Rishi Sunak finally emerged from hiding yesterday to unveil five promises to fix Britain – but only two pledges are for this year.
In his first major speech of 2023, the recently absent Prime Minister vowed to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt.
And after the Daily Star revealed yesterday voters’ anger over his silence over the crumbling NHS and wave of strikes, he declared NHS waiting lists “will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly”.
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The PM also pledged new laws to stop migrants crossing the Channel in small boats and said there will be 20,000 new cops on the streets by the spring.
But he later admitted that only two of the pledges could happen in 2023 – halving inflation and kickstarting the economy.
And the speech was slaughtered by critics for offering nothing but promises instead of immediate action.
Rishi told the nation: “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.”
The PM added during the speech in east London: “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.
“We will rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all.”
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He also admitted patients are not getting the “care they deserve” and that NHS waiting times are “too high”.
But his comments were slammed by experts.
Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “The PM’s speech continues to woefully under-represent the appalling and insufferable conditions currently being experienced by NHS patients and staff.”
Chris Thomas, from the IPPR think-tank, fumed “there was nothing in his speech to suggest he’s grasped the full gravity of the NHS’s steady collapse.”
He added: “Put simply, the NHS is no longer a universal healthcare service for many in this country.”
Royal College of Nursing General Secretary Pat Cullen added: “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.”
And Michael Kill, of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “We cannot continue to wait for the Government and Prime Minister to deliver empty words, misguided promises of future prosperity when it’s clear that so many people are suffering today.”
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Meanwhile, the Unison union said ministers must be allowed to discuss healthcare workers’ pay.
Helga Pile, from Unison, said: “If the Prime Minister is serious about change and doing things differently, he should apply this to his government’s approach to the healthcare crisis.
“That means giving his ministers the green light to start talking to unions about improving pay.”
And 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.”
The PM has been urged to recall Parliament “immediately” so MPs can discuss the “NHS crisis”, rather than wait till Monday when they are due to return.
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The Doctors’ Association UK group said: “We are desperately in need of meaningful action from our leaders and this cannot wait.”
Meanwhile, more Covid-style measures could return if the government fears the NHS is on the brink of collapse, sources claim.
Although ministers are ruling out national lockdowns or school closures, wearing masks on public transport and working from home could be introduced.
A government insider said “softer, less intrusive measures could soon be introduced if the NHS is at risk of collapse”.
The source added: “Nothing is likely to be mandated or be legally enforceable.”
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