Is Rishi Sunak’s five-point plan enough to turn the tide for the Tories? | Politics News

A term coined by Franklin D Roosevelt, “the first 100 days” has taken on a symbolic significance for political leaders as a benchmark to measure the early successes of a president – or, in our case, a prime minister.

But for Rishi Sunak, it has taken 71 days for the new PM to even set out a serious domestic policy speech, finally on Wednesday laying down his five priorities for his time at Number 10.

And what he has come up with misses the mark when it comes to grasping the nettle of the crisis Britain is now in.

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For this is a prime minister facing the worst strikes since the 1980s, as nurses, rail workers, paramedics, postal workers, border staff and other public sector employees, all walk out over pay.

The NHS is, according to many health leaders, facing the worst crisis in its history.

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine estimates that 300 to 500 people a week are dying as a result of delays to emergency care – a figure challenged by NHS England.

People are struggling to see a GP and worrying about whether an ambulance will turn up in time if they have to dial 999.

And the rail network is crippled by rolling strikes.

Yet in his keynote speech, the prime minister had few answers to the issue of ending rail strikes or settling with nurses.

Instead, he set out a five-point plan on which the public should judge him – pledges to halve inflation, grow the economy, get national debt falling, cut NHS waiting lists and pass laws to stop small boat crossings

He told the public he was not going to be one of those politicians who “promise the earth and then fail to deliver” (in an apparent dig at his two predecessors) and would focus on what he identified were the people’s priorities – the high cost of living, NHS waiting times and illegal migration.

And he should be confident he can deliver, given that pretty much all of his five pledges are already in train.

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His economic pledges – halving inflation, growing the economy, getting national debt falling – look very simple to meet given that these are targets economists expect to happen too.

Inflation is expected to halve from its 11% high this year, while some forecasters expect the economy to be growing by the end of 2023.

As for reducing public debt, the prime minister has set this out as a medium-term goal, so it’s already baked into his plans.

When it comes to cutting NHS lists – latest figures have those waiting for treatment in England at 7.2 million – NHS England has already set out a plan of reducing wait times over several years, with the prime minister repeating the promise to get waiting times falling without setting out fresh targets.

Under current plans, waits of longer than a year for elective care are to be eliminated by March 2025, while the ambition is that 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by the same deadline.

If he sticks to this plan, Mr Sunak could claim success without the country necessarily feeling it.

And his final pledge, to pass laws to stop small boat crossings, has already been announced by the PM.

Last month, Mr Sunak promised new legislation to tackle small boat crossings as a record near 46,000 people crossing the channel on small boats in 2022.

His plan is to bring in new legislation that would bar anyone entering the UK illegally the right to remain in the UK.

So if the pledge is to pass laws to stop small boat crossings, he’ll deliver it.

But how effective the government will be in actually stopping the crossings or returning people to their countries of origins remains to be seen, given that many people will come from countries to which they cannot be returned. This could prove a pledge that is hardest to deliver.

Is it enough?

Mr Sunak ended his speech saying he’d only make promises on what he can deliver and will deliver on what he’s promised. And by that yardstick, he’ll probably be able to claim success.

But the reality of what the country is experiencing right now is far removed from his five-point plan.

And with the Conservatives still 20 points behind in the polls, the bigger question for this government and the Tory party is whether what Mr Sunak is offering is anywhere near enough to turn the tide.