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Top Tories set out policies as Conservative Party conference kicks off in Manchester | Politics News

Top Tories are setting out their policies as the Conservative Party conference kicks off in Manchester – with levelling up, immigration, Ukraine and the next general election on the agenda.

Rishi Sunak has announced that more than 50 “overlooked” British towns will be given £20m each over the next 10 years to regenerate high streets, tackle anti-social behaviour and grow their local economies.

However, figures suggest this £1bn of levelling up funding will mostly go to constituencies held by Conservative MPs – or Labour seats with small majorities.

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The prime minister has claimed that politicians have always focused on cities, despite many Britons living and working in towns.

He said: “The result is the half-empty high streets, rundown shopping centres and anti-social behaviour that undermine many towns’ prosperity and hold back people’s opportunity – and without a new approach, these problems will only get worse.”

Mr Sunak is set to use his first conference as leader to focus on policies that could narrow the gap against Sir Keir Starmer, with opinion polls currently putting the government about 18 points behind Labour.

But on the fringes of the conference, backbench Tories are set to urge the PM to slash an “unsustainable” tax burden on consumers and businesses – with former prime minister Liz Truss calling for corporation tax to be lowered back to 19%.

The Tory leader is also coming under pressure to consider quitting the European Convention on Human Rights, with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch becoming the second cabinet minister in a week to raise the issue.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times is reporting that Jeremy Hunt was secretly recorded saying Mr Sunak will call an election once inflation falls below 3%, with the chancellor telling Tory activists that the Bank of England forecasts this will be achieved next autumn.

Elton John and Suella Braverman
Elton John and Suella Braverman

Braverman attacks ‘pampered’ celebrities

Two cabinet ministers have given interviews to Sunday newspapers as the four-day conference gets under way.

Sunday’s focus will be on the state of the nation, followed by the economy on Monday. Tackling Channel crossings and bringing down NHS waiting lists will follow on Tuesday, paving the way for the prime minister’s speech on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Suella Braverman attacked celebrities who have criticised her controversial immigration policies – dismissing them as “pampered and out of touch”.

BBC presenter Gary Lineker has been a vocal critic of the government’s approach, while Sir Elton John recently warned their policies risk “legitimising hate and violence”.

Ms Braverman told the newspaper they were members of a “virtue-signalling elite” who lecture Britons from villas and private jets, and suggested they were out of touch with the challenges faced by everyday people.

Read more:
Sunak mocked in leaked WhatsApps
Can Team Rishi turns things around?
Hunt vows to halt ‘vicious circle’ of tax hikes

Screen grab taken from video posted on the twitter feed of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of an audience he held with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps in Kyiv, Ukraine. Issue date: Thursday September 28, 2023.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy meeting Grant Shapps in Kyiv

British soldiers may train troops in Ukraine

Meanwhile, new Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has told The Sunday Telegraph that British soldiers could start training Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces on Ukrainian soil.

More than 20,000 Ukrainian recruits have already received formal training here in the UK – but Mr Shapps has had conversations with senior military officials about moving this effort to the country.

So far, the UK and other NATO members have avoided this approach amid concerns that personnel could be in danger of being drawn into combat with Putin’s forces.

Mr Shapps went on to reveal that he had held conversations with Mr Zelenskyy about whether the British navy could help protect commercial vessels from Russian attacks in the Black Sea.

And amid continued speculation about the future of HS2’s northern leg to Manchester – where the Tory conference is being held – the former transport secretary said failing to review the high-speed rail line would be “pretty much irresponsible”.

Watch Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips at 8.30am on Sky News – live from the Conservative Party conference. He will be joined by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, former home secretary Dame Priti Patel, and Labour’s shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray.

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