UK PM pledges to tackle inflation and NHS waiting lists

In the first major speech of the year, Rishi Sunak outlines ‘five promises’ to voters in bid to restore public confidence in his Conservative Party.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged on January 4, 2023, to halve inflation and reduce wait times at the National Health Service as he seeks to restore public support in his Conservative Party [Stefan Rousseau/pool photo via AP]

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to tackle numerous crises gripping the United Kingdom as he seeks to reverse his Conservative Party’s waning popularity and hold onto power.

He listed “five promises” on Wednesday: halving inflation, expanding the economy, reducing debt, cutting National Health Service waiting lists and stopping the small boats that carry migrants and refugees across the English Channel from France.

In an address that was high on ambition but low on detail, Sunak said his government would build “a better future for our children and grandchildren” and asked the public to judge him on “the results we achieve”.

“No tricks, no ambiguity. We’re either delivering for you or we’re not,” he said in east London. “We will rebuild trust in politics through action or not at all.”

Sunak’s Conservative Party, which has been in power for 12 years, is lagging behind the opposition Labour Party in polls. The next general election is due to take place by the end of 2024.

Soaring inflation, waves of strikes

Sunak became prime minister in October after the brief, highly turbulent premiership of Liz Truss.

Truss, who had beaten him in the Conservative leadership contest just weeks earlier, was forced from power after her unfunded tax-cutting plans unleashed economic chaos.

Since Sunak has taken over, the UK economy has calmed somewhat, but the 42-year-old still faces a cost-of-living crisis and widening unrest as key public sector workers from nurses and ambulance drivers to train workers stage disruptive strikes to demand pay rises to keep pace with soaring prices.

Inflation in the UK stood at 10.7 percent in November, down slightly from October but still at nearly its highest point in four decades. Energy and food costs have soared, in large part driven by Russia’s war on Ukraine, and living standards have plunged for millions of Britons.

In recent weeks, Sunak’s government has also come under increasing pressure to address failings in the public health system as many front page headlines focus on the lack of hospital beds and the record waiting times needed to see a doctor or get an ambulance.

Health chiefs say the problems are longstanding and a result of chronic government underfunding.

Source: News Agencies