Minister Refuses To Admit Public Does Not Like Rishi Sunak's 'Plan' For The Country

Laura Kuenssberg called out Mark Harper for saying the government's
Laura Kuenssberg called out Mark Harper for saying the government's "plan" is working BBC

Transport secretary Mark Harper refused to say the public does not like Rishi Sunak’s plan for the country in an interview this morning.

Shortly after the local elections saw the Tories lose almost 500 councillors, 10 police and crime commissioners and the West Midlands mayoral race, BBC presenter Laura Kuenssberg pressed the cabinet minister on whether it was time to change course before the general election.

He just said: “It’s all to play for.”

Kuenssberg reminded him: “You’ve lost all of these councils around the country, you’ve lost everything apart from the [Tees Valley] mayoral results.”

The BBC presenter continued: “You say you’re focused on the country’s priorities – the country is telling you at the ballot box that it doesn’t like what you are doing.

“It doesn’t want to choose the Conservatives at the moment, in all sorts of different contests and all different sorts of different corners of the country.”

Harper just acknowledged that the election results have been “disappointing”, particularly in the West Midlands where Tory mayor Andy Street was kicked out of office in a surprise twist.

Kuenssberg jumped in to note that, as transport secretary, Harper actually cancelled Street’s leg of HS2.

The minister claimed that showed Sunak was interested in taking the “difficult decisions which might not be popular with everyone” but are in the long-term interests of the country.

Kuenssberg then reminded the minister how the Tories have lost 12 out of 13 by-elections since Sunak got into office.

“You’ve been losing under Rishi Sunak time and again,” she said. “Don’t you think you need to change something?”

She continued: “If you just say, ‘stick to the plan, stick to the plan,’ aren’t you just sticking your fingers in your ears when the electorate are telling you time and again they are not impressed.”

Harper referred back to the Tories’ one victory, the Tees Valley mayor result, and said that was all about “delivering on the plan”.

Kuenssberg replied: “Ben Houchen seems to have been able to communicate to his voters that he is able to achieve things.

“Rishi Sunak does not seem able to communicate to voters that he is achieving the things you claim.”

Harper said: “The plan is about delivering. The plan is working. We haven’t got all the way to the end of it yet.”

He pointed to the drop in inflation – which many trace back to decisions made by the Bank of England not the government – and claimed illegal migration is down 30% year-on-year.

“After these results, you’re not going to change anything? You’re just going to stick to the plan to use your phrase?” The presenter asked.

Harper said voters just want to see “delivery”.

Kuenssberg said voters clearly “do not like” what the Tories are offering, and asked: “Do you not see that people in your party as well as in the country are saying, please do things differently?’”

Harper replied saying that the public want the government to focus on the economy.