry leaders it was “unsustainably expensive”. The chancellor has told business groups that a package providing support at a “lower level” than current measures would be available to them beyond March, promising to avoid a “cliff edge” in curtailing the subsidy.

  • 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. 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.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for today. Thanks for following along. The UK politics live blog will be back tomorrow morning. Goodnight.

In his first big speech since taking over at No 10, Rishi Sunak promised “no tricks, no ambiguity” as he announced his five promises to reset the government after a difficult year.

The prime minister said he would be focusing on halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists, and stopping small-boat crossings to the UK.

“Those are the people’s priorities,” he told his audience. “We will either have achieved them or not. No tricks, no ambiguity. We’re either delivering for you or we’re not.”

Sunak does not have time on his side, with the next general election expected in autumn 2024 and the public struggling with the cost of living, the state of the NHS and strikes.

So his speech was designed primarily to reassure people that, after a catastrophic year for the Tories, he would be a steady hand on the tiller navigating the country through perilous waters.

It was also intended to take on his internal party critics who believe he has ripped up the mandate Boris Johnson won in 2019, that he is a bit too technocratic to win over the red wall, and that he lacks a big vision for the country.

At first glance, staking his premiership on a five-point plan to fix Britain while the country is in the grip of a series of crises, which show little sign of abating, looks like a bold move.

But while Sunak promised to do away with tricks and ambiguity, his success, or failure, appears to depend on exactly that.

Commenting on prime minister Rishi Sunak’s speech earlier today, the Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

By talking about improving the NHS while without even referring to pay, the prime minister is insulting the intelligence of the British people. He knows that the suppression of pay has led to the unsafe and unsustainable staffing levels at the heart of the NHS crisis.

By refusing to enter into pay negotiations that will be essential to any improvements in the health service, he has been responsible for an act of national self-harm. If he wants to take effective action on the NHS, we in the unions remain ready to enter into pay talks at any time.

Meanwhile, the PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

If Rishi Sunak is serious when he says he values public sector workers, then he would give our members an above-inflation pay rise to help them through the cost-of-living crisis and beyond.

If he is serious about having a reasonable dialogue, then he knows how to get hold of me. I’m waiting for his call. There’s no point in him saying the government’s door is always open when there’s no money on the table.

And if he is serious about stopping small boats crossing the channel, he should provide safe and legal routes for refugees.


To govern in difficult times, a prime minister needs a candid account of problems matched with credible solutions. Rishi Sunak provided neither in what had been billed as a significant policy speech on Wednesday. He referred fleetingly to Covid and the war in Ukraine as causes of the present difficulties, but there was no critical analysis of the way Britain has been governed in recent years.

Of course there wasn’t. To speak honestly about public services would have meant admitting that budget austerity has depleted provision and demoralised staff. To explain the economic malaise, the Tory leader would have had to acknowledge Brexit as national self-sabotage.

That would be a repudiation of positions held sacred by most Conservatives. Even if the prime minister saw the wisdom in such a volte face, his MPs would never permit it. Instead, Mr Sunak set out a plan to tinker in the margins of huge challenges. The smallness of his ambition was padded out with moralising banality.

The core message was a focus on “the people’s priorities” – health, education, antisocial behaviour, economic recovery and cross-Channel migration. This is an unintentional admission that the Tories have wasted 12 years obsessing about the wrong things, or taking bad decisions that make longstanding problems worse.


NHS waiting times are too long, Rishi Sunak has admitted in a new year’s speech in which he urges hospitals not to cancel elective surgeries despite the severe pressure on A&E departments.

During the Covid pandemic, Sunak said, the NHS drastically reduced scheduled surgeries, and he urged hospitals not to do so again, adding that the government was “open to conversation” with unions on “affordable” suggestions.

Why Sunak's five promises won't be much use in an election - but are better than nothing

Here is a question from below the line that I’ll answer up here because it’s a peg for making more points about Rishi Sunak’s five promises.

@AndrewSparrow are these Sunak pledges possibly a spring snap election manifesto?

The short answer is no, for at least two reasons.

First, Rishi Sunak would be mad to hold a snap election in the spring. The Politico poll of polls currently gives Labour a 22-point lead over the Conservatives. He won’t call an election in those circumstances, and these five promises are not enough to shift the numbers. That because …

Second, these aren’t promises that have been weaponised for an election. To work well as election pledges, promises have to be 1) popular, 2) specific and memorable, and 3) hard for the other side to match.

The five Sunak promises will probably all be popular with voters. If you poll people, they are unlikely to say they are against reducing inflation, growing the economy, cutting NHS waiting lists etc.

But mostly they are not specific or memorable (unlike, say, the five pledges Labour made in 1997, which in some respects were very modest – “we will cut NHS waiting lists by treating an extra 100,000 patients as a first step” – but which were focused). And the first four at least are ones that Labour would happily endorse, so they have zero electoral wedge potential.

The fact that three of the pledges relate to the economy suggest Sunak is still thinking as a chancellor, not a prime minister. And he may be overestimating how grateful people will be for inflation being brought under control. If energy prices stop going up for the next 12 months, energy price inflation will be down to zero. But people will still be paying much higher prices than they used to.

The only promise that does read like a Lynton Crosby election trap for Labour is the final one, on small boats. But Sunak would not say what it actually meant. (See 3.59pm.)

That said, it would be a mistake to think that the promises are pointless. At the weekend Policy Exchange, a Tory thinktank, published a report on what the government should do in 2023. It included an extraordinary poll finding.

When asked what the government has done well on since 2019, over 30% of those who responded said ‘nothing’ – a figure that rises further when other, similar, answers are included. Covid and vaccines; Brexit; Ukraine; and furlough were positive achievements cited by respondents.

The report included the results as a word cloud.

What people say when asked what government has done since 2019
What people say when asked what government has done since 2019 Photograph: Policy Exchange

These promises are a response to that “nothing”. Tory candidates will at least have an answer when they campaign, and get asked what the government is doing, and by the time of the next election they should be able to list five promises made and five delivered (more or less). It won’t be a winning ploy, but it will be start, and an improvement on the status quo. This is how Robert Hutton from the Critic sums it up.

