Sunak & Robertson Interview Transcript

With just over a day to go until a new Prime Minister moves into Downing Street, leadership candidate Rishi Sunak was interviewed by BBC’s Nick Robinson on August 10. 

Robinson’s interview focussed on several “emergencies” facing the country today, from energy bills to Ukraine to standards in public life. 

 

Here’s the transcript of the interview:

 

Nick Robinson [00:00:00]

Over the next half hour, I want to focus on some of those emergencies at home and abroad that you spoke about. Let’s start with the economy, can we? Do you accept that there are millions of people watching this programme who have no say who becomes the next prime minister who do face a real emergency as a result of soaring energy bills?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:00:21]

I absolutely accept that. And I know millions of people are worried about inflation and particularly the cost of their energy bills, and that’s why I wanted to provide them with some reassurance and peace of mind over the last couple of days as we’re starting to learn more about what might happen to energy bills in the autumn, and what I’ve said is that if I’m Prime Minister, I will go further in supporting those families that most need our help because the situation is worse than we thought when I announced quite significant support earlier this year.

 

Nick Robinson [00:00:50]

Well let’s see how much worse. Let’s look at the figures that we’ve got now. We can see them coming up in the screen just now. That was the average energy bill in October 2021 — just under £1300. The projection that we’ve now got for what energy bills will be this October is more than £3500. Is it the moral responsibility of this government to make sure that people do not feel that they cannot heat their homes as a result of these bills?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:01:23]

Yes. I do believe that. And that’s why as Chancellor I announced very significant support, particularly targeted at the people who most need our help. Some help for everybody, but extra help for those on the lowest incomes and pensioners, who are also on fixed incomes in struggle, particularly in the winter. But those numbers are worse than the numbers I was looking at as Chancellor when I announced that support, and that’s why I do feel a moral responsibility as Prime Minister to go further and get extra help to people over the autumn and winter, to help them cope with what is going to be a really difficult time. I think that’s the right priority. That’s that’s what my plan is about. And actually, you know, alternative proposals that don’t focus on that, I don’t think are right, and I don’t think are actually, quite frankly, the moral thing to do.

 

Nick Robinson [00:02:09]

Let’s go through what you might do. Let’s take an example. Let’s take a man called Graham who spoke to the BBC. He’s a pensioner. This is what he told us. I don’t have the oven or the hob on or the grill because it costs too much. I’m using the microwave, the electric kettle in the shower. I can’t afford the energy now. I won’t be able to afford it when it goes up in October. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Can you tonight tell Graham precisely what you’ll do? Will you give him as much money again as you did when you were a Chancellor?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:02:38]

So someone like Graham is going to receive around £850 of help with their energy bills over the course of this year, from the things I announced as Chancellor —

 

Nick Robinson [00:02:47]

In future —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:02:47]

Now, and I will go further that. What I can tell Graham is, of course, I’m going to go further because the situation is worse. Pensioners are exactly the type of people that need extra help. It’s hard for me here because I don’t know the numbers.

 

Nick Robinson [00:02:47]

We’re about to show them.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:02:47]

Well, that’s not the official numbers from Ofgem the regulator who will provide a precise estimate relatively soon, but —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:03:11]

In order of magnitude, it looks like the situation is around £400 worse, give or take, than we thought when I announced the support earlier this year. That gives you a sense of the scale of what we’re talking about extra. And then we have to think about well how do we split that up? What do we do for the most vulnerable people on the lowest incomes? What do we do for pensioners, and what do we do for hard working families? Because this affects everybody.

 

Nick Robinson [00:03:37]

So for pensioners who are watching, people like Graham, you would intend, would you, to match what you did last time? To make up that 400 quid he’s going to lose?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:03:46]

Well, so what we did previously, was when the bills were going off around £1200, pensioners receiving about £850 of extra support. And the way we were going to do that, the way I announced as Chancellor, there’s some universal support for everybody, which obviously pensioners benefit from. So this autumn, for example, people’s energy bills will be discounted by £400. On top of that though, Graham and millions of pensioners like him will receive something called a winter fuel payment, which is worth up to £300. And what I said as chancellor is that we would double that payment. Now that’s the obvious thing to increase, even what we have done.

