Rishi Sunak faced bad-tempered grilling over HS2 and levelling up on local radio

HS2: Parts of construction delayed for two years

Rishi Sunak took on numerous grillings this morning in a tough series of local BBC radio interviews.

His showdown with BBC Radio Manchester’s Anna Jameson was particularly tense, given recent unconfirmed reports the Government plans on scraping the HS2 branch between the city and Birmingham.

The local presenter voiced her obvious frustration at the PM refusing to confirm or deny the reports, with Mr Sunak merely saying he knows “there’s a lot of speculation on this”.

The PM said: “We’ve already got spades in the ground on the first bit of HS2, and what we’re doing is getting on with delivering it.”

Pressed about Phase 2, the Manchester branch, Mr Sunak said it’s “always right the Government is looking at things to make sure we are doing things in a way that creates value for money”.

READ MORE: Sunak is considering ‘alternative options’ for HS2 to stop cash being wasted

He swiftly moved on to talking about roads and cars – “the journeys people use most in Greater Manchester or across the north”.

He said the Government is “making sure that the roads are free of potholes, that’s probably priority number one”.

The exasperated presenter cut the PM off to inform him: “We’re not talking about potholes!”

“We’re talking about trains, we’re not talking about cars!”

Ms Jameson also pressed the Prime Minister on comments he made during last year’s Summer Tory leadership contest, when he told a group of Tories in Tunbridge Wells that he’d change the Treasury’s funding formula to end Labour’s old spending pattern of shoving “all the funding into deprived urban areas”.

She said: “Well you don’t care about deprived urban areas do you?”

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Mr Sunak confidently fought back, saying he absolutely does, but it is “completely wrong to say that those are the only places that are deprived in our country”.

“The point I was making – and you said Tunbridge Wells but I was actually speaking to people across the south coast – there are coastal communities, particularly in the south that are deprived and that is the case across our country.

“When I say I want to deliver levelling up, I don’t want to pit one region against another. The point I’m trying to make is that we need to level up everywhere.

“That goes equally if you’re in an urban area in the north as you are in a coastal or rural community in the southeast or southwest.”

Mr Sunak spoke to stations in York, the West Midlands, Manchester, Shropshire, Teesside, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, Cornwall and Berkshire.

He told BBC West Midlands that the situation in Birmingham City Council is “incredibly disappointing that they have mismanaged the council to such an extent”.

“People rightly will hold them to account. They massively mismanaged their finances. It’s wrong.”

Mr Sunak added that it is a “glimpse of what you get when Labour are in charge”.

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