Tory MPs express concern over Sunak’s flying pharmacy visit | Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak flew a helicopter to the south coast and back to announce the government’s new health policy on Tuesday in an attempt to calm Conservatives’ nervousness after disastrous local election results.

In the latest example of the Prime Minister’s penchant for short-haul air travel, the Prime Minister visited Southampton to outline pharmacists’ plans to provide prescriptions to millions of patients in England to help ease the general practitioner crisis.

However, instead of taking the train from Waterloo station for the 160-mile round trip, which would take an hour and 15 minutes and cost around £30 return, he opted to travel by air, at a taxpayer cost in the region of £6,000.

The visit, rather than reassuring Tory MPs that he was focused on continuing his work after the Conservatives lost more than 950 seats in last week’s local elections, inadvertently underlined the fears of some that voters perceived him as out of touch with reality.

“Is it unfair to say that the weekend was about a powerful, unelected person who is incredibly wealthy and lacks common contact… and King Charles III?” one Tory MP even joked grimly.

“To move back from our 2019 performance, when we lost 1,300 seats, is a damning indictment of the public against the government. Exceeding our very low expectations is terrifying.”

Sunak told reporters in Southampton that the local election results were “obviously disappointing” but stressed that his priorities were national and he would “continue to work” to achieve them.

His official spokesman claimed that he traveled by helicopter in part because he had a “series of meetings” in the afternoon that he had to attend, and people in Number 10 said he was determined to stick to his plan.

However, when his MPs returned to Westminster after the coronation weekend, many were dejected. One former minister told the Guardian that Sunak’s allies were in “fantasy land” if they thought his plan could lead the Tories back to power next year.

“I think we can still deny Labor a majority, but I don’t see a way to actually win the election. Rishi has obviously decided it’s best to stick to the path he’s on, but I don’t think that’s enough.”

There are also concerns that voters don’t see Sunak’s priorities as country-specific – or at least don’t believe they’re achievable. “If his five promises were really people’s priorities, they would probably vote for them,” one MP said.

Others criticized the party’s local election campaign, with Justin Tomlinson MP for North Swindon saying the Conservatives went into local elections without a “coherent message” and did not even organize a proper inaugural event.

“The results have been devastating,” he told Times Radio. “Honestly, it’s crazy for anyone to try to turn it any other way… It was off the scale. We have lost some very good councillors, not only in Swindon but in many parts of the country. This must be a wake-up call for parties at all levels. There’s no escaping it.”

One former minister told the Guardian that beyond the sheer scale of last Thursday’s losses, the way it happened showed Conservatives’ more fundamental concerns.

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