Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to US

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Inside Rishi Sunak
Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to US

As he relaxes at his California hideaway, Rishi Sunak could be forgiven for not relishing the prospect of returning to Downing Street.

It's fair to say he had a messy few days before jetting off to the US with his family. He snapped at a BBC presenter when questioned about his continual use of private jets, was heckled by a pub landlord after announcing an alcohol duty shake-up and was berated by an NHS medic in a car-crash interview.

On top of that, his claim to have sat in Margaret Thatcher's car fell apart when it emerged that the vehicle was actually used by her security detail. The gaffe-prone PM also told an angry radio caller to consider extending his mortgage - a move experts said could host him an extra £12,500.

And if all that wasn't enough, he botched a charm offensive when he failed to name any top Scottish Tories, and was criticised for borrowing a chopper to travel 200 miles. Meanwhile the his party continues to tear itself apart over green policies, and there was an embarrassing delay to Government plans to pack asylum seekers onto a barge over safety fears. It will be gratifying, therefore, for Mr Sunak to kick back and let his deputy, Oliver Dowden, take the flak while he's away.

But even that will be hard, after green activists stormed his Yorkshire home on Thursday. Here we look at some of the key things that happened in the past week.

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Claiming he was in Margaret Thatcher's car - but he wasn't

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USThe PM gleefully shared a picture of himself in 'Margaret Thatcher's car'

This week aviation enthusiast Mr Sunak has been trying to convince motorists he's on their side. Announcing that he plans to review "anti-car schemes", he shared a photo of himself in "Margaret Thatcher's old Rover" on Twitter.

There was one small problem, however - it was actually her bodyguards' car. He hopped into the vehicle, which was on display at a community event in south London, and was pictured grinning at the wheel.

But critics swiftly pointed out the vehicle was used by Special Branch officers on PM and royal protection duty - as Mrs Thatcher was instead ferried around in a Rover P5. Labour frontbencher Emily Thornberry branded it yet another "phony photo op" by the PM.

Snapping at a BBC presenter when questioned over reliance on planes

Jet-setting Mr Sunak clashed with a radio presenter after being confronted about his decision to fly to Scotland for a green energy announcement.

The Prime Minister hit the airwaves to confirm plans for new North Sea oil and gas drilling - but got shirty with Good Morning Scotland presenter Martin Geissler. Mr Geissler challenged the PM over whether he was jetting to Aberdeenshire by plane.

Mr Sunak has been accused of enjoying a "helicopter lifestyle" for using choppers to make short trips. Asked if he was travelling to Aberdeenshire by private jet, the PM said: "I'll be flying as I normally would and that is the most efficient use of my time. But again, I think actually that question brings to life a great debate here. If you or others think that the answer to climate change is getting people to ban everything that they're doing, to stop people flying, to stop people going on holiday. I mean, I think that's absolutely the wrong approach."

Being heckled by landlord over alcohol tax shake-up

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USPouring a pint led to embarrassment for the PM (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

What should have been a standard photo call was wrecked as Mr Sunak faced a withering put-down by an angry publican. The PM poured a pint at a London beer festival on the day he announced a sweeping shake-up in alcohol duty.

He hailed the new post-Brexit regime that will hike tax on a range of drinks as the "most radical simplification of alcohol duties for 140 years". But his moment was ruined when Rudi Keyser, 46, heckled: "Prime Minister, oh the irony that you're raising alcohol duty on the day that you're pulling a pint."

All the scandals and sackings from Rishi Sunak's first 100 days in No10All the scandals and sackings from Rishi Sunak's first 100 days in No10

Mr Sunak described it as a "Brexit pub guarantee". But Wetherspoons boss - and Brexit cheerleader - Tim Martin warned it would cost his business an extra £8million a year.

Angry on-air confrontation with NHS doctor

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USThe PM took a call from an angry NHS medic about staff shortages (@LBC/Twitter)

On the morning he headed over to California, Mr Sunak made the bold decision to take part in a radio phone-in. It's fair to say it didn't go well.

One of the callers was a junior doctor who wanted to talk about the NHS staffing crisis, telling him: "That's your fault." The Prime Minister was hauled over the coals by A&E registrar Olivia in an LBC phone-in when he sought to blame strike action for spiralling NHS waiting lists.

Olivia, from Newcastle, who said she has been a junior doctor for 10 years, told the PM: “Frontline services are so stretched that we are in the position that you have had almost all healthcare workers going on strike this year. How do you think your refusal to negotiate with us improves morale or standards of care?”

The squirming PM told her: “You and I are sadly going to just disagree on this but I’m proud of what we’ve done, we’ve invested record sums in the NHS since I became Prime Minister.” Earlier, Mr Sunak blamed striking medics for fuelling waiting times, as the number of patients on lists soared from 7.2 million to 7.9million.