 

Nick Robinson [00:04:21]

What we know is that there’s been this vast increase, a doubling in the bills over a year. People want to know what you are going to do.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:04:29]

So what I would look to do, is the extra payment that pensioners are going to receive this winter in November and December that I announced as Chancellor, I would look to increase the value of that.

 

Nick Robinson [00:04:39]

You’d increase that, you would increase the payment for people on benefits. You’ve often talked about targeting —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:04:43]

Yes, but also —

 

Nick Robinson [00:04:44]

Would you not do anything for families who are not pensioners, who are not designated as poor and not are on benefits?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:04:51]

I will, and that’s — the way to think about this is in three parts. My plan is is to help people in three ways. First is, I want to help everybody, because this is as you just said, this is something that is of such a scale that millions of families are going to struggle with this, so it’s right that everyone receives some help, and my way of doing that is to cut VAT on energy bills this autumn.

 

Nick Robinson [00:05:11]

That’s £150 on average. Well, it is dwarfed by the scale of the extra bills. You say, £400 extra. Some people 500, some say six, some even predict eight —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:05:21]

I think given the higher bills, actually the VAT cut will be worth more.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:05:25]

But remember that comes on top of the £550 of support that all those hardworking families are already going to receive, so it gets a total support for them that’s something like whether it’s £700-800. Now that’s the first group. Second group are those on the lowest incomes, and normally the welfare system would make sure that it keeps pace with inflation. Now because of what’s happening, that’s not working as normal. So what I suggested is we provide extra top up payments to those very vulnerable families. I would go further as Prime Minister and we talked about the extra amount that that is. And then lastly for pensioners, I propose an extra payment in the winter and again, that’s where we would go further.

 

Nick Robinson [00:06:04]

Now when your opponent, when Liz Truss was talking about the help she’d give in the form of tax cuts, you said, These are unfunded spending commitments. Haven’t you just announced on this programme, even though you’re not being specific, made a huge unfunded spending commitments of what? A few billion pounds? Over £10 billion? What would you say it was?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:06:24]

It’s much closer to the former than the latter of what you’ve said. Right? Because that’s the scale, if you look at the scale of the problem we’re talking about and then it depends exactly how we spread that around and provide most help to those who most need it. But there is a huge difference — I think you asked a fair question — but there is a huge difference between what I’m suggesting which is temporary, targeted, timely support to deal with the specific challenge compared to what Liz is proposing, which is £50 billion worth of borrowing, not just this year, but every year, primarily by the way for very large companies and wealthy people —

 

Nick Robinson [00:07:01]

Where does all this money come from?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:07:08]

Let me just finish the point because there’s a big difference here. Right? There is a big difference, and I will answer your question. But there are two different approaches. My approach and my priorities that help people with the cost of living and to tackle inflation, and to do that in a way by directly supporting those who most need help. Now, Liz’s approach is not to worry so much about inflation, mortgage rates, extra borrowing at £50 billion. The tax cuts she’s proposing are not going to help Graham.

 

Nick Robinson [00:07:35]

Well, I’ll ask you. I’ll ask Graham.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:07:37]

They’re not going to help the millions of people who don’t pay enough tax to —

 

Nick Robinson [00:07:40]

You’re as Chancellor, increased people’s taxes. You put money on national insurance. You made millions pay more income tax by changing the threshold. Where is the sense in saying to an average worker, I’m going to take £230 a year off you in national insurance, I may take more in income tax, and then I’m going to give you some of that money back in order to deal with your energy bills. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not very conservative is it?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:08:06]

Actually, what I did do for the average worker is raise the amount that people can earn before they pay a penny in national insurance.

