'The Bloke Doesn’t Get It': Rishi Sunak May Block Public Sector Pay Rises In Inflation Battle

Prime minister faces a backlash for saying workers "need to recognise the economic context we are in".
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits a mobile lung health check unit in Nottingham, Britain, June 26, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Pool
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits a mobile lung health check unit in Nottingham, Britain, June 26, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Pool
PHIL NOBLE via Reuters

Rishi Sunak has faced a backlash after suggesting public sector workers need to “recognise the economic context we are in” as he hinted at blocking pay rises.

Critics pointed out the prime minister’s vast wealth and habit of taking helicopters to photo calls as he renewed his mission to keep a lid on inflation on Monday. Over the weekend, Sunak said Brits need to “hold our nerve” to get through the crisis.

Reports have suggested the PM plans to dismiss upcoming proposals from public sector pay bodies as inflation in the UK remains stubbornly high.

His concern is the “wage-price spiral” – where companies hike prices and as a result workers demand pay rises, which leads to companies hiking prices again.

On a visit to an NHS screening site in Nottingham, Sunak said he would make a “responsible” decision on pay increases for public sector staff.

The PM admitted people “may not like” the decisions he makes, adding: “I think everyone can see the economic context that we’re in with inflation higher than we’d like it and it’s important that in that context the government makes the right and responsible decisions on things like public sector pay.”

He said NHS strikes would make it “harder to bring waiting lists down and I think people should recognise the economic context we’re in and I’m going to make the decisions that are the right ones for the country”.

Multi-millionaire Sunak is the richest MP in parliament, and some have questioned whether he has the credibility to deliver the belt-tightening message.

Labour MP Karl Turner said: “Easy for out-of-touch billionaire (family tax-avoiding) Rishi Sunak to say isn’t it? The bloke doesn’t get it.”

Over the weekend, Sunak had been accused of being in “a parallel universe” after he appeared to downplay the crisis in the NHS and the soaring cost of living on the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday.

Comedian Ben Elton branded Sunak a “mendacious narcissistic sociopath” as he ripped the prime minister to shreds on live TV.

On the BBC, Sunak repeatedly refused to concede that government is failing on the NHS, despite waiting list being at a record high.

Kuenssberg told him: “Doesn’t it sound to many people, or it might it risk sounding, like you’re in some kind of parallel universe where the NHS is getting better and the economy is going to be OK? It’s not the experience of millions of people right now.”

But the PM said: “I get that this is challenging and that’s going to have an impact on me in the short term, but we’ve got to stick to the course and I want people to be re-assured that we’ve got to hold our nerve, stick to the plan and we will get through this.”

His “hold our nerve” is continuing to cause frustration.


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