Rishi Sunak is Prime Minister, and is MP for Richmond (Yorks).
I have started this year by setting out my five priorities. Five promises from our party to the country to explain what this Conservative government will deliver. Five foundations on which together we can build a better future.
As Conservatives we know that the most fundamental of all foundations for a better future, for growth and for opportunity is sound money and a stable economy. The public has always trusted us with that task, but that trust is earnt not given. As it was for Margaret Thatcher when she became Prime Minister, my prime economic objective is to defeat inflation and so my first promise is to halve inflation this year. We must all remember her dictum, ‘No policy which puts at risk the defeat of inflation – however great its short -term attraction – can be right.
We also need to reduce our country’s debt. As a Conservative and as a father, I care about what we leave behind for our children. At the moment debt is too high and there is nothing Conservative about writing cheques for our children and children’s children to pick up after we are gone.
But this isn’t just about sound housekeeping, we must grow the economy too. We want better jobs across our Union. We must seize the opportunity of Brexit to create an agile, pro-innovation regulatory system that will help drive growth and ensure that this country grabs with both hands the opportunities that the coming years will offer. We must get people back to work. It is to me as a Conservative unconscionable that at a time when businesses are crying out for workers, a quarter of our labour force is inactive.
Good, well-paid jobs don’t just give people financial stability, they provide purpose. I believe that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be rewarded, which is why, as soon as we can, the government will reduce the burden of taxation on working people.
Beyond the economy, we need to focus on two things. Post-Covid, we have a job to do to improve the provision of healthcare in this country. At a time when we’re putting record sums into the NHS, it is still facing significant pressures. Healthcare workers are not able to provide the care they strive to give and patients are not getting the care they deserve. We need to recognise that something has to change and that means empowering patients. We need to take new and innovative approaches, with better use of technology, transparency of data and streamlining of processes such as hospital discharges to cut waiting lists.
We also need to deal with illegal migration: we must show that we have taken back control of our borders. It is unfair that people come here illegally. It is unfair on those with a genuine case for asylum, when our capacity to help is taken up by people coming through, and from, countries that are perfectly safe. It is unfair on those who come here legally when others come here by cheating the system. And above all, it is unfair on the British people.
We must stop the boats. It is a moral imperative and we are going to introduce new laws to Parliament very soon, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you can never settle here.
So we will halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats. I know that voters will, rightly, judge me and our party by the results we achieve.
Another issue we must deal with is strikes. Today, ministers from across government will be meeting with the unions to set out how we can resolve these disputes in a responsible and reasonable way.
I accept the freedom of individuals to strike, but this must be balanced with the rights of everyone else to safely go about their lives. That’s why we introduced new laws – in common with countries such as France, Italy and Spain – to ensure we have minimum levels of safety in critical areas like our ambulance and fire services.
Peaceful protest is a fine British, democratic tradition. But that must be balanced with the rights of everyone else to go about their lives freely. We have been looking at how we can strengthen our laws to provide the police with the clarity they need to stop serious disruption and will come forward with those plans in the coming weeks. We cannot and will not have protests conducted by a small minority disrupting the lives of the hard working majority, preventing a mother taking their kids to school or cancer patients attending their hospital appointments. It’s not right and we’re going to put a stop to it.
But fixing these problems are not the limit of my ambition – they are the foundation. I want to build a better future for this great country of ours. That means delivering a more innovative economy, stronger communities and safer streets, an NHS built around the patient and world class education. Together we can change this country for the better.
In education, we have already made great strides since 2010. But there is more to do. I want to give every child the highest possible standard of education. It’s the single most important reason why I came into politics.
One of the biggest changes we face is to reimagine our approach to numeracy. Predictably some have tried to characterise this as just “double maths” – but that is exactly the mindset we need to change. No-one would take such a dismissive view of improving literacy, though it is perhaps unsurprising coming from those in politics who struggle to make their economic policies add up.
Then there is the thing that is most important to all of us: family. The stability, love and support that family provides is something that we as a Conservative family recognise and cherish. My own family has been an invaluable source of strength for me over the years, whether that’s the guidance my parents have given me and the examples they have set, or the love and support my wife and daughters give me every day. It’s family that cares for us when we are sick or old; family that teaches us values, that guides us on what is right and wrong. Families of every form will be at the heart of my vision.
I don’t underestimate the scale of the challenges we face. But our party has steered this country through tough times before. Our values show us the way. So, let us come together and show this country in 2023 that it is Conservatives who deliver at every level of government.