 

Nick Robinson [00:08:12]

Why would people —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:08:16]

That actually is a really progressive tax cut that helps those on low and middle incomes most. Actually, it puts £330 in the pockets of hardworking people up and down the country. That’s what I did. Now, do we need to raise extra money for the NHS? Yes, we did to help recover from Covid to deal with the issues in social care. We may not have been an easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do, and I’m sure we’ll get on to talking about the NHS. But let’s get back to the cost of living and this point. There is a big difference. Because tax cuts that Liz Truss is proposing you largely benefit very large companies —

 

Nick Robinson [00:08:47]

You’ve talked about Liz Truss, I want to talk about you.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:08:47]

Well no —

 

Nick Robinson [00:08:47]

Mr Sunak, I’m interviewing you. I still don’t know specifically what you’ll do, I don’t know where what it will cost, and I don’t know where the money will come from.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:08:58]

So let me answer that, because you asked. Right? So, actually, I have given you a framework for how we’re going to help people. There’s three different parts of it. We know the way that we’re going to help everyone is by cutting VAT. And then, in terms of sizing exactly how much we provide for pensioners and for those on the lowest incomes, I do need to wait to actually see the numbers and see what the price cap is and figure out what the right approach for the country is. But people can judge me on my record. When we thought bills were going up by £1200 earlier this year, I made sure that the most probably received around £1200 of extra help.

 

Nick Robinson [00:09:33]

What Martin Lewis says, who’s the money saving expert well known around the country, is this is a crisis on the scale of the pandemic, and you need to be prepared to spend as much as you did the last time you tried to help. And you’re being very clear you’re not going to spend anything like that much. You spent 15 billion last time. You’re telling me you’ll spend just a few billion. You see some people think, are you serious in your support for the vulnerable? Let me just raise another example with you. You’ve talked often, for example, about levelling up and the importance of levelling up. Just a little while ago when you were talking to the great British public, when you were talking to Conservative members in leafy Tunbridge Wells in Kent, you talked about how you change the rules about who got money and who didn’t. Just take a look at this.

 

Rishi Sunak [on video][00:10:21]

[On Video] I managed to start changing the funding formulas to make sure that areas like this, they’re getting the funding that they deserve, because we inherited a bunch of formulas from the Labour Party that shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas. That needed to be undone. I started the work of doing that.

 

Nick Robinson [00:10:38]

So money should not be, in your words, shoved into deprived areas?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:10:42]

So you talked first about making sure we support the most vulnerable. When I announced the support earlier this year to help with energy bills, people like Martin Lewis, respected independent commentators, indeed the BBC actually all said that the support I announced, was well targeted, it helped the poorest and was well designed and did that.

 

Nick Robinson [00:11:03]

You were saying —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:11:03]

I’m just going to get onto that. I think it’s worth saying that, right? So that’s my track record of helping people with energy bills and you can go back and look at the BBC website or indeed all the independent commentators and you’ll remember that, right? So that’s my record. I went and talked to Martin Lewis at the time. Now on that, I stand exactly by what I said because —

 

Nick Robinson [00:11:19]

Shoving money into depriving urban areas is rubbish?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:11:21]

Actually, there were lots of places that need to get investment and where opportunity needs to be spread. And yes, they exist in rural areas too. They exist in small towns. It’s not just in very large big cities that are the only places that require government support —

 

Nick Robinson [00:11:38]

Mr Sunak, now when we talked about levelling up —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:11:38]

I was just in —

 

Nick Robinson [00:11:38]

When we talked about levelling up, if we’re going to give money — hang on. We’re going to give money to Royal Tunbridge Wells, not  to Wigan or Sunderland or Wolverhampton —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:11:50]

Hang on. We’re doing all of that. But where have I been in the last couple of days? I’ll give you two examples. I was in the Isle of Wight. And do you know what they’ve been asking for on the Isle of Wight for a long time? Recognition that actually providing public services in an island economy is different, and they want that to be recognised. I started working with them on that as a local government minister. Where was I last night? In Darlington. Now Darlington is not a big city. But Darlington and Teesside is still a place where I want to make sure government investment is coming.

 

Nick Robinson [00:12:17]

We’ve got a lot to get through. There’s a lot of emergencies.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:12:19]

But it’s not a big city and that’s what I was talking about. And there’ll be lots of people watching this who don’t live in big cities, and they will agree with what I’m saying and say, Actually, yes. I live in a town or I live in a rural area, and it’s right that we get investment  too.

