RISHI Sunak has backed away from two of the five flagship pledges he made after becoming Prime Minister.

Mr Sunak today downplayed the chances of him halving inflation and cutting NHS waiting lists south of the border by the end of the year. 

In a bid to restore public trust in the Tory government, Mr Sunak asked voters to judge him on whether he could deliver on five key promises in his first speech of 2023.

He said there would be “no trick” and “no ambiguity” and people should simply look at whether he had achieved his pledges or not.

Besides inflation and waiting lists, he also promised to reduce national debt, grow the economy and pass laws to stop illegal asylum seekers crossing the Channel.

Speaking to the broadcaster LBC before he and his family take a summer holiday in California, Mr Sunak hinted it would be difficult to hit at least two of those pledges.

With inflation still four times the Bank of England target rate of 2%, the Bank’s monetary policy committee is expected to raise interest rates for the 14th time in a row tomorrow.

The consumer price index measure of inflation fell from 8.7% in May to 7.9% in June, but needs to be 5% or lower by the end of the year to meet Mr Sunak’s pledge to halve it. 

The Prime Minister told LBC’s Nick Ferrari he was “making progress” but it was “not easy”.

Mr Sunak said: “I know families are struggling with the cost of living and that’s why I set it out as my first priority to halve inflation, and we’re making progress.

“Is that as fast as I’d like? No. Is it as fast as anyone would like? No.

“But the numbers most recently that we had show that we’re heading in the right direction, inflation is coming down, and I think people can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“But, look, we’ve got to stick to the plan, it’s not easy to bring down inflation. It requires me to make difficult but responsible decisions on behalf of the country.

“They’re not easy, I get flak for them, but I’m going to do them because they’re the right thing for everybody in the long-term, and I’m determined to stick to the course and bring down inflation for everyone.”

Mr Sunak also blamed record NHS waiting lists on striking doctors, saying: “That’s what’s causing the waiting lists to go up, I don’t think that’s right.

“I would say to them I’m very grateful and respectful of the incredible job you do, but we all have a shared mission to bring the waiting lists down.”

One A&E doctor rang the phone-in to tell him “a happy workforce is your responsibility”.

Giving her name as Liv from Newcastle, she said: “ “I think it’s amazing we’re blaming the increase in waiting lists on doctors going on strike.

“You’re losing staff because we are undervalued and it’s not just doctors, it’s everyone, we’re all leaving.

“You’re the Prime Minister, you’re the Government, your staff aren’t happy – that’s your fault. “And ultimately that’s not good for patients because retaining staff is one of the bedrocks of making sure you have good patient safety.”

Waiting times had already hit record highs before waves of strike action began in December.

The latest official figures show that 7.47m people were waiting for routine hospital treatment at the end of May in England, up from 7.2m in December when the strikes began.  

Mr Sunak was also confronted by a small business owner from his Yorkshire constituency of Richmond, who told him four local businesses were closing this week alone.

She told him the blame lay with “increased taxes, soaring cost, impact of Brexit, difficulty finding staff, all combined with the fact that it was your Government that crashed the economy and left people without any spare disposable income to spend”.

She asked Mr Sunak: “What are you going to do about the fact that your Tory policies are causing small businesses to shut up shop?”

The PM denied Brexit was “the reason that some businesses are struggling at the moment”, pointing to energy bills and inflation, which he said were “now coming down”.

He said it was “obviously sad” the four small businesses in Richmond were closing, some of which he said he knew “personally”.

He continued: “Every business is going to have different circumstances and what happens in the economy (is that) businesses are always opening as well and starting up. And I’ve seen lots of that when I’ve been out and about recently, which is great to see.”

He said when he spoke to breweries this week “many of them were telling me that actually business is good, that footfall is up, that they’re seeing confidence return”.

However he was also heckled at the Great British Beer Festival in London this week by a publican angry about the government increasing alcohol duty.