Sunak attacks Welsh government on campaign visit

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has attacked the Welsh government over speed limits and waiting times, on the first full day of general election campaigning.

Speaking at a brewery in Barry, he accused Labour of pursuing a "war on motorists" and said Welsh patients were being let down by the state of the Welsh NHS.

He was mocked by a senior Labour MP, however, after he asked whether people were looking forward to a football tournament that Wales had not qualified for.

First Minister Vaughan Gething said the attack was "what you'd expect from a Tory prime minister who knows he's in desperate trouble".

Earlier, a Labour MP appeared to distance herself from the Welsh Labour leader over donations to his leadership campaign.

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth urged voters to back his party to ensure Wales is "never ignored at Westminster".

The Welsh government runs health, education, councils, transport policy and agriculture, among other matters.

It is made up of Labour Members of the Senedd (MSs) who are not up for election this year.

Mr Sunak, who was joined at the brewery by Welsh Secretary David TC Davies and local Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns, was shown how the business worked on the second stop of his tour of the UK's four nations.

The constituency was Labour during the Blair years and is a target seat for the party in the July poll.

Speaking to BBC Wales, Mr Sunak accused the Welsh government of pursuing a "war on motorists with top-down blanket 20mph speed limits".

Mr Sunak said small businesses owners were facing "thousands of pounds of higher tax bills" as a result of changes to business rates.

"The Welsh NHS, run by the Labour government, is the worst performing in Great Britain - waiting times the longest, emergency times the worst. That's the reality of Labour in Wales."

The Welsh government objects to the term blanket - saying it is an incorrect way to describe a default speed limit limit which applies in most residential areas which were previously 30mph.

Mr Sunak said he had a “strong record of investing in Wales”, saying his decision to scrap the second leg of the HS2 high speed rail line, between Birmingham and Manchester, was “going to mean a billion pounds” would be spent electrifying the north Wales main line.

Earlier in the visit Mr Sunak was met with a moment of silence when he asked if the European football championships would be a source of revenue.

"So, you're looking forward to all the football?," he asked. Wales did not qualify for the tournament.

One individual answered: "We're not so invested in it," to which another responded: "That's because you guys aren't in it".

The prime minister added: "It'll be a good summer of sport."

Labour's shadow Welsh Secretary, Jo Stevens, said on social media platform X it was "another own goal for Rishi".

Later, one of the business owners pictured sat next to Mr Sunak suggested he would not be supporting his party.

Lee Skeet, owner of Jackson's oyster bar in Cardiff, said on X he was "just asked to be there to talk about hospitality".

First Minister Vaughan Gething said on Thursday: “We know the difference that a Labour government makes, and we know that two Labour governments at either end of the M4 can transform Wales and transform Britain.”

In an interview Mr Gething said the criticism of the Welsh government was “what you’d expect from a Tory prime minister who knows he’s in desperate trouble.

“I want a change election for people to look at the position you find yourself in with your family.

“Are you better off now than four and a half years ago or 14 years ago?

“Are you optimistic about the future of the country with four more years of Rishi Sunak, after Liz Truss, after Boris Johnson, after David Cameron?”

Asked about a poll by Redfield and Wilton Strategies which suggested his approval rating had fallen in recent weeks, Mr Gething said: “I think you look at what’s happened in the last few weeks, it’s no surprise people take a different view.”

He said the donation row will not overshadow Labour’s campaign, and that voters were not asking about it.

'Not going to touch' donations

A Labour MP appeared to distance herself from Mr Gething when she appeared on the BBC Wales Live television programme on Wednesday evening.

Asked about the donation controversies that dominated his first few weeks as first minister, Llanelli Labour MP Nia Griffith said: “I think people see this very much as a race between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.

“We will be focusing on that and I’m sure voters will understand that.”

She also said Labour was "definitely not going to touch" leftover money from his campaign donations.

Vaughan Gething has now agreed to give the remaining £31,000 to charity, rather than the Labour Party as would normally happen.

During his leadership campaign Mr Gething accepted £200,000 from a company owned by a man that was previously convicted of environmental offences – he raised more than £250,000.


By Gareth Lewis, BBC Wales political editor

After it rained on his parade yesterday Rishi Sunak at least appeared to avoid any puns about his organisational skills after a visit to a brewery - brief faux pas about the football aside.

The trip to Barry on day one of the campaign was no surprise - it is in the Vale of Glamorgan, one of the Conservative seats most at risk.

Also of no surprise was the attack line - what he sees as the Welsh Labour government’s track record here.

But that is not without risk. How much will voters take into account things like 20mph and the NHS - both Welsh government responsibilities - when they’re voting in a UK general election?

And it also assumes some voters are willing to overlook what they might see as big issues with the Conservative record at UK level over the past 14 years.

'Wales' voice diluted'

The election is the first since a major boundary review, which will cut the number of MPs in Wales from 40 to 32.

All seats will see their boundaries change, with the exception of Ynys Môn.

Welsh Labour are hoping to expand their dominance in Wales, while the Conservatives are defending the ground they won in 2019.

At the last election Welsh Labour won 22 seats - still the largest party despite the performance of the Conservatives.

Plaid Cymru is currently the third largest Welsh group of MPs in Westminster, with four seats.

Its leader leader spent Thursday afternoon visiting what the party called its “key battleground seats” of Carmarthen, Ceredigion Preseli, Dwyfor Meirionydd and Ynys Môn.

In Carmarthen, Rhun ap Iorwerth told BBC Wales he was "pretty sure" the Conservatives would lose power in this election, but he appealed to "people in all parts of Wales" to vote to ensure the nation “is never ignored at Westminster”.

The Conservatives and Labour would “not make Wales a priority”, he warned.

"In this election, we're seeing a significant decrease in the number of MPs from Wales so it's more critical than ever, arguably, that we make sure that we have MPs in Plaid Cymru that make sure we are not ignored.

"The Conservatives will be thrown out at this election, I’m pretty sure of that.

"Labour will probably get the keys to 10 Downing Street, but they take Wales for granted and we have to have Plaid Cymru there making sure that we stand for fairness for Wales and its communities."

Speaking on BBC Radio Cymru's Dros Frecwast Jane Dodds, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Wales, said they will be "campaigning hard".

"Most of the people who have voted for the Conservatives will not want to give their vote this time to Labour, so we have an opportunity to talk to them and ensure that we are their choice," she said.

Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said they plan to stand a candidate in every constituency.

"If we manage to do that it will be the first time we have done that in the party's history.

"We're prioritising that because we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote Green," she said.