Digested Sunak: it won't be easy, but give me time and I can start to fix the terrible legacy of this awful Tory government.

— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) January 4, 2023

That is all from me for today. My colleague Tom Ambrose is now taking over.


Rishi Sunak only mentioned the word Brexit once in his speech, even though leaving the EU is by far the most consequential thing the government has done since 2019. Sunak voted leave in 2016 but, like many Brexiters, he may be eager to change the subject in the light of polling evidence showing that Brexit is increasingly seen as a mistake.

But he did talk about the potential benefits of Brexit in the Q&A. He was responding to a question about whether the government was really determined to go ahead with setting the end of this year as the deadline for when most retained EU regulations will automatically expire, unless a case-by-case review decides they should be retained. Sunak sidestepped this issue, but he said that it was important for the UK to draft its own regulations. He said:

In my speech I talked about the future economy that we need to build, and it’s an economy that’s built on innovation.

That is the best way for us to raise our growth rate, which is something I know everybody wants to see.

And a big part of that is making sure that we do seize the opportunities of Brexit, and make sure that our regulations are agile, that they support innovation and do so particularly in the growth industries of the future.

And that’s why the chancellor has talked about delivering exactly that, whether it’s in AI, whether it’s in quantum, whether it’s in life sciences or fintech.


Labour is repeatedly trying to depict Rishi Sunak as “weak” and Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, has made that argument in her response to his speech today. She said:

This do-nothing prime minister is too weak to stand up to his party or vested interests. That means that from housing and planning laws to closing tax avoidance loopholes, he can’t take the big decisions to put the country first.

For weeks this speech was hyped up as his big vision – now he’s delivered it, the country is entitled to ask: is that it?

“Is that it?” was also a line used by Chris Mason, the BBC’s political editor, in his question to Rishi Sunak at the Q&A. Mason suggested that was what some people might think that when they heard what Sunak was saying about the NHS, and he asked Sunak to respond to suggestions he should be doing more to improve the situation in hospitals this winter.


Hunt confirms cut to ‘unsustainably expensive’ business energy support

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, has confirmed that he will announce plans to reduce energy support for businesses in the Commons next week, telling industry leaders it was “unsustainably expensive”, my colleague Alex Lawson reports.

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

Richard Tice, the leader of the Reform UK party, 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, my colleague Peter Walker reports.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, says the Rishi Sunak speech shows he is “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to dealing with the NHS crisis. In a statement he says:

People will be dismayed that Rishi Sunak still doesn’t have a proper plan to deal with the crisis raging in the NHS. He is asleep at the wheel while patients are treated in hospital corridors and the health service is stretched to breaking point.

Families up and down the country are facing personal tragedies every day and this Conservative government either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care.

Ministers should have been working to tackle this crisis for months, instead they spent most of 2022 indulging in a Conservative party psychodrama. Now the whole country is paying the price.

Royal College of Nursing says Sunak's speech shows he's 'detached from reality' of what's happening in NHS

Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, says Rishi Sunak’s speech suggests he is “detached from the reality” of what is happening in the NHS. She made the comment in an open letter to Steve Barclay, the health secretary, released to the media. She said:

In the first week of January, many have come to expect performance challenges in the NHS. However, I am compelled to put on record that what is unfolding in England’s health service this week is far from ordinary ‘winter pressures’. Nor can Covid and flu be blamed for the current performance of the NHS.

In his speech this afternoon, the prime minister’s language appeared detached from the reality of what is happening and why. As far as the current NHS situation, it focused on false promise and hollow boasts when practical and urgent measures are required on the part of government.

Cullen said the shortage of healthcare workers was one of the main causes of the problems in the NHS. She said:

The responsibility for equipping publicly funded NHS and social care services so that they can meet the needs of the population lies squarely with the UK government. It is disingenuous to insist that these services are adequately resourced, when the evidence clearly demonstrates that they are at the point of collapse.

She also urged Barclay to reopen talks on the pay award before the next nurses’ strike later this month.

Pat Cullen.
Pat Cullen. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA


Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, says Rishi Sunak’s speech shows why Scotland needs independence. In a statement, he says:

This speech was an opportunity for Rishi Sunak to fix the Broken Britain that Westminster has created - to mend a broken relationship with the EU, to pay public sector workers what they are worth and to protect those who need help the most. He did none of those things.

Instead, the prime minister made five flimsy promises, whilst people in Scotland are paying the price of five Tory prime ministers over the last 13 years. Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and now Sunak have all made plenty of promises – what they have actually delivered is austerity, Brexit and a denial of Scottish democracy.


Sunak says voters will judge small boats promise by whether government is 'straining every sinew'

The Labour analysis (see 3.53pm) suggests the only promise that will be hard to meet is the final one, on small boats. But a lot depends on what the promise actually means.

If what matters is the promise to “pass new laws” to deal with small boats, then that will be easy too. A government with a majority can always pass legislation – even if the legislation that is passed has to get watered down on the way.

But if the promise is about passing legislation “to stop small boats”, then it is hard to see Rishi Sunak keeping it. Previous legislation has failed to stop small boats.

When asked during the Q&A (see 2.44pm) whether he was promising to end all small boats crossings, or just reduce the number, Sunak said that ultimately voters would decide. He implied that what really mattered was whether people concluded he was trying his hardest.

He said:

Ultimately the country will judge … the country will be the judge of whether we as a government are straining every sinew to focus on their priorities and deliver meaningful progress and change on them.

Now, when I made a statement in parliament last month about small boats, I went out of my way to say this is not an easy problem to fix, and it’s not one that we can fix overnight and it requires lots of different things to be changed.


Labour says Sunak's promises mostly 'so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them'

The Labour party says the five Rishi Sunak promises will mostly be easy for him to achieve. In a press notice it says the pledges are “all things that were happening anyway; are so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them; or are aimed at fixing problems of the Tories’ own making”.

