Tory leadership hopeful pledges more support for farmers, pharmacies and first-time buyers
HOT on the heels of weekend interviews, in which he pledged greater support for farmers and restrictions on building in the Green Belt, Tory leadership contender Rishi Sunak visited the Blackmore Vale.
He met local party members and selected regional media at the Exchange at Sturminster Newton, hosted by North Dorset MP Simon Hoare. Describing himself as “the warm-up act,” Mr Hoare introduced Rishi Sunak as “a common sense Tory who will do the right thing,” but stressed that the party must unite after the leadership election.
Mr Sunak also spoke of the need for unity and of the importance of patriotism, family, hard work and aspiration. Restoring trust would be a priority, he said.
Identifying himself as the leader for the next general election – which would be a record fifth consecutive win for the Conservatives – he recognised the need to appeal to floating voters, and referred specifically to the recent loss of the Honiton and Tiverton constituency to the Liberal Democrats.
In the weekend interviews, the former Chancellor, MP for the rural North Yorkshire constituency of Richmond, talked about the importance of domestic food production and the resilience it gives us: “I will drive forward the most significant reforms to farming in half a century,” he said.
At Sturminster Newton, he told local media, including The BV, about his concerns for food security and the need for a stronger vision that is more friendly to farming. His neighbour in North Yorkshire is a dairy farmer, so has “a significant understanding of the challenges farmers are facing.”
On housing, a hot topic in his constituency as it is in the West Country, he promised to restrict construction on the Green Belt, while his rival, Liz Truss, plans to build a million homes there. He was sympathetic to the problems of people in rural areas where so many houses are bought as second homes. It was important, he said, to make sure that “rules and regulations don’t tip the balance in favour of second homes,” and he was working with some local MPs to close some of the regulatory loopholes.
Saving for deposits is a major problem for first time-buyers – his solution is 95 per cent mortgages.
As the son of a GP and a pharmacist – he used to help his mother with the pharmacy accounts – he has a lifelong commitment to the NHS. But he wants to reform the service “to be more efficient, starting with tackling missed appointments.”
A shortage of pharmacists has led to many local pharmacy closures, particularly at weekends – Mr Sunak wants to support pharmacies to do even more: “We need pharmacies to be more visible, and give them more things to do,” he said.
by: Fanny Charles