Rishi Sunak sat down for his first lengthy interview on Thursday night with outspoken broadcaster and journalist Piers Morgan.
The prime minister and Mr Morgan got stuck into a range of topics in the chat hosted at Downing Street, including the economy, recent strike action, the war in Ukraine and Mr Sunak’s love of Star Wars.
Here are the top five takeaways from Mr Sunak’s head-to-head with the former Daily Mirror editor on TalkTV:
Sunak ‘would love’ to give nurses a pay rise
The prime minister was asked about the wide-ranging industrial action that has impacted Britain since last year, with thousands of public sector workers joining picket lines all over the country.
In particular, he was questioned by Mr Morgan about why a pay increase hasn’t been offered to nurses who did such a heroic job during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Sunak said he would “love to give the nurses a massive pay rise”, and that it would certainly make his “life easier.”
However, he added the country must “stay the course” on its economic aims and not offer significant pay rises to any parts of the public sector because of inflation, which is currently at 10.5%.
I can get the economy growing this year, pledges Sunak
Mr Sunak said he can get the economy growing again “this year” as he urged people to “have hope” despite bleak assessments of the UK’s finances.
Just yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted the UK economy will be the only major economy – including sanction-hit Russia – to plunge into recession this year.
Mr Sunak told Mr Morgan: “I do believe over the course of this year we’ll get the economy growing again.
“Reduce debt, We’ve already made some difficult decisions to ensure that that happens but we’ve got to stick to the path.”
Asked what his mantra or message to the public is, Mr Sunak said: “It’s ‘have hope’. Have hope because I can make it better, and I will make it better.”
Sunak: Rwanda immigration plan will happen
Mr Sunak was adamant that the policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will go ahead, as it faces a challenge in the Court of Appeal.
He told Mr Morgan that asylum claims will be sped up to a “matter of days or weeks” and “not months or years”.
In the “vast majority of cases”, he added, they would be sent to “an alternative safe country, be that where you have come from, if it’s safe, like Albania, or, indeed, Rwanda“.
Pressed if the Rwanda policy will ever happen by Morgan, Mr Sunak responded: “Yes.”
Sunak not upset with Johnson’s calls for further Ukraine support
Mr Sunak denied he had a problem with Boris Johnson’s recent trip to Ukraine to see president Volodymyr Zelensky or the former prime minister’s calls that jets should be sent to the country.
The prime minister said that one of the things he was proud of in his first 100 days in office was the shift of the country’s Ukraine strategy to a more “pro-active” one.
After being repeatedly asked by Mr Morgan if he was prepared to send jets to Ukraine, as Mr Johnson has suggested in recent days, Mr Sunak responded that he wanted to give Ukraine the support he thought would make “the most difference”.
He said a good example of this was the recent decision to send Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems to the country.
Mr Sunak didn’t explicitly rule out sending jets to Ukraine but told Mr Morgan that jets are “sophisticated pieces of equipment” and can require “months or years or training”.
Sunak ‘comfortable’ with Raab staying in his job
Dominic Raab‘s is currently being investigated over a raft of bullying claims and the prime minister was asked by the former Good Morning Britain if he was comfortable with him staying as his deputy rather than being suspended.
Mr Sunak replied that he was comfortable with this as he believes in “due process” and people should have a “fair hearing”.
He added that in the case of Nadhim Zahawi, when it was clear there was a breach in the ministerial code, he acted “decisively” to sack him from his job.