Charlie Stayt was keen to hear what Greg Hands thought of the Conservative Party’s significant losses at the local elections on Friday’s BBC Breakfast.
But the Tory Chief wasn’t forthcoming with his answers, claiming the public were strong supporters of Rishi Sunak and his policies.
When asked about the results so far, Hands commented: “Well obviously it’s still early days, I think there’s still about a quarter of results have come in and overall it’s been as predicted, a disappointing night for the Conservatives.
“All of the independent academic forecasters were out there saying we would lose 1000 seats. We’ve only counted about a quarter so far and it’s a disappointing night.
“We’ve lost some well run Conservative councils, some excellent Conservative councillors have lost their seats, so it’s not been a good night overall for us.”
Stayt asked: “Why is it so bad?”
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“I think within that, though, there are areas which have been positive,” Hands hit back. “We have gained seats in Peterborough, in Sandwell, in passage, all areas that Labour actually need to be showing a lot of progress in, so it’s not been good for us but it’s not been a uniformly good night for Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.
“What we are now doing is getting on in government with delivering for people. It’s been a difficult year for the country, a difficult year for Conservatives as well, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven inflation, energy prices higher, we are still dealing with the consequences of that, and that is why we are getting on with dealing against the five priorities set out by the Prime Minister of having innovation, growing the economy, cutting the debt, reducing hospital waiting lists and stopping the boats.”
Stayt cut in: “You emphasis those things under your new leader Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister you are trying to get right now.
“It’s just not working. This is a clear vote showing that what you are doing now is not working and those individuals, those councillors, are being voted out even though you said you are going to carry on doing what you’re doing and doing the right thing. It’s not working.”
Hands replied: “I said it’s been a disappointing night for the Conservatives. But I have to say, going up and down the country as I have done over the last month, 33 council ares, spoken to a lot of people on the doorsteps, and I would say two things people are saying, first of all, they respect Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, I’m yet to have a conversation on the doorstep that isn’t improved by mentioning the name Rishi Sunak and the job that he’s doing.
“Clearly people have been dissatisfied with the government’s performance last year but I think they’re willing to give Rishi Sunak a chance and realise he is working very hard.”
Unimpressed, Stayt cut in again: “I’m going to interrupt you at this point because what you’re seeing so far, the voting you’ve seen thus far and it’s early days, is that there is a sense people are giving Rishi Sunak a chance by voting against him.
“I don’t understand the logic because it sounds as if you’re completely ignoring the voting that’s happened and saying, ‘We’re doing the right thing. People might have voted against us but we’re doing the right thing.'”
Hands snapped: “No, I’m certainly not doing that. I’m accepting the fact the Conservatives have had a bad night. What I’m saying is, what I’m hearing on the doorsteps is people are receptive to Rishi Sunak and agree with his five priorities.
“I haven’t met anybody come to the door with any enthusiasm for Sir Keir Starmer.”
BBC Breakfast airs daily on BBC One from 6am.