 

Nick Robinson [00:12:33]

There’s a lot of emergencies you identified, and I want to give you the chance to go through those emergencies. So let’s move on to another that you called an emergency: the state of the National Health Service. Now two thirds of Conservative Party members in a recent poll, said that the NHS already had enough funding. You said to Conservative members you needed to stop the NHS, and I quote, swallowing up so much money. So is that it? The NHS has got as much as it needs then?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:13:01]

Well, hang on. Five minutes ago you were saying, I’ve raised all this extra money for the NHS so that people can judge me on my record. I know that the NHS is the most important public service. It’s right that it gets extra funding to help recover from Covid and deal with issues in social care. That’s why I did something that was politically difficult for me.

 

Nick Robinson [00:13:18]

Why did you tell Tory members, quote, Swallowing up too much money?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:13:22]

But from this point on, it’s absolutely right that we focus on getting reform and efficiency out of the NHS. Now that everyone is contributing more, no one can say that we’re not funding the NHS. I think that’s clear. And I’m getting criticism for the funding that I’ve put in.

 

Nick Robinson [00:13:36]

People do say who run the NHS that there isn’t enough money. Let me just let me just give you an example that you might want to address. 94 year old Ken Shethold. Ken had a nasty fall and he called an ambulance at 2.58 in the morning. The ambulance should have come in 18 minutes time. He waited more than five hours. This is what he said to the 999 operator. I need an ambulance because I’m going to fade away quite quickly. Can you please tell them to hurry up or I shall be dead? Tragically, he was dead just a little while longer. You can’t really say that the NHS has got all the money it needs now can you, and then it needs to stop swallowing up cash?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:14:19]

I do think the best way to help people like Ken, to make sure that situation doesn’t happen again, is to make sure that the NHS is reformed because we need to use the resources that we’re putting into it, which are occupying a large amount of everyone’s pay packets. We spent the first 15 minutes of this talking about how are people going to afford energy bills. Well if we’re going to have to keep putting more and more money into the NHS then people are going to have less money in their own pockets to pay for things like energy and food. So it’s right that we get the balance on these things right. I already did something very difficult by putting more money into the NHS. No one can accuse me of starving the NHS of funds when I’ve taken a lot of political flak for doing that. So now I think it is right, I think it is right that we focus on reforming the NHS, and getting efficiency —

 

Nick Robinson [00:15:04]

Another emergency is the climate change emergency —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:15:09]

Before we move on. But this is important, because here’s an example of something we do need to do on the NHS. I want to tackle the issue of missed appointments. Because at the moment almost 15 million appointments are missed in the NHS. If we could change that —

 

Nick Robinson [00:15:20]

Everyone in business says it would raise a trivial sum of money.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:15:21]

Ah but it’s not — but Nick, but that’s the point. It’s not about raising money, it’s about —

 

Nick Robinson [00:15:26]

It’s about waiting five hours for an ambulance.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:15:27]

This is really important. This is really important. Because this is the most important public service. It’s not about raising money. It’s about having people cancel appointments in advance. Because if they do that, then suddenly we’ve created more availability in our healthcare system and people won’t have to wait as long, they’ll get treatment quicker, and we won’t have to spend another penny of taxpayers’ money. That’s the kind of reform we need.

 

Nick Robinson [00:15:47]

We talked about the health emergency. Let’s talk briefly if you don’t mind, lot’s to get through, about the climate change emergency. Same poll of Conservative Party members say that two thirds of them say that the target of reaching net zero by 2050 should be relaxed or delayed. Are they wrong? And would Prime Minister Sunak tell them they’re wrong? No, I’m going to get on with it.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:16:12]

I mean, I’ve said very clearly, I believe in our net zero target by 2050. But we need to make sure that we’re getting there in a way that is bringing people along with us. So it can’t be about everyone having to give things up and everyone’s bills going up. We need to get there by focusing on things like innovation, by creating the new types of energy that are going to power our homes and do it in a clean way and in an affordable way.

