How Rishi Sunak is doing on delivering his five pledges

Rishi Sunak’s five priorities have dominated his public appearances in 2023, appearing in speeches and on platforms throughout the year.

After the chaos of 2022, he set out the five pledges in a new year speech, promising to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut NHS waiting times and stop small boat crossings.

Saying there would be “no tricks, no ambiguity” on delivering the pledges, the Prime Minister asked the public to judge his Government on “results”.

As he marks one year as Prime Minister, the PA news agency has looked at how his efforts to deliver on his five priorities are going.

Rishi Sunak visits Lancashire and County Durham
Rishi Sunak’s priorities have consistently appeared behind him as he travels the country (Owen Humphreys/PA)

– Halve inflation

The Prime Minister is probably on course to meet his pledge to halve inflation this year.

Inflation currently stands at 6.7%, with figures published in November expected to show a significant fall thanks to a reduction in the energy price cap.

Mr Sunak needs inflation to fall to 5.3% in order to meet his target, and while this is not guaranteed, it appears well within reach in the remaining months of the year.

However, an inflation rate of 5.3% is still much higher than it has been in recent years and means prices will continue to rise, albeit less slowly than they did last year.

Score: 4/5

ECONOMY Inflation
Inflation is coming down, and the Prime Minister appears to be on track to meet his target (PA Graphics)

– Grow the economy

Mr Sunak also appears on course to meet this pledge, although growth has been weak.

According to the Office for National Statistics’ latest figures, GDP has grown by around 0.5% over the past year, and most forecasts expect growth for the whole of 2023 to be around that figure.

Technically, Mr Sunak is therefore likely to be able to claim success on this pledge, even if growth remains slow in comparison to historic rates and the pace of expansion in other large economies.

Score: 4/5

Growth has been inconsistent since Rishi Sunak took over as Prime Minister, but the economy is still slightly larger than it was at the start of the year (PA Graphics)

– Reduce debt

It remains uncertain whether the Government will be able to reduce its overall debt by the end of the year.

Provisional figures for August, the latest available, suggest the total national debt stands at 97.8% – higher than it was in both September 2022 and March 2023.

But the figure is still lower than it was at the end of 2022, when total net debt was 99.5% of GDP, and after a spike in the early summer has fallen slightly in recent months.

Artificial intelligence
Whether the national debt has come down depends on whether the Bank of England is included in the figures (Aaron Chown/PA)

However, there is a further complication in that the Government usually uses a different figure – public sector net debt excluding the Bank of England.

Once this figure is used, total debt is higher than it was at the end of 2022, rising slightly from 88% of GDP to 89.3%.

Further revisions to these figures are likely, and the Prime Minister did not set a deadline for reducing debt – the Chancellor’s fiscal rules, for instance, only talk about debt being forecast to fall in five year’s time.

Mr Sunak therefore seems unlikely to be able to claim a straightforward victory on this target, although some measures may allow him to do so.

Score: 3/5

– Cut NHS waiting lists

NHS funding
Rishi Sunak pledged to cut waiting lists, but the number of people waiting for NHS treatment has reached record levels (Leon Neal/PA)

On current measures, it appears as if the Prime Minister will fail to meet this target.

The total number of people waiting for NHS treatment reached 7.75 million in August, a record figure and around 10% more than a year ago.

But Mr Sunak may still be able to claim some success as the number of people waiting for very long periods has reduced over the past year.

The number waiting more than two years for treatment has fallen by 90% since August 2022, while waiting lists of more than 18 months and 15 months have reduced over the same period.

The number of people waiting more than a year is higher than it was in August 2022, even if it has fallen since the start of the year.

Perhaps more worrying for Mr Sunak’s pledge is that the number of people waiting more than a year has begun to creep up again, rising from around 359,000 in March 2023 to 396,600 in August.

Score: 2/5

– Stop the boats

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
Small boat crossings have continued throughout the year, although numbers are down on 2022 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The wording of Mr Sunak’s initial pledge on small boat crossings was not a promise to “stop the boats”, but to pass new legislation “making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed”.

On that basis, he succeeded with the passing of the Illegal Migration Act in July.

However, he is more likely to face judgement on whether he has “stopped the boats” or not, and on that basis he is a long way from fulfilling his pledge.

Crossings have reduced. In the year so far, around 26,500 have been detected crossing the Channel in small boats, compared to 37,000 in the same period last year.

There is some debate as to whether this is down to new legislation, better enforcement or simply worse weather, but whatever the cause, there is still a long way to go before Mr Sunak can claim to have brought the crossings to a halt.

Score: 1/5