Rishi Sunak admits 'error' of not wearing seatbelt on nightmare day

Having a bad day, Rishi? Sunak admits ‘error of judgement’ after failing to wear seatbelt in car, brands Tories calling for tax cuts ‘idiots’, and is slammed for taking flight to Blackpool in 12-hour meltdown

  • Rishi Sunak admitted ‘error of judgement’ over failing to wear seatbelt in car
  • Questions were raised after the PM posted a video of journey on Instagram  
  • Mr Sunak suggested only ‘idiots’ want tax cuts in Budget as he defies Tory calls
  • Sir James Dyson said that ‘stupid’ policies are preventing economic growth
  • The premier facing backlash for taking flight to Blackpool rather than train or car 

Rishi Sunak endured a day to forget today as he admitted failing to wear a seatbelt in his official car and branded Tories calling for tax cuts ‘idiots’.

The PM also faced a backlash for taking a plane to Blackpool for a visit to promote Levelling Up spending, rather than driving or going by rail.

The 12-hour meltdown came as Mr Sunak was attempting to get on the front foot by allocating cash to projects across the country. But the announcements were criticised for mostly going to London and the South East rather than the Red Wall.  

A clip posted on Mr Sunak’s own Instagram appeared to show Mr Sunak in the back of a moving car without a seatbelt on.

And a Downing Street spokesman said this afternoon: ‘That was a brief error of judgment. The Prime Minister removed his seatbelt to film a short clip.’

Mr Sunak ‘fully accepts this was a mistake and apologises’, the spokesman added.

‘The Prime Minister believes everyone should wear a seatbelt,’ the spokesman said.

‘It was an error of judgment, he removed it for a short period of time to film a clip, which you’ve seen, but he accepts that was a mistake.’

Rishi Sunak used the social media clip to promote his ‘Levelling Up’ tour. But viewers quickly spotted that the PM appeared not to be wearing a safety belt

Sunak defends using RAF jet to go 250 miles to Blackpool 

Rishi Sunak today defended his use of an RAF jet to fly 250 miles to northern England amid accusations the Prime Minister was behaving like an ‘A-list celebrity’.

As he embarked on a tour of northern England to promote Government help for deprived areas, Mr Sunak flew from RAF Northolt, north west London, to Blackpool.

His choice of a posh jet reserved for VIPs this morning was the third time he had used an RAF aircraft in the past 10 days.

All three of those journeys have been to parts of Britain with mainline train links to London.

He last week flew to Edinburgh to see Nicola Sturgeon and also used a jet to travel to Leeds to visit an NHS unit for a photo op.

Appearing at a Q&A event in Morecambe this afternoon to promote the latest allocations from the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ fund, the PM was quizzed about his choice of plane travel at taxpayers’ expense. 

‘I travel around so I can do lots of things in one day, I’m not travelling around just for my own enjoyment – although this is very enjoyable, of course,’ Mr Sunak said.

‘I’m travelling around so I can talk to people in Accrington this morning, then I’ve talked to you, then I’m going to get over to Hartlepool because I’m working on all of your behalves.

‘Trust me, I’m working as hard as I can to deliver for you and I travel to make myself as effective as possible.’ 

The law states that car users must wear a seatbelt if one is fitted in their seat, with only a few exceptions.

A fine of up to £500 can be issued if someone does not wear a seatbelt.

None of the exceptions listed on the Government’s website appear to apply to Mr Sunak’s car journey.

For example, he was not a driver reversing, or in a vehicle used for police or fire and rescue services, driving a goods vehicle on deliveries, or a licensed taxi driver.

There is also an exemption for medical reasons, with those who qualify required to carry a doctor’s certificate with them while travelling.

Mr Sunak flew to Blackpool this morning before visiting Accrington and Morecambe, although it is unclear at what point in his journey he filmed the social media clip.

At one point in his Instagram video, police outriders on motorbikes can be seen through Mr Sunak’s passenger window.

The PM used the clip to encourage users to follow his progress on his trip to northern England as he went ‘out and about seeing Levelling Up in action’.

On his visit to Morecambe, Mr Sunak defied Tory calls for tax cuts in the Budget, suggesting only idiots think the burden can fall quickly after Covid and the Ukraine war.

The PM gave a blunt response when he was quizzed on the potential for reductions soon – and also swiped at James Dyson after the billionaire launched a brutal attack on the government’s ‘short-sighted’ and ‘stupid’ policies.

Asked on a visit to Morecambe whether he will cut taxes, Mr Sunak said: ‘I’m a Conservative, I want to cut your taxes … I wish I could do that tomorrow, quite frankly, but the reason we can’t is because of all the reasons you know. 

