PM Sunak makes election appeal for Britain to ‘stick with’ his plan

By Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged voters and his own party on Sunday to “stick to the plan” for “long-term change” at an election he has signalled will most probably come in the second half of this year.

After firing the starting gun on election campaigning last week by saying it was his “working assumption” the vote’s timing would be later this year, Sunak listed what he described as the progress he had overseen since taking office in late 2022.

With his governing Conservatives heavily trailing the opposition Labour Party in the polls, Sunak is hoping to turn the tide by giving more time to his agenda including cutting taxes, health service waiting lists and the number of migrant arrivals — issues he said he had started to tackle.

“Of course there’s more to do, but progress is being made. The country is now pointing in the right direction,” he told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.

“And if we stick to the plan and we can continue to deliver that long-term change the country needs … that’s ultimately how we’ll provide everybody with the peace of mind that the future is going to be better for their children … That’s what I’m setting out to deliver.”

He has a lot of work to do.

Sunak has so far struggled to make progress on his main pledges and heads a deeply fractious party, with some lawmakers threatening to oust him unless he cuts more taxes. He has hit one target of halving inflation by the end of 2023 – a goal economists say that has little to do with government policy.

On Sunday, he expressed confidence he could get his much-criticised plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda through parliament and said he wanted to deliver further tax cuts by controlling spending, particularly welfare benefits, describing the number of people deemed unfit to work as “concerning”.

But Labour has accused Sunak of “squatting” in his Number 10 office and party leader Keir Starmer told Sky News he wanted the election “to be as soon as possible” but that he feared Sunak just wanted to reach the two-year mark for his premiership.

“I can’t help feeling that all he really wants to do is to get two years clocked up of his own premiership and that means is putting vanity before country,” Starmer said.

“And so my challenge to him would be if you’ve got a plan, set the date. If you haven’t got a plan, just get on with it as quickly as possible.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Susan Fenton)