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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Ikea distribution centre in Dartford

Rishi Sunak has said he made his feelings on Boris Johnson clear while he was still the leader of the party.

The Prime Minister spoke to workers at the new Ikea distribution centre in Dartford today.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Ikea distribution centre in Dartford
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Ikea distribution centre in Dartford

In his third trip to the county in a month, Mr Sunak took questions from the crowd and members of the press, at the centre in Harris Way, on issues including hospital waiting times, interest rates and his view on the former Prime Minister.

He missed the vote on Mr Johnson’s punishment after the Privileges Committee’s damning report due to a charity lunch, but said he made his feelings clear when he resigned as Chancellor under his leadership.

He said: "I have the utmost respect for the Privileges Committee and the respect of the vote of the house on Monday regarding Boris Johnson.

"I am not focused on the past but about looking to the future.

"But I think it is absolutely right that people are held accountable for their actions irrespective of their position and Boris Johnon has been.

"I took a very difficult decision to resign from Boris Johnson's government. I did that because I disagreed with his approach to Government. That shows I am prepared to act to show my values. "

Mr Sunak also addressed concerns over the Bank of England’s decision today to raise interest rates from 4.5% to 5% – higher than the usual 0.25% rise.

Reassuring workers from Ikea and Wincanton he said: “I am totally 100% on to it. It is going to be ok and we are going to get through it.”

And he attempted to soften the blow by comparing the UK’s situation to other countries around the world.

“Interest rates are the highest they have been in Europe for the past 20 years because of grappling with inflation,” he said.

“We are not alone in dealing with this.”

And he used the opportunity to reiterate to his captive audience his five-point plan to get the country back on track, including his top priority to half inflation, ensuring the government is being sensible with its borrowing and helping those who most need help.

He admitted he is going to have to make some tough decisions.

“This is obviously a challenge. It’s not going to be easy. It requires making difficult decisions but I am going to do what needs to be done to bring inflation down.

“Once we’ve got it down we can build a better economy.”

A concerned grandson grilled Mr Sunak on waiting times after his grandmother had to wait six months to see a doctor and 45 minutes for an ambulance.

Mr Sunak said cutting waiting times was one of his five priorities.

“It means more doctors, more nurses and more ambulances. There are lots of things we can do differently to address this.”

But he announced it was already moving in the right direction as he said waiting times for ambulances have dropped from 90 minutes to 30 minutes since Christmas.

Addressing leadership apprentices at the warehouse he praised their ideas of the credentials required for a leader.

“With people like you and your values companies are going to gain greater success,” he said.

He also took the opportunity to hit back at suggestions tax cuts and borrowing were the way forward.

“I would love to cut taxes,” he said. “I would have done it if it was a good thing to do.”

While he said borrowing money to do things might feel good for “a day, a week or a month” it was not the “responsible approach”.

Earlier this month Mr Sunak made a trip to Western Jet Foil, an asylum seeker processing centre in Dover, to discuss his new plans to tackle crossings across the English Channel and this new Illegal MIgration Bill.

While last month he visited Kent Scientific Services in Kings Hill, West Malling, to outline plans to crackdown on children being given vapes via a loophole in the law.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Ikea distribution centre in Dartford
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Ikea distribution centre in Dartford

Analysis by Paul Francis

There comes a time when every Prime Minister has pencilled in their diary a visit to a retail distribution centre to talk to ‘ordinary workers’ about their difficulties and challenges.

It is a political rite of passage that every leader goes through, although in the case of Liz Truss, there wasn’t enough time to put it on the Downing Street grid.

Rishi Sunak has obviously decided that he needs to get out and about and away from Westminster if he is to win over voters and persuade them he is the man to steer the Conservative ship and the UK economy to more benign waters.

The question some want answered is why he comes to Kent so often? This is the latest trip to the county by a PM who increasingly has the word ‘beleaguered’ inserted before his name.

His recent trips included a set-piece on the government’s battle to ‘stop the boats’ - a moderate success, with figures appearing to suggest that the government crackdown had started to curb the crossings.

That was until figures came out the following week suggesting a rise in crossings.

Then he popped up at a laboratory at Kings Hill in West Malling to announce plans for another ‘crackdown’ - this time on children vaping.

Perhaps he feels liberated now that Boris Johnson has left and no longer feels anxious about where he left the keys to Downing Street - well, at least not for a few months,

His appearance at an Ikea distribution centre is being dubbed as a ‘PM Connect’ event, at which he will take questions from the public - though presumably not on how to connect the screws required to assemble a Billys book shelf.

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