From Israel & Rwanda to shoplifting and swastikas - a nervous Rishi Sunak covered it all with no notes

10 April 2024, 14:36

The PM is running down the clock to the election, writes Natasha Clark

Mr Sunak faced a grilling from LBC listeners this morning
Mr Sunak faced a grilling from LBC listeners this morning. Picture: 10 Downing Street
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Rishi Sunak left his no longer trendy pair of Adidas Sambas at home as he rocked up to face a grilling from LBC listeners this morning.

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Instead his shiny black loafers were nervously tapping the floor as he said sorry to the "Samba community" for ruining their favourite snazzy shoes.

He rattled through his answers with no notes in sight, only pausing to write down the names of fearless callers.

Nothing was off-limits as listeners lined up to press him on everything from Israel and arms sales to the NHS, migration, and defence spending.

"Hi Rhonda!" he chirped to Louise in the Rhonda marking his only gaffe, swiftly followed by an apology and a smattering of awkward laughter.

To kick off we asked the question all our listeners are desperate to know - when is that election going to be?

Read more: 'We’ve got your back': Rishi Sunak’s message to retail staff as he pledges crackdown on dangerous shoplifters

Read more: PM says there's 'no' place for swastikas in Britain as he vows to 'hold police to account'

What's up with Rishi Sunak's Adidas Sambas?

Sadly no answer - with just a hint that we've got some way to go yet.

He said he was keen to "make progress" before going to the polls - with waiting lists, a struggling economy and small boats still causing a headache.

The second half of the year is still the working assumption, he stressed.

The PM defended not stopping selling arms to Israel, telling us that our closest allies aren't doing so and the legal advice hasn't changed.

But in some of his strongest language against the Israeli PM yet, he said he needed to do more to stop atrocities like the three British aid workers being killed, from ever happening again.

The situation in Gaza is "increasingly intolerable too", he added.

In other news, the PM continued to flirt with the idea of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights if his Rwanda plans get blocked again in the courts again.

Popcorn at the ready for next week's Commons clash as MPs return to Westminster and the latest boats law comes back to Parliament.

But do his MPs, or the public, really believe he's ready to rip Britain out of the ECHR? Suella Braverman told Nick yesterday that she didn't.

No10 insiders insist that he's determined to do whatever it takes.

He told us he wouldn't have put the clause in the bill to give ministers the power to ignore court rulings if he wasn't prepared to do it.

That's not quite the same thing as pulling out of the convention altogether.

Behind the scenes, right-wing Tory MPs sense his trepidation over such a move, and are gearing up for a fight to try and get this promise in the Tory manifesto.

Of course, he refused to say what would be going in there, if he's even started writing it at all.

Elsewhere, the PM was forced to admit that he's essentially failed on his push to drive down NHS waiting lists - and pleaded with junior doctors to accept what he said is the most generous public sector pay deal on offer.

Politicians should also heed warnings from the Westminster honeytrap storm that "bad actors" are trying to damage our democracy too.

He was punchy on the use of swastikas and protests on Britain's streets - calling on police to take any action necessary to stamp out racism and that he's given the powers they asked for.

But he was on the back foot over defence spending - arguably seen as a weak Achillies heel - with still no news about when he'll raise that to 2.5 per cent or 3 per cent as promised.

And when he came face to face with a former Tory voter who is jumping ship to Reform, he gave his best sales pitch on his record doing more than ever before on migration and striking a balance on net zero, but insisted votes for them could put Sir Keir Starmer in power instead.

With Reform now coming in just six per centage points behind the Tories, he's going to have to have a more convincing answer that that before he does call that long-awaited election, or those Sambas won't be the only thing getting the boot.