Rishi Sunak has admitted he understands Conservative voters’ frustration but warned them not to fall for Keir Starmer’s “con”.
The Prime Minister vowed to fix the social care system, slash NHS waiting lists, continue to ease the cost of living crisis and get the first flights to Rwanda off the ground.
He admitted families have been frustrated by soaring energy bills, climbing mortgage rates and growing difficulties in getting a GP appointment.
Mr Sunak said: “All of those things are real things that will cause you and everyone else an enormous amount of frustration, and I can completely understand that.”
And in an impassioned plea, the Prime Minister told disillusioned Conservatives “we want the same things for our country.
“We share the same values, whether that’s on controlling spending, cutting your taxes to ease the cost of living, making sure that we have strong borders and we tackle illegal migration, right?
“These are things that we have in common. These are all things that we want.
“And what I’d say to you and everyone else is the next election is a straightforward choice.
“A vote for anyone who is not a Conservative candidate is simply a vote to put Kier Starmer into Number 10.
“So the question for you and everyone else who clapped, I completely appreciate your frustration, is who do you want to see in government after the next election? Who do you think is more likely to deliver on the things that you care about?”
The Conservatives are trailing Labour by around 20 points in the latest opinion polls.
But Mr Sunak said the controversy over Labour’s candidate in the Rochdale by-election – Azhar Ali – and Sir Keir’s u-turn over spending £28billion on green policies shows the party “has not changed”.
Speaking to GB News People’s Forum: “Kier Starmer has been running around for the last year trying to tell everybody that the Labour Party has changed. Well look what just happened in Rochdale, a candidate saying the most vile conspiracy theories – anti-Semitic.
“So no, the Labour Party hasn’t changed. It’s not changed. It’s a con.
“And that’s what you have to remember: a vote for anyone who’s not me who’s not your Conservative candidate is a vote to put him, with his values and his party in power.
“You saw it last week what that would mean for the economy. He can’t tell you how he’s going to pay for a £28 billion decarbonisation policy which means higher taxes for you and everyone else.
“He’s doing everything he can right now to frustrate the passage of the Rwanda Bill in the House of Lords. Do you want any of that?
“I’m going to keep delivering for you; you and I want the same things. And that’s how we’re going to get them because I’m going to win the next election.”
Successive Governments have promised to fix the social care system, with many experts believing it is key to easing NHS waiting lists.
And Mr Sunak admitted he did not have an “overnight fix” to one of the principal concerns of many Conservative voters.
But he vowed to continue improving the efficiency of partnerships between local authorities and hospital trusts to bring about improvements.
He added: “I believe, in a country where you work hard all your life, you should have dignity in retirement.
“And social care is part of that contract we have with our grandparents and those who have come before so it’s important that we get it right. I can’t promise you it’s going to be fixed overnight, but I can tell you we’ve just put a lot of extra cash in to help councils with some of that pressure going into next year.”
The Prime Minister also told voters that NHS waiting lists began to fall when “we had absolutely no strikes” in hospitals.
Strikes by nurses and some other health workers ended last summer, following a pay deal with the government.
However, a dispute with junior doctors and consultants is ongoing, with walkouts continuing.
As of November 2023, the overall number of waits for non-emergency care in England stood at around 7.6 million.
While there was a slight decrease on the number of waits compared with the previous month, that figure is roughly 400,000 higher than at the start of 2023.
But the Prime Minister insisted: “The good news is though, we saw that it started to fall, because we didn’t have strikes for a period at the end of last year.
“And that has been a real challenge and I’ll just be honest with you about that. In November, 1 month, we had absolutely no strikes in the NHS.
“Do you know what? The waiting list fell by 100,000 – the biggest one month fall in the waiting list than well over a decade outside of COVID.
“So that gives me the confidence that our plans can work and will work the way we need to work for it. And we’re gonna continue to have those conversations with the doctors and I’m sure we can talk about that later.
“But if we stick to the plan, I’m confident we can bring it down. We’ve got a sense that that was possible at the end of last year without strikes.
“And because of all those things that I’ve told you about. I know that it will just get better over time if we can get this right behind us.”
Mr Sunak also vowed to end the Channel migrant crisis amid the “pressure” it is putting on public services.
He said: “Many of you would have seen your local hotel, like mine, and like many others, taken over to house illegal migrants. It’s costing all of you and everyone watching something like £7 million – £8 million a day. And that’s not something that is sustainable.
“The plans we put in place are working. We’re making progress. Illegal migration is a good example of that. Last year, for the first time since the small boats thing became a phenomenon, the numbers were down. They were down by over a third.
“Meanwhile, in the rest of Europe, they were up by quite a lot.
“That didn’t happen by accident, it happened because we worked really hard on lots of different things to start getting the numbers down.
“You may have heard about the new deal with Albania, which means that when people illegally migrate from Albania to here, because of the deal that they struck with Albania, we’re able to return them.
“We returned something like 5000 last year. What do you know? They stopped coming; numbers were down by 90%.”
On Rwanda, he added: “The plan is working but in order to fully solve this problem, we need a deterrent. We need to be able to say pretty simply and unequivocally that if you come to our country illegally, you won’t get to stay.
“We want to be able to remove you; either to your home country if it’s safe, like we’ve done with Albania. And for everyone else, we need an alternative and that’s what Rwanda is about.
“So yes, we’ve made progress but in order to fully solve this problem, we need a deterrent. That’s what Rwanda is all about and that is why I’m absolutely committed to getting this bill through Parliament and getting this scheme up and running.
“And without that we won’t be able to fully solve this problem.”