Rishi Sunak claims there has been ‘no change’ to his plan to call election in second half of year – UK politics live | Politics

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Sunak claims there has been ‘no change’ to his plan to call election in second half of year

On BBC Radio Newcastle Sunak was also asked when he would call an election.

Faced with this question in an earlier interview, Sunak declined to repeat his line about an election in the second half of the year being his working assumption. (See 8.36am.)

In his first answer to Bailey, Sunak again gave a very generalised answer. But when Bailey pressed him again, and asked “what’s so difficult about committing to a date”, Sunak replied:

Because there’s an official way we do that. I’ve said very repeatedly and clearly that my working assumption would be that we have a general election in the second half of the year. There’s been no change to that. So I’ve been very clear about that.

Sunak seems to have been planning for an election in October or November. But there has been a lot of speculation in recent days that Sunak could call an election in June or July, as a means of closing down a leadership challenge prompted by dire results for the Tories in the May local elections.

This morning’s answer probably won’t do a lot to quell that. Instead of just saying ‘I expect it to be in the second half of the year’, he delivered a convoluted answer referencing his previous line to take, which is normally a sign of a politician not wanting to engage with a question.

Also, an election in July would be in the second half of the year anyway.


Key events

Sunak refuses to accept child poverty has risen sharply in north-east of England since 2015

Rishi Sunak’s next interview was on BBC Radio Newcastle, where the interview started with the presenter, Matt Bailey, playing a clip from the manager of a nursery saying they had not been properly consulted about who to deliver the new entitlement.

In reply, Sunak said the policy was announced some time ago.

Providers asked for the rate they are paid for childcare by the government to be increased. That has happened, he said.

Q: Nurseries say they cannot find the staff.

Sunak said the government has taken time to build the sector. There are more people working in it than there were.

The government is trailing a £1,000 signing-on bonus for new staff, he said.

Red tape was also cut, he said.

Q: Talking of chldren, we cover child poverty a lot on this programme. In the north-east, more than a third of chlildren are growing up in poverty. Why is that?

Sunak said nobody wants to see children growing up in poverty. That was heartbreaking, he said.

He claimed child poverty had fallen since 2010.

Bailey said in the north-east child poverty has risen by more than in any other region since 2015.

That seemed to be a reference to these figures.

Regional child poverty figures Photograph: Action for Children

Sunak replied “those numbers are different to what I’ve got”. He repeated the claim about child poverty falling since 2010.

Experts generally prefer to measure poverty by using the relative poverty figures, which show how many households have an income below 60% of the average. But Sunak was referring to the absolute poverty figures, which show how many households have an income below what the relative poverty figure was in a baseline year (2010-11 for this government), adjusted for inflation. In a growing economy, absolute poverty figures should always be going down.

Sunak is right to say that absolute poverty numbers have fallen since the Tories came to power. But recent figures show they are starting to rise.


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Q: We have asked listeners what they want to know, and their main question is, when will the general election be?

Sunak laughed, and said he had answered that question many times.

Q: Why are you laughing? And why can’t you answer?

Sunak said there is a process for holding elections.

He said what was more important was the choice facing people.

(He did not repeat the formula he has used before, about his “working assumption” being that it will be in the second half of the year.)

Sunak claimed that people were more interest in talking to him about the issues. And he claimed Keir Starmer could not say what his plan was for the future.

That was the end of the BBC Radio Tees interviews.


Sunak dismisses claims nurseries do not have capacity to deliver free childcare places promised by government

Rishi Sunak was on BBC Radio Tees first, where he was interviewed by Amy Oakden.

He started by saying the childcare offer was about giving parents choice. Working parents would eventually have access to 30 hours of free childcare from the moment their “little one” reaches nine months, he said.

Q: But providers say they are not going to be able to provide these places.

Sunak said the government “consulted extensively” with the sector, and did not introduce the offer straight away because it wanted to ensure capacity was available.

He went on:

We said, look, this is a really big change and we need to take the time to get it right, to give time for the sector to grow and expand and actually that’s why we’re doing it in a methodical way.

And, if you look, that is working. Staffing levels in the sector have increased and more people are at work in the sector and the number of places has also increased over the past year as well.

And what we’ve done, after consulting extensively with the sector, is increased the rates that childcare providers are paid, and those have increased extensively. It’s worth hundreds of millions of pounds.


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Rishi Sunak promotes Tories’ rollout of 15 hours’ free childcare for two-year-olds

Good morning. Parliament is in recess, but the local elections are only a month away and the Conservatives and Labour are both in campaign mode today, focusing in particular on childcare. Rishi Sunak is giving some local radio interviews this morning and you can get the gist of what he will be saying from the Department for Education’s press release. It starts like this.

Thousands of parents of two-year-olds across the country are getting help with their childcare costs as the first phase of the biggest ever expansion in childcare starts.

In this first stage, working parents of two-year-olds are now able to access 15 hours a week of government-funded childcare from 1 April.

The rollout of support is part of the government’s plan to help families – freeing thousands of couples from having to choose between having a family and a career, as over 150,000 children are on track to secure government-funded places from this week.

The Labour take is a bit different. Here is the start of the rival press release it issued yesterday.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson today slammed the Conservatives’ “childcare pledge without a plan” after a new dossier published by the party revealed families across the country struggling to access childcare.

The dossier contains:

-New data obtained by Labour from Ofsted showing that the number of childcare places fell by more than 1,000 in the six months between March and December 2023 alongside a fall in the number of providers.

-Testimonials from parents and nurseries in every region of England revealing a childcare system in disarray, with families unable to access already scarce places and struggling under the weight of sky-high childcare costs.

-Warnings from providers that they will be “forced to go bust” under the Conservatives’ new childcare offer.

As Eleni Courea reports, Labour is also launching a website today claiming Conservative turmoil under Rishi Sunak has cost the taxpayer £8.2bn and nearly a year in lost time.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is on visits in the north-east of England.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

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