Here is the Labour party analysis. It is quite long, but I can’t find it online, so I will post it in full here.

PROMISE ONE: “We will halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security.”

Reality: According to the OBR’s latest forecasts, CPI inflation in the last quarter of this year is already set to fall to 3.8%, nearly two thirds lower than in the last quarter of 2022 (11.1%).

The prime minister’s pledge is therefore likely to be less ambitious than existing official forecasts.

PROMISE TWO:We will grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country.”

Reality: According to the latest OECD forecasts, the UK is one of the only advanced economies to not grow this year – so we could hardly do worse than we were. In contrast, our competitor economies like France, Italy and the US are expected to grow sustainably over this year and next.

The OBR expects unemployment to rise over the next two years, with 500,000 more people out of work in 2024 than last year.

PROMISE THREE:We will make sure our national debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services.”

Reality: Targeting lower public sector net debt is an existing government fiscal target that the OBR already expected it to meet. At the end of the forecast period (2027/28), the OBR still expects debt to be 30% higher as a percentage of GDP than when they came to power.

PROMISE FOUR: “NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.”

Reality: According to the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, waiting lists were already set to fall in the second half of 2023. Treatment numbers tend to increase after the winter and the number of people on waiting lists is predicted to peak in the middle of this year and then fall providing the NHS is able to treat patients at usual volumes

PROMISE FIVE: 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.”

Reality: Successive Tory prime ministers have repeatedly promised to stop the boats. Instead, their new laws have made the problem worse and the boats are at a record high.

The government has failed to negotiate proper returns agreements and their own impact assessments show the Rwanda plan won’t work. They said the Nationality and Borders Act would stop the boats – it didn’t work either. We need real action to stop the criminal gangs at source.


Sunak's five promises - verdict from Twitter commentariat

I have already posted an assessment from Chris Giles of the FT of the three economic promises made by Rishi Sunak in his speech today. (See 3.13pm.) This is what journalists and commentators are saying about the promises as a whole.

The general view is that they are less impressive, and more ambiguous, than Sunak implied.

From Ed Conway, Sky’s economics editor

1. Already @bankofengland’s central forecast. Easy.
2. Does that mean annual GDP growth in 2023? If so, NB most forecasters expect contraction. Tough.
3. V unlikely near term; in a few years maybe. V tough.
4. Again, expected to carry on rising this yr. Tough.
5. Let’s see.

— Ed Conway (@EdConwaySky) January 4, 2023

From the Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire

Sunak’s “no tricks, no ambiguity 5 promises are vague and a con with only one timetable

Halve inflation - this year but still relatively high
Grow the economy - BoE forecast long recession
Reduce debt - not again
Cut waiting lists - when/how much?
Stop the boats - can’t/won’t

— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) January 4, 2023

From Sky’s Beth Rigby

PM five promises
1/ we will halve inflation
2/ we will grow economy
3/ national debt falling
4/ NHS waiting lists will fall
5/ new laws to stop small boats
We will achieve or not > First 3 already predicted to happen

— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) January 4, 2023

Gary Gibbon asks a good Q. Are the promises for this year?
PM: On the five point plan - inflation 2023, economy growing by end of year
Debt falling plans already in place
NHS waiting times - no hard deadline, but staggered targets

— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) January 4, 2023

From my colleague Heather Stewart

GDP fell in Q3 2022. So we could have a fifteen-month-long recession, then scrape 0.1% growth in Q4 this year and Sunak could say his target had been met 🎉

— Heather Stewart (@GuardianHeather) January 4, 2023

From TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn

Sunak's five promises that he's asking to be judged on:
Halve inflation​ (this year), economic growth, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, stop small boats.
1 and 2 largely out of his control, 3 and 4 doable with enough Govt will, 5 is a legal quagmire.
A 'read my lips' moment.

— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) January 4, 2023

And there is the crucial political wiggle room: when pressed, Sunak refuses to give any timescale for each promise apart from inflation. Says he has "deliberately not put a specific month" on them, and even admits "many factors are out of my control". Aha.

— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) January 4, 2023

From Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Rishi Sunak says judge him on 5 pledges : to halve inflation, grow GDP, reduce debt, cut NHS waiting lists and stop the boats. But does he get to decide what he should be judged on? Voters might well judge him and his party on strikes, inequality, competence, chaos, Brexit, etc.

— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) January 4, 2023

From Jon Sopel from the News Agents podcast

Hang on. Rishi Sunak says unambiguous about 5 objectives, but some of these things are so complex, he acknowledges, can’t set a timescale when they’ll be achieved by.
So hold us to account - err - at some undetermined point in the future, over a couple of horizons

— Jon Sopel (@jonsopel) January 4, 2023

From the Daily Mirror’s Dan Bloom

SNAP ANALYSIS: Rishi Sunak's 5 'promises' for what could be his final year - and how it may all go wrong

PM is promising 'no tricks, no ambiguity'. Yet at first glance, his five promises for 2023 sound pretty vague:

— Dan Bloom (@danbloom1) January 4, 2023

From Shaun Lintern, health editor at the Sunday Times

Sunak has pledged to cut waiting lists by sprint next year - this was already a government commitment - so he offers nothing new. Focusing on elective care at a time when A&Es are an absolute bin fire is also an interesting stance.

— Shaun Lintern (@ShaunLintern) January 4, 2023

These are from Chris Giles, economics editor at the Financial Times, on the three economic promises made by Rishi Sunak. Giles says they are “a bit underwhelming”.

Sunak promises action on growth and waiting lists

The 3 econ pledges are to
- halve inflation this year
- grow the economy
- get debt falling by 2024-25


— Chris Giles (@ChrisGiles_) January 4, 2023

Everyone expects inflation to halve this year - even if it is still problematic by the end of the year it'll halve (almost certainly)

Getting growth by end 2024 is a pretty weak commitment (which is my reading of it as written).


