​Sunak’s pledges are proving pointless - Ian Murray

​It didn’t take long for Tory ministers to be rumbled for making their first lie of 2024. Barely 24 hours had passed since the bells rung before they were found out following a bogus claim about asylum cases.
Rishi Sunak during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room, London.Rishi Sunak during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room, London.
Rishi Sunak during a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room, London.

One of Rishi Sunak’s pledges was to clear the ‘legacy backlog’ of asylum cases by 2023, and his government triumphantly claimed this had been achieved. Except, they haven’t.

The government’s own figures show there are still more than 4500 cases in that backlog. As the BBC’s ‘Verify’ service put it: “The overall asylum backlog has not been cleared at all.”

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This matters not only because the backlog means asylum hotel use is costing the British taxpayer £billions a year, but because it is symptomatic of how the Tories are destroying trust in politics.

How else will they try to pull the wool over voters’ eyes this year? It’s all the Tories have left to try to win the election.

One of Sunak’s other pledges is to “grow the economy” – which should really be a basic requirement of government. But the economy was flat in 2023 and there is, yet again, the looming risk of recession. Watch out for Tory attempts to spin the next set of figures.

Another pledge was to reduce debt and the PM has already been slammed by the statistics regulator for saying it was falling when it is rising.

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The latest figures for November put government debt at 97.5 per cent of the size of the economy, which was 1.8 points higher than the previous year (and at a level last seen in the early sixties).

What about the NHS waiting list in England? It’s about half-a-million higher than the start of last year. Perhaps the only saving grace for Sunak on this pledge is that the SNP has made such a catastrophic mess of our NHS that it has run up record waiting times in Scotland too.

But just like Boris Johnson before him, Sunak has become accustomed to lying to the British people. He sees politics as merely a game, a hobby for those that think power is their given right.

As I wrote last week, we have entered a guaranteed election year. That means there is an opportunity to change our politics and bring back honesty and decency to Downing Street.

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There is hope on the horizon. In his new year’s message, Keir Starmer said: “I’m ready to renew our politics so it once again serves our country. I know that politics isn’t held in particularly high regard in Britain… but I have spent four years bringing the Labour Party back to service. The service of people, working people. And in 2024 – we can do the same for politics.”

This can be the year when we turn our back on the politics of division so beloved by the Tories and SNP and put people’s priorities back at the heart of government.

Throughout 2023, both in my own constituency and throughout Scotland, I heard one message – it’s time for change in our politics.

It’s time to kick the Tories out – and people know that only Labour can do that. It’s time to put Scotland at the centre of government – and only Labour can do that.

I wish all readers a very happy 2024 – a year of change.

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