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Rishi Sunak made his pitch to voters to ‘fix’ Britain today as he dramatically cancelled the rest of HS2 to free up £36billion for ‘hundreds’ of better transport projects – and pledged to wipe out smoking in a generation.

The PM confirmed the high-speed rail move saying the scheme was the symbol of the ‘old consensus’ –  as he vowed to ‘fundamentally change our country’ and fix ‘broken’ politics like Margaret Thatcher did.

He said bosses of the project would be replaced to ‘take responsibility’ for the way it had been bungled, with costs soaring towards £100billion. ‘The facts have changed… have the courage to change direction.’

Rishi’s key points 

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
He wants tax cut and will ‘deliver them’ but pointed to his priority in tackling inflation
Brexit was more than a vote to leave the EU – it was a vote for change
Keir Starmer ‘can’t be trusted’ on Brexit and wants to follow ‘all the EU rules’
 The Labour leader is the ‘walking definition’ of the political status quo of the last 30 years
He is cancelling the northern leg of HS2 to Manchester
The savings of £36billion will be poured into other transport projects
A new ‘Network North’ will connect UK cities
The London to Birmingham leg of HS2 will keep its Euston terminus
Health strikes are ‘all about politics, not patients’ and ‘not in the spirit of the NHS’
 He will introduce a New Zealand-style smoking ban with the legal age for buying cigarettes rising by one year each year
 A 14-year-old today will never legally be allowed to buy cigarettes
MPs will get a free vote on the issue in the House of Commons
There will be new restrictions on the sales of vapes to children
He will do ‘whatever necessary’ to ‘stop the boats’
Labour’s plan for an EU returns deal could see 100,000 asylum seekers coming to Britain
He will change benefit rules so that those who ‘can work, do work’
‘Every crime’ should be investigated and there is no such thing as ‘minor crime’ 


He added: ‘There is nothing ambitious about pouring more and more money into the wrong project… For too long people in Westminster have invested in the transport they want.’

In another bold step, Mr Sunak said he wants to introduce a rising age limit on buying cigarettes – so 14-year-olds now will never be able to purchase them legally. He insisted the policy – which will be put to a free vote in Parliament – would cut cancer deaths by a quarter and protect children. There will also be a crackdown on young people vaping.

Meanwhile, A-Levels and T-Levels are being merged into a new broader Advanced British Standard, teachers of specialist subjects will be lured with £30,000 tax-free bonuses over the first five years, and there will be tougher sentences for the worst offenders.

Summing up his policy blitz, Mr Sunak said: ‘It’s time for a change, and we are it.’ 

Mr Sunak 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 the 1980s Conservative heroine. 

The premier 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 – and was introduced by wife Akshata in touching scenes. 

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. 

And he launched a brutal salvo at Keir Starmer saying he was always ‘banging on about Europe’ and only says whatever he thinks will benefit him.  

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.

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

Mr Sunak was introduced by wife Akshata for his first Tory conference speech as he appealed for time to fix ‘broken’ Britain

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.’

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’

Mr Sunak boldly declared he is cancelling the rest of the HS2 project, an issue that has dominated the gathering in Manchester 

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 acknowledged there was an ‘exhaustion with politics’ as he hit out at the last 30 years of political consensus.

The PM told the party conference: ‘All I have learned is there is an 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. 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 have had 30 years of a political system which incentivises the easy decision, not the right one.

’30 years of vested interests standing in the way of change, 30 years of rhetorical ambition which achieves little more than a short-term headline.

‘And why? Because our political system is too focused on short-term advantage, not long-term success.’

In a dig at his critics, Mr Sunak said ‘change is difficult, particularly for those who disagree’.

In his conference speech, Rishi Sunak told party members he decided to ‘take a pragmatic proportionate and realistic approach to reaching net zero’.

He went on: ‘And I won’t take any lectures from other countries that have done far less than us, or from those for whom spending thousands of pounds means nothing.

‘Change is difficult, particularly for those who disagree, but remember this: we will still meet our international obligations, we will still meet our domestic targets and we will still get to net zero by 2050.

‘We have solved a problem and offered an unapologetic defence of good conservative common sense.’

Mr Sunak said he wanted to ‘lead in a different way’ and to ‘tell it as it is’.