— Chris Giles (@ChrisGiles_) January 4, 2023

Having growth over this parliament is harder, but OBR reckons it is more likely than not. So not a stretch target. Also extraordinarily poor compared with other parliaments

Debt falling is also in the OBR forecast for 2024-25 - but this is due to known one-off BoE repayments


— Chris Giles (@ChrisGiles_) January 4, 2023

The government's fiscal mandate is to get underlying public debt as a share of GDP to be falling - this is hard to do by 2024, according to the OBR, and not at all clear from Sunak's words that this is his target to be judged upon

So. All in all a bit underwhelming


— Chris Giles (@ChrisGiles_) January 4, 2023

Rishi Sunak (or, rather, his media team) have put this out on Twitter summing up his five pledges.

As your Prime Minister you need to know what my focus will be, so you can hold me to account directly on whether it is delivered.

These are my five promises 👇

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) January 4, 2023

Q: Why is more legislation necessary to deal with small boats when the government has just passed the Nationality and Borders Act? Is that an admission that did not work?

Sunak says his view is that new legislation is needed. That is what he will introduce in due course, he says.

And that’s it. The Q&A is over.

Q: Will you set up another offshore processing centre like Rwanda for asylum seekers?

(Rwanda is not really a processing centre, because asylum seekers will not have their applications to seek asylum in the UK processed there. They will be sent there and told to apply for asylum in Rwanda.)

Sunak says Rwanda is important, but he won’t say if the government is negotiating a similar agreement with another country.

But he does say he wants to see more returns agreements negotiated with other countries.

Q: Are you really saying there is no more money for the NHS?

Sunak says he is saying various things. The first is thank you. He has seen how hard healthcare staff work. He saw it with his parents.

And the government has found more money for health and social care, he says.

Q: You were part of a government that was supposed to deliver on social care. But there is still no plan to deal with that. So how can people trust you to deliver on this?

Sunak says the government has announced extra billions for social care. It is being prioritised.

He says there is a discharge fund to pay for more social care, so people can be discharged from hospital.

He accepts that the introduction of the cap on social care costs has been delayed. But many people in local government wanted this. The money is still going into social care.


Sunak says the NHS is special to him, and to the public at large. He is grateful for what NHS staff do.

The door is always open for dialogue, he says.

He says he wants two-way conversations with the unions. But they have to be rooted in what is affordable. A 19% pay rise is not affordable, he says.

Q: If you don’t deliver on these promises, will the public be right to send you packing?

Sunak says the public will make their own judgment. He has made five priorities.

But they are only the start of his ambition, not the end of it, he says.

Q: How are you going to resolve the strikes without paying people more?

Sunak says he hugely respects the work done across the board.

The government is keen on dialogue, he says. “The government’s door is always open.”

He says the government will say more in the coming days.

People should always behave reasonably, he says.

But he also says the right to strike must be balanced against the right of people to go about their lives without suffering undue disruption. The government will say more about that shortly, he says.


Q: What do you mean by saying you will stop the boats? Does that mean fewer crossings or no crossings?

Sunak says the country will be the judge of this. When he made a statement in parliament, he said this was not an easy problem to fix.

The deal with France means that 40% more patrols are taking place.

The deal with Albania will make returns there easier.

But he also wants to pass new legislation, he says. It will mean if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay, and you will be detained and returned.

He says this will not happen overnight. But people will see the government working hard on this.


Rishi Sunak urges public to judge him on whether he delivers on five new pledges

Here are those five promises again, in Rishi Sunak’s own words.

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.

Rishi Sunak speaking at Plexal, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in London.
Rishi Sunak speaking at Plexal, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in London. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images


Sunak says only 2 of 5 promises are to be met in 2023

Q: Are these pledges (see 2.08pm) for this year?

Sunak says he expects to half the rate of inflation by the end of this year, on the path to the 2% inflation target.

And he wants the economy to be growing by the end of this year.

So those pledges are for this year.

On NHS waiting times, he says last year two-year waits were almost eliminated. Waits lasting one and a half years should be eliminated by April of this year, and one-year waiting lists by the spring of next year.

He says he has not put precise dates on some of these measures because implementing them will be complicated.

But he expects to be held to account, he says.

UPDATE: Sunak said:

I’ve deliberately not put a specific month on each of them because I don’t think that’s responsible or the right thing to do with goals that are so complicated, where many of the forces that will impact our ability to hit them are out of my control as well.

We’ve seen that over the past year or two. But what I am being very clear about is what I am prioritising, what I am keen to deliver for the country, in terms that I think are easy to understand and unambiguous.

I fully expect the country to hold me and the government to account for how much effort we’re putting in to working on those priorities, which are their priorities.

"Which of these pledges are for this year?"

Rishi Sunak has made new year promises to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce NHS waiting lists and stop small boats - but @GaryGibbonC4 asks the Prime Minister if they're achievable in 2023.

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) January 4, 2023


Q: How does your commitment to family square with blocking Liz Truss’s childcare reforms?

Sunak says he does want to support families and improve childcare. But there is a consultation under way.


Q: You have given a reassuring performance, but in the real world people cannot get a train, or a doctor’s appointment, or an ambulance. Why should people think you are different from your predecessors?

Sunak says people have seen how he delivered during Covid, protecting people’s jobs.

And he has made five promises. There is no ambiguity about that. People will know whether he is delivering them.

Going back to the NHS, he says Covid has clearly had an impact. But that is not an excuse, he says.

Q: Paramedics say you may need to pause operations to get more people who need urgent care into hospital. But wouldn’t that be wrong?

Sunak says they need to do both: get the waiting lists for operations down, and speed up times for people arriving in A&E.

Cutting elective surgery would be a mistake, he says. That happened during Covid, he says, and it meant that a backlog built up.

He says elective surgery hubs are being rolled out across the country. That will help with the reduction of waiting times.

He says more money has been put into the NHS. There is a clear plan to use that, he says.


Sunak is now taking questions.

Q: How soon will things improve in the NHS this winter?

Sunak says this is what people are most worried about.

He has been working on reducing waiting lists a lot since he became PM. That is why this is one of his five promises. He wants to be accountable.