Backlash after telling worried dad he could extend mortgage

In the same interview the Prime Minister was questioned by a dad-of-four who said he faces a mortgage hike of between £1,500 and £2,400. Since Tory wrecking ball Liz Truss crashed the economy, such stories are not unusual.

Mr Sunak said he could consider extending his mortgage - but experts warned this could add a massive £12,000 to their debt. The dad asked Mr Sunak: “As someone who works seven days a week and has paid into the tax system since I left school without claiming a penny back from it, why do I feel like I’m being unfairly punished?”

In response the PM said he should speak to his lender and consider switching to another type of mortgage - possibly extending his deal by five or 10 years. Riz Malik, director of R3 Mortgages, told the i: “That’s not a solution to the problem, that’s just a sticking plaster that you’ll be paying for years to come."

Mr Malik continued: “Telling people that you can do this, and it will reduce your payments by a couple of hundred pounds, I would have liked him to add, ‘but if you do go down that route, you could end up paying more’."

Botching charm offensive by forgetting names of Scottish Tories

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USThe PM was unable to name any of Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross's top team (PA)

Mr Sunak in Scotland trying to woo voters - but may have some work to do repairing hurt feelings among Scottish Tories.

The Prime Minister was unable to name any members of the Scottish Conservatives' top team when quizzed by journalists. He was challenged to name four members of Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross's cabinet - but failed to do so.

Instead he stammered that he had been Scotland "six times in the last 12 months" and met with Mr Ross and "multiple members of this team". The Conservatives are the second largest party in Holyrood, behind the SNP.

It fell to Scottish Secretary Alister Jack - who joined the PM in Aberdeenshire - to defend him, saying the question was "unfair" due to a recent "reshuffle".

Criticism for borrowing chopper to travel 200 miles

Last weekend the Sunday Mirror reported Mr Sunak got a roasting for borrowing a chopper to travel 200 miles – while the world fries. The PM’s journey from London to Chester would have pumped over a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere during the hottest month yet recorded. It came the day after the head of the UN warned “the era of global boiling has arrived”. Labour blasted Mr Sunak’s “helicopter lifestyle”.

For his latest trip he borrowed a Tory donor’s chopper to go to a routine campaign event in North Wales just 200 miles away. The equivalent journey from London to Wrexham would only have taken around 10 minutes longer by train. Mr Sunak took a two-hour helicopter flight to Chester on Friday. He is thought to have then travelled the remaining 25 minutes of his journey by road to visit online retailer Net World Sports.

Protesters climb onto roof of Yorkshire mansion

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USProtesters outside the PM's manor house in Yorkshire (Greenpeace / SWNS)

Another problem Mr Sunak could have done without came when green protesters clambered onto the roof of his Yorkshire manor house to protest against new oil and gas drilling.

Four activists scaled the roof of the Grade II listed property at around 6am on Thursday and blanketed the house in black fabric. Two protesters posed for pictures outside the house with a sign saying: "Rishi Sunak - Oil profits or our future?" It comes after the Prime Minister announced plans for more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, with more than 100 new drilling licences expected to be approved in the autumn.

Tory calls to pause Net Zero targets altogether

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USDame Priti Patel caused another headache for the PM

Mr Sunak will be delighted to switch off from the latest round of Tory psychodrama as in-fighting continues over calls to ditch Net Zero commitments. In a very public challenge to the Government, former Home Secretary Dame Priti Patel stuck the boot in on Sunday.

She called for Net Zero targets to be paused, and a ban from 2030 of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be scrapped. She told GB News: “We need to pause all this activity. 2030 is not that far away, in a click of our fingers 2050 will be upon us. The public are not ready for this.

“And importantly, we cannot just have the state, the government, central government just sort of saying across, again, institutions, local councils, county councils, these are the targets that you have to meet when we don’t have the technology."

Mr Sunak has long maintained to be focused on environmental issues and climate change. But he's no stranger to caving in to pressure and putting his convictions to one side. So this is a battle he won't be looking forward to when he gets back.

Safety fears delay asylum seeker barge plans

Inside Rishi Sunak's nightmare week as he leaves chaos behind to jet off to USThe FBU said the Bibby Stockholm could be a 'potential death trap'

Meanwhile the fallout from the Government decision to house asylum seekers on a barge hasn't gone away. Human rights groups and locals have demanded a rethink over the controversial plan to pack over 500 people onto the Bibby Stockholm in Dorset.

An insider claimed this week that the barge could be a "floating Grenfell", and the Fire Brigades Union wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman branding it a "potential death trap". Oliver Dowden said the Government was "confident" that the problems can be addressed, and said people would be moved there in the "coming weeks".

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Dave Burke

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