Rishi Sunak clashes with Laura Kuenssberg over inflation
Rishi Sunak has not been short of advice this week on what he needs to do to save his party from oblivion.
The conference in Manchester has been dominated by his predecessor Liz Truss and ex-cabinet ministers like Dame Priti Patel and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg making demands.
In January, as the Prime Minister started the long fight back he made five pledges on cutting inflation, NHS waiting lists and debt, growing the economy and stopping the small boats.
At the time they were seen as not very ambitious even though he has struggled to achieve them.
But now, with the right of his party on the move, there is a push among members for “the Conservative Party to be conservative again”.
After rolling back on expensive net zero green policies, Mr Sunak has learnt that tacking to the right wins support across the country. But has he learnt the lesson?
Here are five pledges most of his part would like to hear today, but almost certainly won’t.
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1. Cut taxes
The number of fringe events where various leading figures in the Conservative Party demanded tax cuts was hard to count because there were so many.
The highest profile though was Liz Truss’s Rally for Growth where she issued her clarion call to “axe the tax”.
Conservative activists have been asking for months what is the point of belonging to the party if it is going to increase taxes when its core value is to reduce them.
At the last count, 33 Tory MPs signed a pledge to vote against any more tax rises.
But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said that tax cuts will not happen.
Tory members today would dearly love him to be contradicted by the Prime Minister.
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2. Leave the ECHR
Not far behind tax cuts in popularity is leaving the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the jurisdiction of its foreign court in Strasbourg.
The consensus among the right of the Conservative Party led by Home Secretary Suella Braverman and the vast majority of the membership is that this is the only way to stop the small boats with illegal migrants and start deportations to Rwanda.
However, the left-leaning Conservative MPs are strongly against the measure.
Mr Sunak has pledged to stop the boats and do what is necessary.
If he is serious about that then a commitment to leave the ECHR or explore the option will be in his speech.
3. Get fracking
Apart from tax cuts, Liz Truss had another big demand – start fracking.
The extremist climate change lobby has been campaigning hard against fracking – drilling for gas in the UK – and Mr Sunak cancelled Ms Truss’s decision to allow it.
However, the former Prime Minister points out that if the UK did fracking it would halve energy bills and allow the UK to sell gas abroad.
In a cost-of-living crisis and a world where Russia’s aggression has made energy supply highly insecure, this should be a no-brainer.
But is the Prime Minister really going to admit he is wrong? Probably not.
4. Promise to scrap the BBC licence fee
There was barely a fringe meeting where a speaker did not have a go at the “leftwing”, “biased” BBC.
The national broadcaster is now widely hated by the Conservative Party and many would not mind seeing it split up and sold off.
But what they would like to hear is that the licence fee – a tax on Britons everywhere – is going to be cancelled.
After all, why should Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker and other woke lefties be paid huge sums of money on the back of a flat tax?
Again, the left of Mr Sunak’s party among the MPs will resist, so he is unlikely to risk their wrath.
5. Stop spending public money on woke causes
On the subject of spending cash on woke causes, a consistent message in the party conference among MPs and members was to end the funding of woke indoctrination on identity, LGBTQ+ and other issues in the civil service and public realm.
Tory London Assembly member Andrew Boff may have got vexed with Suella Braverman over her words on trans issues, but the vast majority of Conservatives disagree with him and support the Home Secretary.
Instead, they have many questions on this issue:
- Why are schools paying for sexualised trans-drag artists to come into schools?
- Why is the cash-strapped NHS opening a whole new department on diversity?
- Why are there diversity officers on six and seven-figure salaries everywhere to be found?
- Why do MPs and civil servants have to take unconscious bias training and various other woke causes?
All at the taxpayers’ expense.
Much of this “woke creep” has happened on the Tories’ watch in government since 2010, as Priti Patel noted.
If Sunak wants to reduce spending this would be near the top of the list of announcements Tories would dearly love to hear today.
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