The problem at the moment is with A&E. There are too many people in hospital beds who should be discharged. The government has put £500m into addressing this, he says.

Other steps are being taken too, he says. He says there is a falls strategy, to reduce hospital admissions from falls, and measures to extend telemedicine.

This is an absolute priority for him, he says.

Sunak says when he became PM, he said trust had to be earned, not given.

He hopes he has started to earn that trust, he says.

He says he has offered his five promises with that in mind.

He wants to offer a better future. We will not get there overnight, or in one parliament. But that is where he is heading, he says.

He says he will not offer false hope, but meaningful change.

He says he will only promise what he can deliver, and he will deliver what he promises.


Sunak is now talking about families, and about love. He says this is what creates a strong society. He would not be the person he is without his family, he says.

The love of his wife and children sustain him, he says.

Government should support families, he says. Family hubs will be extended to help parents raise a child.

Family runs through his vision of a better future, he says.

UPDATE: Sunak said:

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.


Sunak says NHS needs reform, and data should be used to give patients more control

Sunak is now talking about the NHS. This is personal, he says. He says his dad was a doctor, and he grew up working in his mother’s pharmacy.

Record sums are going into the NHS, he says.

But healthcare professionals still cannot deliver the care they want. So something has to change.

He says he will always protect the principles of an NHS where treatment is free at the point of use.

But patients need more control, he says. They should have more access to data.

And unwarranted differences in performances between trusts should no longer be acceptable.

He says he would like to see healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, work more flexibly.

Sunak says improving education is the closest thing there is to a silver bullet. It is the best economic policy, the best social policy, and the best moral policy.

Sunak says more social justice is needed. And that requires education.

He uses the passage about how education is personal for him, and the single biggest reason he came into politics.

The UK could rival the best education systems in the world, he says.

He says schools have been given more funding.

The government wants to spread best practice, he says.

It wants to ensure that people keep learning after the age of 18.

And he says he wants to transform the UK’s approach to numeracy.

He is now on the passsage about his plans for maths teaching. See 11.25am.

Numeracy will become a central objective of the education system, he says.

Sunak says strong communities are based on values, and the golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.

But some people ignore this. Antisocial behaviour can make people’s lives miserable.

The government will give the police the tools to crack down on this type of crime, he says.


Sunak says he wants to reinforce people’s pride in their home.

He rejects the idea that some places cannot get better.

Sunak says he loves his local community.

He will deliver on the promise to level up, he says.

But all the regeneration in the world won’t mean anything unless people feel safe.

That is why by this spring the government will have recruited an extra 20,000 police officers.

It wants to reduce violence against women and girls, he says.

Sunak says people who work hard and play by the rules should be rewarded.

So, when it can, the government will reduce the burden of taxation on working people.

And the government will try to get more people off the welfare system and into work, he says.

Sunak says he wants UK economy to be 'most innovative in world'

Sunak says he wants to put innovation at the centre of everything the government does.

Innovation was responsible for around half of the UK’s productivity increase over the past 50 years, he says.

Challenges such as net zero will be solved by innovation, he says.

The more we innovate, the more we grow.

So, to achieve higher growth, the government must make the UK economy “the most innovative in the world”.


Sunak says people must have the courage to change. If they can do that, they will build a better future.

He will set out more details in further speeches.

But he will describe the direction today.

Sunak says change will be hard. It takes time. But it is possible.

He says he has delivered change before. He did this during Covid, when he protected jobs.

And he has seen change happen elsewhere. Some schools in the most deprived areas deliver the best results.

Those schools have an ethos of excellence, he says. That should become the spirit of the nation.

He says he wants to reject the ethos of decline.

They need the vision to do things better, he says.

To change the way the country works, a change of mindset is needed, he says.

And that requires a more innovative approach.

Sunak sets out 5 promises he is making to voters, reflecting 'the people's priorities'

Sunak says he will make five promises today to delive peace of mind.

First, he will half inflation this year, he says.

Second, he will grow the economy.

Third, he will make sure national debt is falling.

Fourth, NHS waiting lists will fall.

Fifth, he will pass new laws to stop small boats, so that people who come to the UK illegally are detained.

He says these are “the people’s priorities”, and his government. There are no tricks. He will either deliver them or not.

UPDATE: 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.


Sunak says government wants 'reasonable dialogue' with workers who have been on strike

Sunak says he wants to address two issues on people’s minds.

First, A&E. He says the government is making more beds available in hospitals.

And the NHS is working urgently on new plans.

Second, on strikes, he says the government values public sector workers.

He wants a “reasonable dialogue” with workers, he says.

And he says within the next few days he will announce an update on the government’s plans.

(That seems to be a reference to the plans for minimum service level legislation.)

Rishi Sunak is speaking now.

He says new year should be a time of optimism. But he know people are looking forward with a sense of apprehension. He will work night and day to change that, he says.

This is what he put on Twitter last night.


Some Tory ministers and MPs have joined journalists in the audience for Rishi Sunak’s speech, Lucy Fisher from Times Radio reports.

In situ awaiting Rishi Sunak’s new year speech in East London setting out his priorities for 2023

A selection of Tory ministers/MPs & guests from biz have joined the media pack

— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) January 4, 2023

Sunak to set out 'ambition for better future for Britain' in wide-ranging speech

Rishi Sunak is due to deliver his speech at around 2pm. It is not his first policy speech as prime minister – he has given a speech on the economy to the CBI, and one on foreign policy at the lord mayor’s banquet, for example – but this is probably the first wide-ranging one.

Downing Street released extracts about education overnight. But, as my colleague Pippa Crerar says in her story, No 10 has signalled that it will cover other topics, like the economy, the NHS and small boats, too, and that it will include further policy announcements.


