Rishi Sunak has dismissed suggestions of defeatism in Conserative ranks by insisting he and his team are “fired up” and “hungry” to win the next general election in a new-look Downing Street
The Prime Minister also urged voters to give him his “first full term” which could take him to 2029 in No 10, if he wins the election.
But it comes after Mr Sunak struggled to reset the dire narrative engulfing the Government, with the Tories stuck 20 points behind Labour.
Mr Sunak admitted that ministers had been forced to act on RAAC concrete in schools at a “frustrating” time at the start of the parliamentary term.
It comes as many Tory MPs predict almost-certain defeat at the next election -and amid reports that his No 10 chief of staff, Liam Booth-Smith, was forced to tell Whitehall special advisers they were not welcome in the Government if they did not believe the Conservative Party could win.
Mr Sunak, however, dismissed suggestions that he was on his way out of No 10 come what may, insisting there was “plenty of time” until the next election, suggesting he could opt for autumn rather than spring 2024 before calling a national poll.
He also insisted that the narrow Tory victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election showed the party could beat Labour “when voters were confronted with an actual choice… on an issue of substance”.
Mr Sunak also argued that he was turning the Government’s fortunes around by beginning to bring down inflation, the number of Channel crossings, as well as presiding over more positive news on energy bills and the economy’s recovery from Covid.
The Prime Minister answered questions from journalists on the plane taking him to New Delhi for the G20 summit in India. Asked by i to give his message to those who think he is already heading for defeat, Mr Sunak said: “That should give people confidence that all the things we have done and are doing are right and are going to make a big difference to them.
“That’s what the autumn will be about, that’s what you’ll see from me, building on the foundations of the last eight months, continuing to make decisions that are in the right long-term interests of the country, that put our country in a direction heading to a better place, that’s going to improve people’s lives.
“That’s what I want to do, I want to put our country on a trajectory that they can see their lives improving and I’m confident we can deliver that.
“We’ve got plenty of time between now and the next election, I’m not complacent, there’s lots of work to do but I’m entirely confident we can deliver for people.
“And I can tell you – certainly in Downing Street, we are fired up.”
Mr Sunak also stressed that he now feels he has a team that is “hungry” to win, following the departure of former communications director Amber de Botton and the addition of former Matt Hancock aide Jamie Njoku-Goodwin as the new director of strategy.
“As you can see we’ve brought some new people in, some of you will know them, these are very high quality people that are joining the team because they believe that we will win – they are hungry to win, I am hungry to win, and they are fired up to deliver it,” the Prime Minister said.
He added: “I will show the British people what I am capable of in the time I have now before the election. I will be saying to them, ‘Give me a full term and then show what I can deliver for you.’”
He refused to give in to Tory MP demands for immediate tax cuts to fire up a gloomy faithful, telling reporters: “I am a low-tax Conservative.
“The biggest tax cut I can deliver for the British people is to reduce inflation. Inflation is a tax. That is what Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson said – they were right to say it.”