‘You’re not idiots, you know what’s happened.’

He said the pandemic and the war in Ukraine had left the public finances ‘not where it needs to be’.

Mr Sunak said ‘it takes a bit of work to get there’ but he vowed to make the economy stronger so the NHS and schools can be funded, secure lower interest rates and get a ‘grip of’ inflation.

‘Trust me, that’s what I’m going to do for you this year, that’s what we’re going to do while I’m Prime Minister and if we do those things we will be able to cut your taxes,’ he added.

Mr Sunak also pointed to the ‘super-deduction’ – which allows companies to invest large sums tax-free – saying he would like to hear from Sir James whether any other country was offering anything similar.   

Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have been scrambling to bring in revenue since the Downing Street handover last October, insisting their priority is to stabilise the government finances in the wake of the disastrous Liz Truss meltdown.

However, there is disquiet on Conservative benches there seems to be no prospect of tax cuts at the Budget in March.

MailOnline understands there is instead a Cabinet push for Mr Hunt to ease the eye-watering burden on Brits by the Autumn, with fears it could be the only ‘narrow path’ to the Tories winning the next election. 

Asked whether Mr Sunak viewed people who wanted tax cuts as ‘idiots’, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘He didn’t call anybody an idiot and he himself set out his ambitions to reduce the tax burden over time.

‘He said that the worst thing he could do is make promises he can’t keep and saddle a country with more debt.

‘And he set out once again that his overall ambition is to reduce tax. But that needs to be when we have when we have economic stability and inflation’s come down.’

Rishi Sunak gave a blunt response when he was quizzed on the potential for reductions soon

Billionaire James Dyson (left) today launched a brutal attack on ‘short-sighted’ and ‘stupid’ red tape and high taxes in the UK.  The comments come amid rising pressure from ministers and Conservative MPs for Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt (right) to bring in tax cuts

The tax burden has risen sharply in recent years, causing alarm among Tories

Renowned tycoon and inventor Sir James said Britain was stuck in a state of ‘Covid inertia’ that was holding the economy back.

Sir James, who backed Brexit and has an estimated net worth of £23billion, accused the Tory government of ‘interfering’ and ‘penalising the private sector’.

He also complained that the failure to get workers back to the office after the pandemic has ‘badly damaged the country’s self-belief and work ethic’. 

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sir James called on Mr Hunt to use the spring budget to ‘incentivise private innovation and demonstrate its ambition for growth’.

‘The Government seems intent on moving in the opposite direction with the introduction of suffocating regulation, greater interference with business, and thinking it can impose tax upon tax on companies in the belief that penalising the private sector is a free win at the ballot box.’ 

Sir James warned: ‘This is as short-sighted as it is stupid. In the global economy, companies will simply choose to transfer jobs and invest elsewhere. 

‘Our country has an illustrious history of enterprise and innovation, born of a culture which we are in the process of extinguishing.’ 

The negative assessment came despite glimmers of hope that inflation could be easing. 

Figures yesterday showed the headline CPI finally nudging down from 40-year highs, with the rate 10.5 per cent in the year to December.

GDP data has also been holding up marginally better than analysts had expected, with the UK potentially avoiding a technical recession in the last quarter of 2022. 

Tories believe the government should have a bit more room for manoeuvre after energy costs dropped, reducing the liabilities for the household bill subsidies.

One senior minister told MailOnline that Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt would take the decision, but a likely election in the second half of next year should focus minds. Tax cuts could help boost Rishi Sunak’s position and morale in the crunch final year of the parliament.

The minister said there were ‘some grounds for hope with the economic data looking slightly better’.

Inflation dropped slightly in December after spiralling to a 40-year high in October 

GDP data has also been holding up marginally better than analysts had expected, potentially avoiding a technical recession in the last quarter of 2022

‘Bills are starting to ease, inflation might be coming down,’ they said.

‘If we can make some savings on things like the energy bills scheme, if the economy is stronger because we’ve stabilised the government, we might be able to return to the issue of tax cuts soon.’

They added: ‘It’s a narrow path. We need a better economy, persuade people to trust us with the NHS. We might need to get lucky with Ukraine, and hope Starmer makes mistakes.

‘But it is all about momentum. If we go into 2024 putting some money back into people’s pockets then it will be all to play for.’

A Treasury source insisted that tackling inflation was the ‘priority’ for Mr Hunt.

‘We want low taxes and sound money. But sound money has to come first because inflation eats away at the pound in people’s pockets even more insidiously than taxes,’ they said.

However, they acknowledged that the Bank of England is anticipating the PM’s goal of halving inflation could be reached by the final quarter of the year.

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