NEU education union says Sunak's maths pledge not credible because of shortage of teachers

The National Education Union says Rishi Sunak’s plan to require pupils to study some maths up to the age of 18 is not credible because not enough maths teachers are available. Kevin Courtney, the NEU’s joint general secretary, said:

The prime minister’s statement is baffling in its failure to notice the obstacles to his ambitions to extend maths education: schools and colleges lack the teachers to deliver it. His government’s policies for teacher recruitment are not bringing new teachers in sufficient numbers and have missed their target in every one of the last 12 years. The government have also cut their recruitment target for maths teachers by 39% since 2020. Low pay and the pressures of workload are creating a crisis of teacher retention as well. None of the government’s frequent announcements about curriculum change will be credible unless it addresses these basic problems.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have also made the same point. (See 9.19am.) Here is a chart from a Labour briefing showing the number of trainee maths teachers recruited every year in the past decade compared to the target for the number wanted. In every year the target was missed, even though the target was reduced by 27% for 2022-23.

Numbers of trainee maths teachers, compared to DfE target
Numbers of trainee maths teachers, compared to DfE target Photograph: Labour party


Why politicians should be wary of making 'vision' speeches

Downing Street says Rishi Sunak will use his speech this afternoon to give details of his “ambition for a better future for Britain”. As explained earlier (see 9.19am), he (and Keir Starmer) are both seen as figures who are better on dry detail than on uplifting vision (or better with prose than poetry, as Mario Cuomo would put it). Sunak’s speech is being written up in some quarters in advance as an attempt to fill the vision vaccum.

We’ll find out later whether it succeeds in the respect. But if this is the plan, then there are at least three reasons why this might be a problem. Sometimes too much vision can be a bad thing.

1) Political vision can be over-rated. Sunak, like other prime ministers in the past, has been criticised for focusing wholly on day-to-day topics dominating the headlines, and not setting out – or even having – a long-term vision of what he wants to achieve in politics. But when prime ministers do embark on “the vision thing” they get criticised (normally by the same people) for ignoring what matters to voters. Sunak will almost certainly get more questions from the media this afternoon on strikes and the state of the NHS than on education, or maths. Unfortunately in politics you rarely get to choose your own essay questions.

2) Voters don’t always find “political vision” convinicing. In the trail for his speech, Sunak says:

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.

This is no doubt sincere; from the age of 13, he’s had a world-class education. But until recently people following his career would not have realised that education was his passion. He hardly mentioned it in his maiden speech as an MP and, when he stood for the Tory leadership in the summer, although he announced an education plan, it was never a major feature of the campaign. (The plan also did not include requiring pupils to study some maths up to the age of 18.)

3) Politicians who do set out a personal vision often fail to achieve it. David Cameron was passionate about building the “big society”, but it was never entirely clear what this meant and in policy terms very little of this survives. Theresa May said she wanted to tackle the “burning injustices” in society, but her premiership was consumed by Brexit and she achieved almost nothing in this area. Boris Johnson said levelling up was his big cause, but criticis claimed that was little more than a slogan and, although some policy has been implemented under this banner, it has not been transformative. Liz Truss was passionate about cutting taxes. She did get to implement her agenda. But it was so disastrous it was swiftly reversed, and she was forced out of office. You probably have to got back to Tony Blair to find a PM with a good claim to have realised his political vision. He said his priorities were “education, education, education” and schools improved considerably during his premiership. (Gordon Brown was passionate about reducting poverty, and he made real progress in this area too – but primarily as chancellor, not when he was PM.)


Nadine Dorries says it will be 'impossible' for voters to believe Tory promises at next election after repeated U-turns

Nadine Dorries, who as culture secretary under Boris Johnson championed plans for Channel 4 privatisation, has responded to the news that her policy is being abandoned by unleashing a Twitter broadside against No 10. She says the government has now abandoned so many policies that it will be “impossible” for voters to believe the promises it makes at the next election.

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?

— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 4, 2023

A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don’t yet even have to do so.
Where is the mandate- who voted for this?

Will now be almost impossible to face the electorate at a GE and expect voters to believe or trust our manifesto commitments.

— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 4, 2023
Nadine Dorries.
Nadine Dorries. Photograph: James Veysey/Rex/Shutterstock


Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, has issued a statement welcoming the government’s proposal to abandon the privatisation of Channel (without actually putting it in those terms). She says the government should never have floated the plan in the first place, and that it has been a “total distraction” for the broadcaster. She says:

The Conservatives’ vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain, growth in our creative economy, and a complete waste of everyone’s time.

Our broadcasting and creative industries lead the world, yet this government has hamstrung them for the last year with the total distraction of Channel 4 privatisation.

Labour opposed this sell-off, and took a strong stand against it. The government must now bring forward the media bill to protect and promote Britain’s broadcasters in the streaming age. Whilst the Conservatives crash our economy, we have a plan to nurture and grow our world-leading creative industries.


Lewis Goodall from the News Agents podcast says he thinks the government was planning to announce the shelving of Channel 4 privatisation this week.

My understanding is the govt wanted to announce this before the end of the week.

Intriguingly Donelan says she expects the plan “to be popular with a majority of Parliamentarians.” A majority certainly but not all. One of Donelan’s predecessors comes to mind…

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) January 4, 2023

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan wants to scrap plans for Channel 4 privatisation, leaked letter reveals

Lewis Goodall from the News Agents podcast has a good scoop. On Twitter he has published a letter he has seen from Michelle Donelan, the culture secretary, to Downing Street asking for approval to announce plans relating to Channel 4.

Under Boris Johnson the government was planning to privatise Channel 4. But Donelan says she wants to ditch this idea. She says:

After reviewing the business case, I have concluded that pursuing a sale at this point is not the right decision and there are better ways to secure C4C’s [Channel 4 Corporation] sustainability and that of the UK indepedent production sector.

In the letter Donelan says she expects the announcement to be “popular with a majority of parliamentarians”.

She also says she wants to give Channel 4 more commercial flexibility, so that in future it can produce its own content. Currently its programmes are made by independent producers.

In the letter Donelan is asking for approval for what she is proposing from the cabinet’s domestic and economic affairs committee. That means cabinet has not yet signed off on what she is recommending. But the tone of the letter implies she expects cabinet colleagues to agree.

SCOOP: Letter from Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan to Rishi Sunak confirming her recommendation is that Channel 4 privatisation does NOT go ahead. Says there are “better ways to ensure C4’s sustainability.”

