Rishi Sunak vows to fix ‘broken’ Britain as compares himself to Thatcher after being introduced for critical pre-election Tory conference speech by wife Akshata – who pays impassioned tribute to ‘best friend’
- Rishi Sunak is delivering his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today
Rishi Sunak vowed to ‘fundamentally change our country’ and fix ‘broken’ politics today as he was introduced by wife Akshata for his crucial first Tory conference speech.
The PM put community at the heart of his appeal to voters, saying the Conservatives are the party of the ‘pharmacist’s son and grocer’s daughter’ drawing a parallel between his own background and that of Margaret Thatcher.
Mr Sunak is rallying the party faithful as he wraps up what is likely to be the final Conservative gathering before the country chooses a new government.
Joking that the PM had no idea what she was intending to say, Mrs Murty said her husband of 14 years was her ‘best friend’ and he was summed up by the word ‘aspiration’.
She insisted it was the ‘greatest honour’ for him to be in charge of the country, and gave an impassioned endorsement of his character.
‘He is fun, he is thoughtful, he is compassionate and he has an incredible zest for life,’ she said.
Following her on to the stage, a clearly touched Mr Sunak said: ‘Thank you for always being there for me… Literally the best long-term decision for a brighter future I ever made.’
However, turning to politics Mr Sunak swiped at his critics, saying there will ‘always be people who disagree’ – as he is poised to axe HS2’s Manchester leg, instead pumping billions into other northern transport projects, and delay tax cuts.
The importance of making an impact today was underscored with another poll showing the Tory bounce after he watered down Net Zero commitments has reversed.
Mr Sunak was introduced by a video showing how he was ‘changing the status quo’ – including footage of him announcing the Covid furlough scheme as Chancellor and agreeing the Windsor Framework with the EU.
In other developments at the Tory conference:
- Mr Sunak could announce an incremental ban on cigarettes, with the age limit increasing over time;
- Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt gave a grim vision of the consequences of Tory defeat at the next election, with Labour ceding control to militant unions;
- Nigel Farage has hinted he could make a return to the Tories if they become a ‘real’ right-wing party;
- A Savanta poll has found that the Tory recovery after Mr Sunak’s Net Zero shift has gone into reverse with Labour 19 points ahead.
The PM is rallying the party faithful as he wraps up what is likely to be the final Conservative gathering before the country chooses a new government
Rishi Sunak was introduced by wife Akshata for his first Tory conference speech as he appeals for time to fix ‘broken’ Britain
Rishi Sunak headed for Tory conference hand in hand with wife Akshata today as he braced for his big speech
Forein Secretary James Cleverly and Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrive to hear the PM’s speech
Activists started queuing early to get seats for Mr Sunak’s big speech
The importance of Mr Sunak making an impact today was underscored with another poll showing the Tory bounce after he watered down Net Zero commitments has reversed
Mr Sunak will use the most important speech of his premiership to paint himself as an agent of change who is willing to make tough decisions in the country’s long-term interests.
He will acknowledge that Westminster politics is ‘broken’ and declare a mission to ‘fundamentally change our country’.
And he will accuse Sir Keir Starmer of a cynical attempt to win the election by default.
The run-up to today’s speech has been overshadowed by a furious row over the future of the troubled HS2 rail line.
Rishi Sunak’s Tory conference speech – key points
Rishi Sunak took to the stage in Manchester for his first conference speech since becoming leader last year.
He was introduced by his wife Akshata Murty who said he was driven by ‘aspiration’ – and loves ‘a good romcom – the cheesier the better’.
In his speech he said:
- The Tories will always be the party of small business as he hailed his parents role in shaping him
- Labour could not be trusted with the UK’s security
Mr Sunak will convene an emergency meeting of the Cabinet this morning to rubber stamp proposals that will scrap the northern leg from Birmingham to Manchester – amid Tory dismay that bungled handling has allowed the row to run for weeks and dominate conference.
The PM yesterday said the bill for the project – now estimated at more than £100billion – was ‘far beyond what anyone thought’ when it began.
Today he will unveil detailed plans to plough the billions of pounds saved into improving transport infrastructure in the North and Midlands.
This will include a renewed commitment to the Northern Powerhouse Rail project which aims to revolutionise east-west services stretching from Hull to Liverpool via Leeds and Manchester.
