- Written by Kate Whannell
- Political reporter
Rishi Sunak has arrived in Manchester to attend what may be his party’s last conference before the next election.
Ahead of the four-day event, he announced £1.1 billion in cash would be allocated to cities the government says have been “ignored”.
However, the Prime Minister faces pressure from across his party on issues including tax cuts and HS2.
On the eve of the conference, a prominent supporter, the head of supermarkets in Iceland, announced that he was leaving the party.
In a farewell snapshot, Richard Walker accused the party of having “lost its way.”
Walker had hoped to become a Conservative MP and was on the party’s list of approved parliamentary candidates, but he announced his resignation on Saturday, describing the Conservatives as “out of touch with reality”.
Elsewhere, some Tory MPs want tax cuts, and Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, will use a speech on the sidelines of the conference to demand a cut in corporation tax.
Speaking on BBC Politics East, the former Prime Minister said she believes the Conservatives can still win the next election provided they can show they have a vision for the future.
She said people “never vote on the past” but on who they think will do the best job in the future.
“I now want to see further action to open up our oil and gas supplies in Britain including the use of shale gas – we need to make energy cheaper.”
Speaking to the same programme, former Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I think the country has looked at our party in government over the last 12 months and seen some very disappointing behaviour.”
She added that the public will be thinking: “What is happening to these MPs in Westminster?”
Also looming during this conference in Manchester is the question of completing the HS2 high-speed rail link to the city.
Mr Sunak has repeatedly refused to say whether the will will extend from Birmingham to the north-west.
Two former Conservative prime ministers, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, warned against the move. Johnson said that would be a “betrayal of the north of England”.
Ministers Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman also want to hold a discussion on whether to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
to talk To the Sunday Times Badenoch said that the option of withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights should be “on the table.”
Mr Sunak will not deliver his keynote speech until Wednesday, but to mark the start of the conference, the government announced £1.1 billion in funding aimed at regenerating high streets and tackling anti-social behaviour.
The money will be shared between 55 towns – including Torquay, Rotherham and Kilmarnock – with each receiving £20 million over a decade.
Sunak said politicians had focused on cities while taking cities “for granted”.
“The result is half-empty high streets, rundown shopping centers and anti-social behaviour, which undermines the prosperity of many cities and hinders opportunities for people – and without a new approach, these problems will only get worse.”
He said the money would put financing “in the hands of local people,” adding, “This is how we level up.”
The money – separate from the settlement fund – includes money for seven towns in Scotland and four in Wales.
The ministry said the funds were allocated based on the Needs Adjustment Index, which measures metrics including skills, wages and health.
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