In a blunt rebuke to the Tory right, who have been increasingly demanding immediate tax cuts, Mr Sunak said: ‘You can’t borrow your way out of inflation and if we want fundamental change in our country, we need a strong economy as a foundation. That is why halving inflation was the first and most important of the five priorities I set out at the start of the year.

‘Everything we want to achieve requires getting inflation under control: inflation is the biggest destroyer of all, of industry, of jobs, of savings and of society. No policy which puts at risk the defeat of inflation, no matter its short-term attraction, can be right. Not my words. But those of Margaret Thatcher as true now as they were then.’

He went on: ‘I know you want tax cuts, I want them too, and we will deliver them but the best tax cut we can give people right now is to halve inflation and ease the cost of living.’

The run-up to today’s speech has been overshadowed by a furious row over the future of the troubled HS2 rail line.

Mr Sunak convened 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.

He unveiled detailed plans to plough the billions of pounds saved into improving transport infrastructure in the North and Midlands.

It included 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 appears to have been saved, following a rearguard action by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. 

‘I say to those who backed the project in the first place, the facts have changed and the right thing to do when the facts change is to have the courage to change direction,’ Mr Sunak said.

‘So I am ending this long-running saga. I am cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and in its place, we will reinvest every single penny, £36billion in hundreds of new transport projects in the north and the midlands, across the country.

‘This means £36billion of investment in the project that will make a real difference across our nation.’

He added that ‘we will complete the line from Birmingham to Euston’ given how far along construction is.

‘Our plan will drive far more growth and opportunity here in the North than a faster train to London ever would,’ he said.

He went on: ‘And given how far along construction is, we will complete the line from Birmingham to Euston and yes, HS2 trains will still run here to Manchester and journey times will be cut between Manchester, Birmingham, London by 30 minutes. And I say this to Andy Street, a man I have huge admiration and respect for, I know we have different views on HS2.

‘But I also know we can work together to ensure a faster, stronger spine, quicker trains and more capacity between Birmingham and Manchester.’

Mr Sunak said that critics of his HS2 decision would have to justify not doing the other projects he was funding.

‘You can’t have both, so those who wish to disagree with me, I respect that. But they should have the honesty to admit that they would now be cancelling the hundreds of alternative projects right across the country that people will benefit from instead,’ he said.

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.

In another proposal that was received warmly in the hall, but might cause anxiety about nanny state measures, Mr Sunak proposed raising the smoking age by one year, every year.

The PM said: ‘I propose that in future we raise the smoking age by one year, every year. That means a 14-year-old today will never legally be sold a cigarette, and that they and their generation can grow up smoke-free.

‘We know this works. When we raised the smoking age to 18, smoking prevalence dropped by 30% in that age group.’

Referring to smoking as the single biggest cause of preventable death in the UK, he added: ‘We have a chance to cut cancer deaths by a quarter, significantly ease those pressures, and protect our children, and we should take it.

Mr Sunak said there would be a Commons vote on the change in the law in the future, but said it would be a free vote, describing it as a ‘matter of conscience’.

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. 

Mr Sunak gave a heartfelt defence of the UK’s attitude towards race, pointing out that the Conservatives had installed children of migrants in the most powerful roles in society.

He said: ‘Never let anyone tell you that this is a racist country. It is not…

‘I am proud to be the first British-Asian Prime Minister, but you know what? I am even prouder that it is just not a big deal.

‘And just remember it was the Conservative Party that made that happen, not the Labour Party.’

But Mr Sunak reiterated his determination to get a grip on borders – considered vital for his electoral prospects.. 

He told the conference: ‘Small boat crossings are for the first time since the phenomenon began down 20 per cent this year. All while entry into Europe is up.

‘We are by no means where we want to be but don’t let anyone tell you we aren’t making progress, we are and we will get there. Our new law will ensure that if you come here illegally, you will be detained and swiftly removed. Now I’m confident that once flights start going regularly to Rwanda, the boats will stop coming.’

He added: ‘I am confident that our approach complies with our international obligations. But know this: I will do whatever is necessary to stop the boats.’

The PM hit out at Keir Starmer’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’. 

Rishi Sunak headed for Tory conference hand in hand with wife Akshata today as he braced for his big speech

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

Pictured: The HS2 construction site at Curzon Street in Birmingham city centre on Tuesday

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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