The plan for an HS2 station at Euston also appears to have been saved, following a rearguard action by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Shapps all-but confirmed the move this morning, stressing that HS2 trains will still run and ‘tens of billions’ will be freed up for other investment.
The proposal to axe the northern leg of HS2 has triggered a massive backlash from business, Labour and senior Tories, including Boris Johnson and West Midlands mayor Andy Street.
Mr Sunak will argue that HS2 is the product of a failed consensus – and insist that ‘levelling up’ projects in the North will be delivered more quickly and effectively without it.
Internal Tory tensions have flared up in the wake of Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s dramatic speech yesterday, when she delivered a grim vision of the threat to Britain’s borders.
Ms Braverman said a ‘wind of change’ had brought her own parents from Kenya to the UK, but cautioned that a ‘hurricane is coming’ – painting a dire picture of the country being concreted over in a futile effort to accommodate millions of arrivals.
Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch – seen as a potential rival to be the next Conservative leader – warned the politicians have to be ‘careful’ about words.
Asked about comparisons which have been made to Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech, Mr Shapps said: ‘So many people are from immigrant backgrounds in this country. I think I’m third generation myself… Suella’s first generation, her parents came over in the 60s. So this is certainly no Enoch Powell situation, is it, to make the very obvious point.’
In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, the PM will say that Britain has suffered from a failed political consensus since Margaret Thatcher left Downing Street 30 years ago.
He will complain that the system has been ‘too focused on short-term advantage, not long-term success’, and politicians who spend ‘more time campaigning for change than actually delivering it.’
‘There is the undeniable sense that politics just doesn’t work the way it should,’ he will say.
‘A feeling that Westminster is a broken system – and the same goes for Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont. It isn’t anger, it is an exhaustion with politics. In particular, politicians saying things, and then nothing ever changing.
‘And you know what: people are right. Politics doesn’t work the way it should. We’ve had 30 years of a political system which incentivises the easy decision, not the right one. Thirty years of vested interests standing in the way of change.’
The PM will also hit out at Sir Keir’s effort to protect his poll lead by refusing to set out what Labour would do in government.
‘The Labour Party have set out their stall: to do and say as little as possible and hope no one notices,’ he will say.
‘They want to take people’s votes for granted and keep doing politics the same old way.
‘It is a bet on people’s apathy. It is about power for the sake of power. It is, in short, everything that is wrong with our politics.’
HS2’s original £30billion budget has ballooned to £71billion and insiders believe it is on course to top £100billion following the latest bout of inflation, despite a 2021 decision to scrap the eastern leg to Leeds.
Ministers believe that truncating the project further could save £35billion and release cash for other projects.
Writing in the Daily Mail last week, Boris Johnson spoke of his ‘suppressed fury’ at his successor’s decision to throw the future of the flagship project into doubt.
He said terminating the line at Birmingham would be a ‘betrayal of the North’.
The new plans included building infrastructure for NPR, also known as HS3, which is set to run east-west via Manchester.
Meanwhile, the fallout has continued from Ms Braverman’s speech yesterday in which she warned of the need to control borders.
Asked about comments, Ms Badenoch said: ‘We have to be very careful about how we explain and express immigration policies, so that people aren’t getting echoes of things that were less palatable,’ she said.
Science Secretary Michelle Donelan declined to repeat the language used by Ms Braverman.
She told BBC’s Newsnight: ‘My language is different to her language… I think that she’s trying to emphasise how important it is that we tackle something that the British public are deeply concerned about.’
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps played down concerns that the speech was inflammatory. ‘She makes the absolutely correct point we’ve already seen a lot of movement… we could see a lot more, a hurricane, as she describes it, of people moving,’ he told Times Radio.
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt gave a grim vision of the consequences of Tory defeat at the next election, with Labour ceding control to militant unions
Theresa May is not sticking around to hear her successor’s speech today, having been seen packing up and departing Manchester with husband Philip
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will use the most important speech of his premiership to paint himself as an agent of change
In a red meat address to the party faithful yesterday Suella Braverman (left) warned of an immigration ‘hurricane’ coming – but Kemi Badenoch (right) said politicians need to be ‘careful’ about their language
Mr Sunak toured receptions at Tory conference last night as he tries to rally the party
Grant Shapps defended Suella Braverman today over her comments about an immigration ‘hurricane’
Pictured: The HS2 construction site at Curzon Street in Birmingham city centre on Tuesday
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