Rishi Sunak defends making Red Wall visit during Labour Party conference

Rishi Sunak has denied that he targeted a so-called Red Wall region during the Labour Party conference because he was worried about the Conservatives’ chances at the next election.

The Prime Minister spent Monday morning visiting a Currys repair and customer service centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire, for one of his PM Connect events with business employees.

Taking media questions during the event, Mr Sunak was asked by a reporter whether his decision to take the “unusual step” of making a public visit during the Labour conference was a sign of “desperation”.

Mr Sunak was told the Tories won six seats from Labour in the East Midlands during Boris Johnson’s 2019 landslide victory which was built on blue gains in Labour’s traditional heartlands of the North of England and the Midlands — a feat that could prove difficult to replicate should opinion polls fail to narrow.

The Conservative Party leader rejected the suggestion he had chosen to visit the region because he was worried about retaining those Red Wall seats at a likely election next year.

He said: “No, I think that kind of approach to everything is incredibly political.

“I’m here to talk about the plans that we’ve announced. Just over the past few weeks, we’ve announced some pretty big things that are going to impact all of you, whether that is on net zero, on HS2, on support for towns like Mansfield, like Newark.

“I wanted to come here to the East Midlands to talk about it and the impact that those decisions (will have) on people, to explain why I think they are the right thing for people here and to hear from them.

“I think that is the right thing to do in this job.”

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts a PM Connect event in Newark (Joe Giddens/PA)

The pair are among 55 areas to be given £20 million over a 10-year period to help regenerate high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour.

Communities minister Lee Rowley also defended the Government making announcements during the time that Sir Keir Starmer’s party is hosting its conference.

Mr Rowley told LBC the announcements were not because the Tories were worried about its election prospects but rather because ministers were “getting on with the job”.

He said: “We’re taking the difficult decisions, and the challenging decisions which need to be taken, but we’re also just doing what is needed.

“Today’s announcement of 6,000 more homes on brownfield land, brownfield first in terms of the housing and planning system, is another example of that.”

A spokesman for shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves described the Prime Minister’s visit as “desperate”.

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