Direct opposite of what the Johnson government said.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) January 4, 2023
Michelle Donelan.
Michelle Donelan. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock


Why and how No 10 wants to ensure pupils in England have to keep studying some maths up to 18

In a briefing issued overnight, Downing Street says Rishi Sunak accepts his plan to requires pupils in England to keep learning maths up to the age of 18 won’t be fully implemented before the next election (which has to take place in January 2025 at the latest). Sunak wants to start work on implementing the plan before then, and finish it in the next parliament.

This is what No 10 says about why pupils should study some maths up to the age of 18.

Around 8 million adults in England have the numeracy skills of primary school children. Currently only around half of 16-19-year-olds study any maths at all and the problem is particularly acute for disadvantaged pupils, 60% of whom do not have basic maths skills at age 16.

Despite these poor standards, the UK remains one of the only countries in the world to not to require children to study some form of maths up to the age of 18. This includes the majority of OECD countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Japan, Norway and the USA …

Maths to 18 will equip young people with the quantitative and statistical skills that they will need for the jobs of today and the future. This includes having the right skills to feel confident with finances in later life, including finding the best mortgage deal or savings rate.

And this is what No 10 says about how the curriculum might be changed.

The government’s focus on literacy since 2010, including phonics, has led to significant improvements in standards. In 2012, only 58% of six-year-olds were able to read words fluently. By 2019, the figure had risen to 82%. Our renewed focus on numeracy will aim to match this achievement.

The government does not envisage making maths A-Level compulsory for all 16-year-olds. Further detail will be set out in due course but the government is exploring existing routes, such as the Core Maths qualifications and T-Levels, as well as more innovative options.


Although Liz Truss seems to be unhappy about Rishi Sunak’s childcare plans (see 11.05am), she probably approves of his plan to ensure that pupils have to keep studing some maths until the age of 18. Her father, John Truss, is a maths professor, and, according to a profile published in the summer in the Times, Truss herself rates officials according to their arithmetic skills. The report said:

She is fond of giving civil servants mental arithmetic as interview questions, being unwilling to appoint those who cannot promptly say, for example, what a seventh minus an eighth is.


Truss source says Sunak's plan to ditch her childcare reforms 'economically and politically counterproductive'

Liz Truss seems to have made her first intervention in UK politics since she was forced to resign as PM. A “source close” to her has giving a briefing to the Times criticising Rishi Sunak for junking her plans to relax childcare regulations.

As reported here yesterday, Downing Street has failed to deny a report saying that Rishi Sunak is shelving the plans championed by Truss when she was PM for a radical overhaul of childcare.

Truss has been interested in this topic for at least a decade. She comes from the wing of the Conservative party that believes cutting regulation is the solution to most problems, and as a junior education minister in 2013 she gave a speech saying mandatory staff-child ratios for nurseries should be relaxed to cut the price of childcare for parents. Until she became PM, she had little success in persuading ministerial colleagues to support the idea, but when she was in Downing Street she was all set to press ahead with this as part of her growth agenda.

In a story for the Times, published after the No 10 briefing, George Grylls and Henry Zeffman say:

Truss herself is understood to disapprove of the prime minister’s reluctance to embrace significant reform.

A source close to Truss told The Times: “Excessive bureaucracy is making childcare in England increasingly unaffordable for many parents. The system needs to be reformed in order to boost growth and opportunity. Junking Liz’s plans for this critical policy area seems economically and politically counterproductive.”

In Westminster lobby journalism, ‘a source close to X’ is sometimes used to describe someone who knows X and is sounding off about what they think without their approval. But using the phrase this loosely is generally frowned upon by fellow journalists (it causes too much confusion) and the term normally means someone authorised to speak on behalf of X (a spin doctor, speaking on background), or X themselves.

The Times story starts “Liz Truss has warned Rishi Sunak not to scrap her childcare reforms”, and so it is safe to assume the “source close to” is fairly authoritative.

The problem for Truss is that there is a reason why for the last 10 years the government has avoided relaxing staff-child ratios in the manner she favours. On the Today programme this morning Robin Walker, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons education committee, said that while he was in favour of childcare reform, changing ratios was “the one reform to childcare that parents are almost universally against”. He went on:

I don’t think it was the right way of pursuing this. I think we have to look at other mechanisms to better support the sector, better support parents with the cost of childcare.

Justine Roberts, head of the Mumsnet website, told the same programme that on Mumset “no one … agreed with [Truss’s] ratio reform as the answer”.


Sunak says people feel 'lot of apprehension' about 2023 and he's working to change that

In a tweet last night ahead of his speech this afternoon, Rishi Sunak said that people were feeling “a lot of apprehension” about 2023 and that he was working to change this.

New Year is a time for optimism, but I know there’s also a lot of apprehension.

I am working night and day to change that, and quickly.

In a speech tomorrow I will set out my priorities for the year ahead.

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) January 3, 2023


Rosena Allin-Khan refuses to fully back Streeting over scale of NHS reform needed and case for using private sector

Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow mental health minister, was doing the morning media round for Labour today. With A&E waiting times still at crisis levels, and the issue still getting considerable media coverage (see below – the Guardian’s main overnight health story is here), this was an opportunity for a ‘free hit’ for Labour.

Wednesday's Guardian: Doctors condemn 'delusional' PM after he denies crisis in the NHS #TomorrowsPapersToday #TheGuardian #Guardian

— Tomorrows Papers Today (@TmorrowsPapers) January 3, 2023

Wednesday's Mirror: They broke our NHS #TomorrowsPapersToday #DailyMirror #Mirror

— Tomorrows Papers Today (@TmorrowsPapers) January 3, 2023

As a doctor who still does occasional shifts at her local hospital, Allin-Khan is particularly well qualified to hammer the government on this topic. And she duly delivered, criticising the current state of the NHS and highlighting Labour’s plan to recruite more healthcare staff. She told Sky News:

What I’m seeing is what my colleagues are echoing around the country, is that they feel, unfortunately, that this is the worst they have ever seen the NHS for patients and for staff …

We have had 12 years of political choices that have resulted in us already having an under-resourced NHS with no slack in the system.