 

Nick Robinson [00:16:33]

If they say, This is costing us too much. We shouldn’t do it. We should delay. You say no.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:16:38]

Because I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I think we can do it in a way — look at offshore wind. There’s a great example of something which today, because of the investments we’ve made, the technological improvements, is providing clean energy for all of us at a fraction of the price of fossil fuels.

 

Nick Robinson [00:16:52]

Lot’s more emergencies to —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:16:53]

That tells you what’s possible. But if we have an economy that I know how to build that promotes innovation, we’ll be able to get there.

 

Nick Robinson [00:16:59]

Borders.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:17:01]

Yes.

 

Nick Robinson [00:17:02]

You identified our borders as another emergency in your list. Now, you backed Brexit. Millions of people agreed with you. They voted with you because they wanted to take back control, in the words of the slogan, of our borders. You and the Conservatives have repeatedly promised to get net migration down to tens of thousands a year. Is that promise now dead?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:17:25]

I think the most pressing migration problem we have is that of people coming here illegally in small boats across the channel. I’m sure most people watching this programme will agree with that and I set out a detailed plan for how we can correct that situation and actually properly control it to make sure that we do have security of our borders.

 

Nick Robinson [00:17:42]

Given that there are more —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:17:43]

And it will require us to do some difficult things legally, which I am prepared to do.

 

Nick Robinson [00:17:49]

Let’s talk about something else. There are more than 10 times as many people who come into the country legally each year. Again and again, you as a Conservative, promised that you would get that number down to tens of thousands. The current figure of net migration is 240,000. Now a perfectly good argument to say, Immigration’s a good thing. It gives workers to companies immediately. It helps man the NHS. What does Prime Minister Sunak, if you become Prime Minister Sunak say? No problem with that level of immigration?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:18:19]

My biggest priority with immigration is that we are in control of it, and having voted for Brexit and spoken to lots of people about it, that’s what they want too. They want to make sure that everyone who is coming here is coming here for a reason that we want, that we’ve said yes to, and that’s —

 

Nick Robinson [00:18:34]

As long as it’s legal, it doesn’t matter what the numbers are?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:18:37]

No well of course, I want to make sure that we’re providing opportunities for British people, and that’s why I want to make sure our welfare system is working with supporting people’s welfare and into work. My priority is tackling illegal migration, and I do want to make sure that we get a grip of that. And I have a plan to do that, which everyone, if they’ve got two minutes tonight, can have a look online and find my plan.

 

Nick Robinson [00:18:54]

Take back control of our borders. That was the phrase. Just look at this photograph if you would. Let’s take a look at the photograph. That was the queue at Dover, at the beginning of the school holidays. People waiting sometimes seven hours. Is that what you meant by taking back control?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:19:11]

We’re talking about two very different things, right? Even though we’re talking —

 

Nick Robinson [00:19:15]

You’re in control.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:19:16]

And as the government has talked about this, right, and we need to make sure that on the French side that there is appropriate staffing in place so that these delays don’t happen, which are obviously unacceptable.

 

Nick Robinson [00:19:26]

You and the government told us we would take back control of our borders. And you’re now saying it’s not our problem, it’s the French.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:19:29]

We’re not. I’m not in the government at the moment obviously, but I think the reality of this is that there needs to be appropriate staffing levels and that doesn’t seem like it was the case from watching from the outside not being in the government anymore, and you want to make sure that that was fixed obviously.

 

Nick Robinson [00:19:44]

It seems to many people it’s very easy to get into the country as a migrant. It’s almost impossible to leave it.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:19:51]

As I said, that requires the government to make sure that the French are appropriately resourcing their side of the border.

 

Nick Robinson [00:19:57]

We’re not in control of the borders, the French are?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:20:00]

We are in control of our own borders, yes. I think every country should be in control of the people coming into their country. That’s what I want to make sure that we have a grip of when it comes to illegal migration.

