Last Thursday the Conservative candidates who are campaigning to become Prime Minister began a series of regional visits to promote themselves to their voters. Their first location was in Leeds. They were being heard on the radio early in the evening and they both claimed that they will provide better train provision for that region than their party had agreed to do previously. The fact that they are now both offering a better provision than their government committed last year in one sense is very encouraging. However, given that they were both senior Ministers in that Government, their latest proposals raise questions about what they agreed to do in the past. However given that these promises were made publicly last week, there is clearly a call for people in other areas to raise their requirements over the next few days. If these candidates are willing to do the same that they have promised for Leeds, our area could potentially obtain promises from the next Prime Minister. Those of us in Sussex who have experienced a significant number of challenges from the Conservative Government over the last 12 years could understandably raise our concerns now. Our communities can hope that these potential Prime Ministers will respond to our local issues in addition to what they have promised for Leeds. On a similar theme perhaps Nusrat Ghani and Maria Caulfield could persuade Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to promise a train connection from Lewes to Uckfield and a stronger train link from Uckfield into Kent and London. There are of course a significant number of many other themes that Sussex would benefit from if the Government is willing to support our communities at last.
It is always interesting to find out how much potential Prime Ministers understand or refer to our region in Parliamentary debates. If we check out the historic comments from Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the number of references they have made has been very modest. Rishi Sunak only mentioned Sussex four times and bizarrely they were all in 2018 and all part of answers to questions from Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Sunak also referred to Brighton and Hove twice, once in 2018 again in response to Lloyd and once in 2020 in response to Caroline Lucas. He referred to Crawley once in 2019 in response to a question from Henry Smith. However, during a discussion in 2019 about District Council Finances he did include the comment “I have repeatedly highlighted the social prescribing model of Adur and Worthing Councils as one that others should look to follow.” There were fewer responses from Elizabeth Truss although she did refer to Sussex during a brief debate about Wine Production which involved Tim Loughton and Nick Herbert. She stated “I had a very enjoyable morning in Sussex recently—we started the tour at 9 am, and it was one of my best days in the job.” She also referred to Brighton and Hove twice, once in 2014 and once in 2012 which were both responses to Simon Kirby. She also responded to Worthing in 2017 when she was having a discussion about NHS Pay and she stated
I saw this hard work in action on the Becket ward of Worthing Hospital a few weeks ago, where deputy sister, Sue Grace, and her team were in an improvement huddle, where every day they look at how they can make life better for their patients.
It is clear that neither of them have spoken about our region very often but they may have both been here in the past when the Conservative Party held its Conference in Brighton and Hove.
Of course, the fact is that whoever gets elected by the Conservative members this summer may not remain as a Prime Minister for a very long period, but we can hope that they will implement positive aspects for as long as they are elected. One of the reasons that their success may not last very long is that they are faced with a General Election that needs to take place by the 12th December 2024 at the very latest. If as many people suspect they could lose the next Election, they will have been a Prime Minister for less time than all of their recent colleagues. However, assuming that they remain in place towards the end of 2024 they will have been a Prime Minister for a few days longer than Harold Wilson achieved in his second period. Of course, the prospect of a non-Conservative Government will be seriously improved if the Labour party is willing to coordinate with other groups. Ideally, they will work with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens in constituencies that are currently marginally dominated by Conservatives which includes several locations here in Sussex. Let us hope they will start soon!