Rishi Sunak’s response to real-life accounts of poverty was attacked for being too lacklustre on Tuesday.
The prime minister was questioned by BBC Radio 5 Live’s Rachel Burden over the ongoing cost of living crisis when his reply to one particular example of the public’s modern struggles even surprised the presenter.
Burden began: “We’ve had people, charities, tell us that families are watering down baby formula because they can’t afford it.
“Now can you ever imagine being in that situation?”
Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty, the two wealthiest No.10 Downing Street inhabitants in history, had a shared net worth of £529m according to the Sunday Times’ Rich List last year.
He replied: “My job is to make sure everyone has financial security.”
“But does that shock you?” Burden pushed.
He said: “Of course I’m sad to hear that someone is in that situation.”
Burden asked: “Sad?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t you be sad? Of course it’s sad to hear that anyone is in that situation,” the prime minister replied.
“Of course it’s sad, if someone’s got a little one in their life and they’re having to do that, that’s an incredibly sad thing.
“But my job is to make sure we can ease those pressures and actually look at what was causing those pressures – it was inflation.
“Inflation being at 11%, prices going up by that much every year – it was a real struggle for people, that’s why it was important that we prioritise bringing inflation down. It is now coming down. That is real, that will have an impact on people.”
Of Sunak’s five priorities that he set out for 2023, the only one he achieved was halving inflation to 4.2% by the end of the year.
However, many have credited this fall in inflation due to the interest rate rises implemented by the Bank of England which is independent of the government.
Sunak also referenced his recent cut in National Insurance contributions, which he said worth £450 for someone on the average salary.
“I’m sure you understand – even those numbers don’t compensate for the rise in prices, and prices are still rising,” Burden hit back.
She then told him about a young mother who rang the programme and revealed how she had to take out a credit card for basic travel expenses.
“Obviously, it’s very difficult for me to comment on the individual circumstances of the people you’re going through,” the PM replied to that.
He said anyone struggling could write to him personally, or reach out to the Citizens Advice Bureau or job centre.
His comment comes just two days after The Guardian revealed a shortfall in local council funding meant a Citizens Advice bureau in Mansfield had to close.
Sunak was already facing backlash this week after making a £1,000 bet with Piers Morgan on TV that he would deport migrants to Rwanda before the next general election.
And social media was quick to call him out over his reaction to the gut-wrenching account today, too...