 

Nick Robinson [00:20:08]

Let’s turn to another emergency, arguably the biggest emergency of them all. Even bigger perhaps than the economy and in part helping to create all those problems that can come. And I’m talking, of course, about the war in Ukraine. If you do become our next prime minister, you know what will happen within months. There’ll be voters at home, there’ll be newspaper editorials, there may be other world leaders who say to you, Is it really worth crashing our economy? Is it really worth us struggling to heat our homes to make sure that Russia can’t control the town of Kherson or Mykolaiv in Ukraine? Will you argue with them if they say that?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:20:48]

I think actually the right policy is the one that we have in place, and the Prime Minister deserves enormous credit for being one of the first leaders to recognise the threat. The defence secretary deserves credit for being one of the first to make sure that we provide arms to Ukraine. I will continue with that policy, continually strengthening Ukraine and continuing to weaken Russia. I did that as Chancellor. I put in place a set of economic sanctions together with my colleagues from around the world that are tightening the grip on Putin’s war machine, and I would want to do more of that as Prime Minister and actually, when it comes to energy, one of the things I was working on as Chancellor was a different way of doing the sanctions on Russia to see if we could find a way to do it which would actually mean that we don’t have such high energy bills and could cut off the supply of money to them. And I’d like to find a way to make that work as PM.

 

Nick Robinson [00:21:32]

You’re clear. You’ve taken policy decisions that you think will put Putin in the spot. But people wondering whether you can be our next Prime Minister might say, Hold on, this guy’s only really been in the Treasury since he’s been in the Cabinet. He does policy. He sits in offices doing this. Has he got the ability to stand toe to toe, to lock in the eyeball, a dictator? Will they take him seriously as our Prime Minister in that sort of conflict?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:22:00]

Yes. Because throughout my career, in politics and before, I’ve been willing to stand up for things that I believe in and fight for them. And you talked about Brexit. A lot of pressure was put on me not to support that, and I did. When it came to locking down the country last December with Omicron, that’s what lots of people wanted to do. I stood up against the system and I said no. When it comes to wanting to reform the NHS, I’m prepared to have some difficult conversations. So yes, being tough and making sure that I focus on the things that matter is core to who I am. And as Chancellor, I designed a very stringent packet of economic sanctions to do exactly that with Putin.

 

Nick Robinson [00:22:34]

You see the only reason we’re having this conversation, the only reason there is a vacancy, is perhaps the last emergency I wanted to ask you about. Not one you define, but one some others do. An emergency of the standards in our public life. You’ve just talked about being tough. You’ve talked about standing up to people. You said that Boris Johnson was on the wrong side of an ethical question, which is why you had to resign from his cabinet. Did you look him in the eye? Did you stand up to him and say, Prime Minister, you’re no longer fit for the job, you should go?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:23:09]

I resigned.

 

Nick Robinson [00:23:10]

Did you say that to him?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:23:11]

No I just resigned. It was clear he was not going to go. He made that crystal clear.

 

Nick Robinson [00:23:15]

Did you ever stand and look at him in the eye, tell him what you thought, tell him why he should go?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:23:20]

I have had many conversations with the Prime Minister over the time I’ve been in office with him. I’m sure, I know we talked about lots of things, right? And I’m not gonna sit here and talk to you about private conversations I had. That wouldn’t be right.

 

Nick Robinson [00:23:31]

If you had, you’d tell us. You resigned by Tweet. You did it after thinking about it for months. You did it after other people had resigned first. That isn’t brave, is it?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:23:42]

No. Actually, resigning is a difficult thing to do. And I did it because it came to a point where enough was enough for me.I had a big difference of opinion on how to manage the economy. It’s not possible for a Chancellor and a Prime Minister not to be on the same page. And as you’re saying that, there was a leadership contest, because there are two very different approaches to how I think we should do it.

 

Nick Robinson [00:24:00]

You do say this puzzling phrase about the wrong side of an ethical question. Can you translate that into fluent human so our viewers know what on earth you mean?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:24:10]

I’m referring to the Chris Pincher situation, which is well documented, and we don’t need to go over it all now. But I wasn’t happy about how that was handled.

 

Nick Robinson [00:24:18]

Do you think he was unfit to stay in the job?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:24:19]

I didn’t feel that I could defend that, so I wanted to resign.

