Prime Minister hopeful Rishi Sunak visited the Isle of Wight today and granted an interview with the County Press.

We talked about ferries, the critical incident currently declared at St Mary's Hospital, and local families unable to find housing on the Island. Rishi also answered questions on the Island Deal...

During the interview, it became clear there's no specific Island Deal on the horizon if Mr Sunak becomes Prime Minister, and we haven't heard of any promise from Liz Truss on the subject either (she declined media interviews).

Before Mr Sunak reached us at an office in Cowes Harbour Commission, he spoke to 200 Isle of Wight Conservative Party members at Shanklin Conservative Club - the reason for his visit being the chance to persuade Island constituents to vote for him not Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race.

Isle of Wight County Press:  

He then stopped off for a media call to meet me, along with Oliver Dyer of Isle of Wight Radio. 

Here's what we discovered:

  • Mr Sunak grew up in Southampton and spent many holidays on the Island, visiting Blackgang Chine and Osborne House.
  • Mr Sunak said he knew how much people rely on the ferries and it was important they "work for the people". He had been questioned on the ferries earlier in the day by Tory party members. He said he would want to work with Islanders to make sure the ferries are "competitive" and they are "not using outdated practices" which would drive up prices.
  • He said he would look at models of ferry transport from around the UK and would be 'delighted' to look at that if he is successful as Prime Minister
  • He spoke about the controversial video that captured him admitting he had started reversing the formula that gives money to big urban cities, citing Royal Tunbridge Wells as a place that deserved more. He said today: "I stand by what I said, it's about recognising places like the Isle of Wight, there's lots of formulas in government that decide how we fund things, and it's not just all about big urban cities". He said the Isle of Wight was a great example of an area that had different needs, because of the transportation and it's geography.
  • He said when he was a junior minister he worked with Island MP Bob Seely on a government document that acknowledged the Island's requirements regarding funding formulas. He said if he became Prime Minister he would "like to see that work competed" but he wouldn't be drawn on a specific Island Deal and referred back instead to the "funding formulas" scheme. 

Isle of Wight County Press:

  • On hearing St Mary's Hospital had declared a critical incident due to being nearly full to capacity, Mr Sunak said he knew how "really distressing" it would be for patients and families and he was sorry to hear of it. He cited his childhood living with parents who worked for the NHS. He said as chancellor he had made changes and created a new funding stream for NHS and social care. He said people can trust the NHS is "safe in my hands" money would be "kicking in" for health and social care, with social care funding now ring-fenced. Asked why this hadn't yet been seen to be helping St Mary's he said every hospital has "a very special set of needs" but he would make sure the NHS in general had "what it needs" and social care is prioritised.
  • Mr Sunak said he wants to bring in £10 fines for people who miss GP appointments. I told him on the Island, the problem was "not so much people missing appointments but people just can't get them in the first place, and doctors appointments are really hard to come by". Mr Sunak said that problem would be helped if "we reduce the amount of missed appointments" and reform the NHS to get more efficiency out of it.
  • I asked Mr Sunak about the current rental crisis, whereby local people can't find anywhere to live, partly due to landlords selling up or turning their properties into AirBnBs, reducing the number of rental properties. Mr Sunak acknowledged that this is common in popular tourist areas around the country and it needed to be looked at. He said he had looked at tax loopholes previously around AirBnBs and short-term lets and he said it was right to support people living in local communities where they grew up, so he would be looking at it again.  

Isle of Wight County Press: The CP's Pamela Parker and Lori Little with Rishi Sunak.The CP's Pamela Parker and Lori Little with Rishi Sunak.

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