Sunak declares political system is ‘broken’
Rishi Sunak told the Tory party conference today that the system of government is broken and that voters are “exhausted” with politics.
The Prime Minister said that the failures apply to Holyrood and Cardiff as much as to Westminster and that there is a need for change.
Positioning himself as the heir to Margaret Thatcher, he pledged to break with the “old consensus” in British politics.
“We will be bold. We will be radical,” he told the party conference in Manchester.
“We will face resistance and we will meet it. We will give the country what it so sorely needs, and yet too often has been denied: a government prepared to make long-term decisions so that we can build a brighter future for everyone. Be in no doubt: it is time for a change — and we are it.”
He was critical of both Conservative and Labour governments of the past, and said there was a need to end the “30-year consensus”.
He said: “Thirty years of vested interests standing in the way of change. Thirty years of rhetorical ambition which achieves little more than a short-term headline. It doesn’t have to be this way. It won’t be this way.”
His short term measures included confirmation that £36bn allocated to building the HS2 rail line between Birmingham and Manchester will be reassigned to improving connections across the north of England.
“There is nothing ambitious about simply pouring more and more money into the wrong project,” he said.
Mr Sunak also pledged a shake-up of school exams in England and improving the health service.
“There is the undeniable sense that politics just doesn’t work the way it should . . . a feeling that Westminster is a broken system and the same goes for Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont,” he said, with few clues as to how it is broken and how he proposes to fix it.
“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 decision to axe the northern leg of HS2 is particularly sensitive as it was announced in the city that will be directly affected. However, there has always been a sizeable body of opinion that funding should have been focused on improving rail services across the region, rather than those linking the north and London.
One or way or another, the arguments will rage about the signals being sent to investors about the government’s long-term infrastructure planning.
His decision on HS2 has caused deep divisions. Former PM David Cameron said it was the wrong decision, meaning a “once-in-a-generation opportunity was lost”.
Mr Sunak justified his decision to axe the northern leg on the basis of soaring costs. The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has asked why high-speed rail costs were ten times higher in Britain than in France.
“The practical impact of that kind of cost increase is that you can’t spend money on other parts of the railway infrastructure,” said Mr Hunt.
“The sums involved are enormous and it’s right that the prime minister takes proper care over it. It’s clear that the costs of this programme have escalated far beyond what anyone thought at the beginning.”
Mr Sunak was introduced to the stage by his wife – Akshata Murty – who described her husband as her “best friend”.
She said: “We are one team and I could not imagine being anywhere else but here today with all of you to show my support to him and to the party.”