 

Nick Robinson [00:24:23]

Ok, well.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:24:24]

And I was left with no choice.

 

Nick Robinson [00:24:25]

Let’s end our conversation by talking about you, because you are trying to persuade Conservative voters now —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:24:31]

But I think —

 

Nick Robinson [00:24:31]

You should be —

 

Rishi Sunak [00:24:33]

Before we get onto that. At this point, you’re right to raise it as an emergency, because I do think there has been a breakdown in trust because of the issues of the last several months and part of why I’m sitting here because I want to restore trust back into politics. I want to put integrity and honesty at the heart of how I run the government and how I want to be Prime Minister. And as you can see in this leadership contest, I’ve been doing that. I haven’t been saying the easy things and actually, I’m prepared to lose this contest if it means that I’ve been true to my values and I’m fighting for the things I think are right for this country. I would rather lose on those terms than win by promising false things that I can’t deliver.

 

Nick Robinson [00:25:09]

That’s very interesting Mr Sunak, because you said there is an emergency when it comes to standards in public life. Now, let’s just end by talking about you in this contest that you’re in. You were once the favourite. You now talk of yourself as the underdog. Why do you think you’re losing if you are?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:25:26]

Well I think it goes back to what I was just saying. I knew what I was doing when I got into this and I was going to tell people what I think they needed to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear. And as I said, I would rather lose having fought for the things I passionately believe are right for our country and being true to my values than win on a false promise.

 

Nick Robinson [00:25:46]

Isn’t the problem that in the language of Boris Johnson, you are what he calls a gloomster when what the country needs is a booster?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:25:55]

Nick, we started this programme, you put a graphic up there that talked about energy bills going up to almost £4000. Look no amount of boosterism language is going to help Graham figure out how to get through the winter. What we need is someone who actually understands what’s going on, has got a clear sense of how to manage our economy through what is going to be a challenging time, focused on going to help people like Graham that we’ve talked about, and then take this country to place where it can look forward to a much brighter future. This is what I can do. No amount of starry eyed boosterism is going to solve any of the emergencies that we just talked about.

 

Nick Robinson [00:26:29]

It’s like a personal emergency. The boiler breaks down. You call in the plumber, and you’re like the guy who says, Look, it’s worse than you thought. It’s going to cost you a fortune. And then I charge you a fortune in the past. The country needs someone that says, Don’t worry, I can fix it.

 

Rishi Sunak [00:26:47]

Yeah, and that’s what I’m gonna do, Nick. And it’s not me saying that, you put the figures up because those are what the figures that are happening. That’s what people are going to have to grapple with. And people know that I’ve got the experience to deal with challenges like that because there was a press conference a couple of years ago where I stood up and there were millions of people who were enormously worrying about what was about to happen to this country, and I put in place the systems, the processes to get our country through it and make sure that we’re resilient on the other side. I will do that again and lead us to a much brighter future.

 

Nick Robinson [00:27:15]

Finally, in just under half an hour, you and I have gone through a whole series of emergencies, a whole lot more I’m sure you wanted to say on lots of them. Been an emergency in the economy and emergency over energy bills, an emergency in the NHS, an emergency with our borders and our standards in public life. When you discover who’s been running the country for the past 12 years, you’re going to be really cross aren’t you?

 

Rishi Sunak [00:27:36]

Well actually, there was lots I was very proud of to have participated in government. We talked about the pandemic response, protecting over 10 million jobs, saving businesses, ensuring that our economy remained resilient through the worse shocker in 300 years. I’m proud of what I achieved, and I’m not going to run away from that, and it’s actually, that’s why people now should look at me as the person who can be the person to lead us forward. I’ve got the experience to handle difficult things. They know that because they’ve seen it. My judgement is right about tackling inflation and tackling the cost of living. And they can trust me. Because as they’ve seen in the leadership contest, I’ve been honest with them about challenges. Doesn’t make my life easy. But that’s how I am. That’s how I’ll be Prime Minister. I’ll be straight with people, and that’s what leadership is about.

 

Nick Robinson [00:28:17]

Rishi Sunak. Thank you very much indeed

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