Sunak set for week-long blitz of announcements  

Sunak is undertaking a week-long blitz of activity and announcements at home and abroad in a bid to convince a sceptical party he has the ideas to continue as PM…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak is undertaking a week-long blitz of activity and announcements at home and abroad in a bid to convince a sceptical party he has the ideas and drive to continue as prime minister.

After weeks of criticism about an empty legislative agenda, an inability to set the agenda, and divisions in the Tory Party dominating the headlines, this week “action man” Sunak will seek to take back control with news conferences, interviews and announcements.

On Monday, the PM will hold a news conference to champion the likely passage into law of the emergency Rwanda legislation first announced last year.

Then on Tuesday, he will embark on a two-day European trip, beginning in Warsaw, with a major announcement planned as part of the trip.

Some sources expect the announcement to be defence-related, possibly around jointly training troops and sharing equipment with Poland and the West Balkans.

This is Sunak’s first major trip to the world stage in months, apart from a brief visit to Ukraine. It follows his first set-piece speech outside the Commons last Friday about welfare reform.

Many of the ideas there were designed for the manifesto and to be implemented in the next parliament in the unlikely event the Tories win.

The looming spectre of a challenge has led to some conversations about holding the election over the summer, with the starting gun fired possibly even announced before the local elections.

This remains unlikely, however, since it would be possible for the opposition to present this as a move prompted by panic, and the Tories remain around 20 points behind in the polls.

Therefore appealing to his party to allow him to stay in the job, by showing a blizzard of action and announcements, is a priority for Sunak amid continued speculation about his party’s unhappiness.

Some 57 Tory MPs voted against his flagship smoking ban policy last week, with a further more than 100 abstaining, in a sign of his lack of grip on the party.

Former Tory MP Menzies quits  

Meanwhile, The former Conservative MP Mark Menzies is quitting the party and parliament after an internal inquiry found a “pattern of behaviour” that had fallen below the standard expected of MPs.

The MP for Fylde announced that he would not stand at the next election after the allegations that he misused campaign funds were referred to Lancashire police.

The Tory party said the internal investigation had not found any misuse of party funds and that the evidence it seen had shown all donations had been properly declared to the Electoral Commission and parliamentary authorities.

However, its inquiry into the allegations, which Menzies denies, found the MP’s behaviour had fallen below the standards required of any individual responsible for local campaign funds and may have breached the Nolan principles of public life.

Labour had accused the Tories of “sitting on their hands” for more than three months after the claims first emerged, while the Liberal Democrats called for the prime minister’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests to investigate the handling of the row.

A Conservative spokesperson said it was “demonstrably false” to suggest the party had not been “seriously examining” the matter. The party has only investigated the possible misuse of Conservative party funds.

The MP resigned the Tory whip and was suspended as a government trade envoy after the Times published allegations he had used political donations to cover medical expenses and pay off “bad people” who had locked him in a flat and demanded thousands of pounds for his release.

Menzies’ former campaign manager, who allegedly received a late-night phone call from him asking for cash, has said she felt “let down” by the party after she raised concerns with the chief whip, Simon Hart, in January.

In a statement, Menzies said: “It has been an enormous privilege representing the people of Fylde since 2010, but due to the pressures on myself and my elderly mother, I have decided to resign from the Conservative party and will not stand at the forthcoming general election.

“This has been a very difficult week for me and I request that my family’s privacy is respected.”

Menzies has a majority of more than 16,000 in his seat, which the Tories have always held but which, with Labour about 20 points ahead in the national polls, could for the first time be in contention.

Rishi Sunak declined to say on Friday whether Menzies should quit as MP for Fylde, although he told reporters after a speech in London on Friday that it was “right” that he had resigned the whip.

A Conservative party spokesperson said: “The money in question that was sent to Mark Menzies MP was signed off by the two signatories of Fylde Westminster Group. This body sits outside the remit of both the Conservative party and Fylde Conservative Association. Therefore we cannot conclude that there has been a misuse of Conservative party funds.

On Sunday evening the chair of the Labour party, Anneliese Dodds, said Menzies “did the right thing” in deciding to leave parliament but that “serious questions remain for Rishi Sunak and the Conservative party”.

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