Now we have a situation where people are having intimate examinations in cupboards, patients are waiting up to 99 hours in an ambulance in an A&E bay, unable to get a bed inside a hospital.

We’re having children sleeping on plastic chairs, patients lying on the floors, being examined on floors with sheets held up by nurses.

But when Allin-Khan was interviewed on the Today programme by Martha Kearney, she was asked if she agreed with Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary (and her boss), when he gave a speech to a Tory thinktank recently saying the NHS needed reform. Asked if she agreed with Streeting, Allin-Khan dodged the question and just delivered a spiel about the Labour plan announced at party conference. When Kearney tried again, and asked if she agreed with Streeting when he said he did not know why the BMA was so hostile to reform, Allin-Khan again avoided the question, and just said conditions in the NHS were the worst she had seen in her medical career.

Kearney tried a third time, saying she was finding it hard to understand why Allin-Khan would not say she agreed with her boss. Did Allin-Khan support Streeting’s call for reform? Allin-Khan said Labour had a plan to tackle the workforce issue (the one announced at party conference) and she said that was “what I stand by”.

Streeting has said he would like to see more use of the private sector to bring down waiting times. Kearney asked if Allin-Khan was in favour of that. And she implied that she wasn’t. After dodging the question completely the first time Kearney raised it, when she was pressed on this a second time, Allin-Khan replied:

I can tell you in my own brief, in mental health, we have use of the private sector which ultimately often lets patients down. This is about putting patient care first. Labour have a plan to grow the workforce.

A charitable interpretation of all this would be that Allin-Khan was just determined not to be sidetracked from delivering Labour’s key message. But it would not have been hard for her to say something supportive of Streeting, and it sounded like she was keen to distance herself from his Policy Exchange stance. She came second in Labour’s deputy leadership election in 2020 and still has her own ambitions and agenda.

Do you support Labour's Wes Streeting's call for NHS reform? @MarthaKearney asks Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow health minister and emergency doctor

"What we have is a plan to tackle the workforce issue which is what I stand by," she replies. | #R4Today

— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) January 4, 2023
Rosena Allin-Khan.
Rosena Allin-Khan. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA


Coordinated strikes ‘make absolute sense’, says TUC leader

Paul Nowak, the new general secretary of the TUC, has raised the prospect of stepping up industrial action this year, saying coordinated strikes “make absolute sense”. My colleague Aletha Adu has the story here.

Rishi Sunak’s plan to teach maths up to 18 dismissed by opposition parties as ‘empty pledge’ and ‘admission of failure'

Good morning. Parliament is not sitting this week but over the next 36 hours the prime minister, and the person most likely to be prime minister after the next election, will both be making major speeches about their vision for Britain in 2023. It should provide a great “compare and contrast” opportunity for the political commentariat – although what the public at large will make of it all is, of course, another matter.

Rishi Sunak is speaking today, and according to the overnight preview from Downing Street, he will set out his “priorities for the year ahead and ambition for a better future”. Keir Starmer is speaking tomorrow and, according to a note sent out by Labour yesterday, he will “outline how his Labour government will ‘create change, and fuel hope’, by moving away from the sticking plaster, short-term mindset of the current government, and tackling the long-term challenge our country faces”.

Sunak and Starmer are both criticised as managerial politicians who are short on passion and vision, and it seems that Sunak at least will seek to counter this charge when he speaks this afternoon. So far most of his time as PM has been focused on headline problems, like small boat Channel crossings, which don’t seem to engage him a great deal personally. But, as Pippa Crerar reports in her preview, today he will say that education is “the single most important reason why I came into politics” and outline plans to ensure all pupils study maths in some form up to the age of 18.

Responding to the extracts from the speech released overnight, Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesperson, said this was “an admission of failure”. She said:

This is an admission of failure from the prime minister on behalf of a Conservative government that has neglected our children’s education so badly. Too many children are being left behind when it comes to maths, and that happens well before they reach 16.

The prime minister’s words mean nothing without the extra funding and staff to make it happen. You don’t need a maths A-Level to know it takes more teachers to teach maths to age 18 than to 16. But schools are already struggling with a shortage of maths teachers, and the Conservatives have no plan to turn that around.

And Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said this was just an “empty pledge” without the promise of more funding. She said:

The prime minister needs to show his working: he cannot deliver this reheated, empty pledge without more maths teachers, yet the government has missed their target for new maths teachers year after year, with existing teachers leaving in their droves.

Now, maths attainment gaps are widening yet Rishi Sunak as chancellor said the country had ‘maxed out’ on Covid recovery support for our children.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11am: Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, holds a press conference on “the challenges faced by the nation after 12 years of Tory failure”.

Lunchtime: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, meets business groups to discuss his plans for how the energy support scheme for businesses will be scaled back from April.

2pm: Rishi Sunak delivers his speech setting out his priorities for the year.

I’ll try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at



Tom Ambrose (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

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Former prime minister says ‘best way forward’ is for Sunak to continue with bill drafted last year

Andrew Sparrow

23, Feb, 2023 @6:28 PM

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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss compete for Tory members’ support in Cheltenham leadership hustings – as it happened
The two candidates are bidding for support from Conservative party members ahead of the final vote for the next PM

Nadeem Badshah (now); Tobi Thomas and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

11, Aug, 2022 @8:36 PM

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Tories have ‘completely lost control’ of UK migration numbers, says Starmer – as it happened
Labour leader’s comments follow reports that net immigration for 2022 could almost reach one million

Andrew Sparrow

12, May, 2023 @4:11 PM

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SNP MP faces inquiry for exposing how Nadine Dorries avoided punishment for misleading MPs – UK politics as it happened
MPs vote for John Nicolson to face privileges investigation amid Commons anger over releasing Dorries-related exchange with Speaker

Andrew Sparrow

29, Nov, 2022 @6:02 PM