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Rishi Sunak Appeals To Voters To Trust Tories With UK Security

Rishi Sunak gave a speech at Policy Exchange on Monday morning (alamy)

5 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that only the Conservatives can be trusted with the UK’s national, energy, and economic security in a new plea to keep his party in office.

Delivering a speech at Policy Exchange think tank on Monday, Sunak said the country was at a “crossroads” where the public would have to make a “choice between the future and the past” at the ballot box when the country goes to the polls later this year. Sunak must call an election before the end of 2024.

“The dangers that threaten our country are real,” Sunak said. 

“They're increasing in number and an axis of authoritarian states like Russia, Iran, North Korea and China is working together to undermine us and our values.”

In the broad speech that is being widely viewed as an unofficial election pitch, he went on to describe “gender activists hijacking children's sex education to cancel culture”, protesters “trying to impose their views on the rest of us”, and Scottish nationalists “trying to tear our United Kingdom apart”. 

Despite the Tories being well behind Labour in the national polls and huge Conservative losses in the recent local and mayoral elections, Sunak insisted he remained “confident that my party can prevail” in the upcoming general election.

“Not because of our record alone, but because we will be the only party really talking about the future and not with vague, lofty platitudes, but with bold ideas and a clear plan that can change our society for the better, and restore people's confidence and pride in our country,” he said.

Claiming that keeping the country safe was the “highest priority of a Conservative government”, Sunak pointed to the “generational decision” to increase defence spending to a new baseline of 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2030.

PoliticsHome recently reported that Tory backbenchers were urging No.10 to consider making security a dominant and recurring theme of the general election campaign. 

Describing record worldwide migration as "a new and defining challenge of our age", Sunak said that "only we Conservatives have the strength to challenge conventions and do something different about it" through initiatives such as the Rwanda deportation scheme.

He repeated a hint that the UK could leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if it seeks to block the Rwanda flights. 

“I know that our international frameworks are outdated so there may be flashpoints ahead with the ECHR and if the Strasbourg court make me choose between the ECHR and this country’s security... I will choose our country’s security every single time," he said.

Sunak also spoke about the opportunities presented by technologies such as artificial intelligence.

“The paradox of our age is that for all the profound dangers that we face right now, we also hold in our hands an opportunity for human progress that could surpass the industrial revolution in speed,” he said, adding that AI could assist “almost every aspect of human life”.

“Think of the investment they will bring, the jobs they'll create and the increase in all our living standards that they'll deliver," he continued.

“Credible estimates suggest AI alone could double our productivity in the next decade.”

The Prime Minister also sought to highlight how a Conservative government would ensure energy and economic opportunity across the UK. 

“I reject the ideological zeal of those who want us to adopt policies further faster than any other country, no matter what the cost or disruption to people's lives,” he said.

“That's exactly Labour's approach. They act like a pressure group, not a would-be government and the Conservatives will govern in the national interest, leading us to net zero in a serious, hard-headed way that prioritises our nation's energy security and the financial security of hardworking families.”

Sunak added that his government was “creating the conditions for a new British dynamism by investing in the new infrastructure of the future” but that this dynamism would need to also come from the “ingenuity and creativity of the British people”.

The Prime Minister accused Starmer’s Labour of communicating “doom loops” and “gaslighting”, arguing that the Tories have a more optimistic vision for the country.

“I'm clear-eyed enough to admit that yes, maybe they can depress their way to victory, with all their talk of doom loops and gaslighting and scare mongering about pensions,” Sunak said.

“But I don't think it will work because at heart we are a nation of optimists, but not blind to the challenges or threats that we face. We just have an innate belief that whatever they are we can overcome them, as we have done so many times in our history, and create a secure future for you and your family.”

Meanwhile, Starmer met with the Labour mayors who were elected earlier this month to speak about how a potential future Labour government would work with them to boost economic growth across the UK.

Responding to Sunak's speech, he said the UK "would not be less safe under a Labour government".

"I know firsthand the importance of national security, which is why I've made such a commitment to the national security of our country," he said.

He added that the issue would be a Labour government's "first priority", while the Conservative government had had "seven resets in 18 months".

"The government and Rishi Sunak keep saying everything's fine, but everybody knows it isn't, and that's why we're laser-focused on living standards," Starmer said.

"What I'm developing with the mayors here is a plan for living standards to go up in every part of the country."

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