RISHI Sunak has asked voters to judge him on whether he can deliver five key promises as Prime Minister, gambling he can restore trust in the Conservatives before the election.

In his first speech of the new year, the Prime Minister said there would be “no trick” and “no ambiguity” and people should simply look at whether he had achieved his pledges or not.

His five promises were to halve inflation and grow the economy this year, reduce national debt and English NHS waiting lists, and pass new laws to stop small boats crossing the Channel.

Illegal asylum seekers would be detained and removed, he said, promising voters "peace of mind" as their priorities were addressed.

However the promises were criticised as underwhelming, after it emerged some of them were merely repeating official forecasts.

Inflation, which hit double digits last year, is already widely expected to halve in 2023, with the UK economy emerging from a shallow recession by the year end.

Questioned by the media, Mr Sunak also admitted that the promises on reducing national debt and cutting NHS waiting lists were for the medium-term, rather than this year.

And he refused to set a benchmark by which the small boat policy would be assessed, merely saying the country would judge how effective the Government was being on it.

Almost 50,000 migrants crossed the Channel in boats to the UK last year.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner asked "Is that it?", while the SNP called it "an advert for why Scotland needs independence".

Although Labour currently has a commanding lead in the polls, there are still faint Tory hopes of winning the election due by January 2025 if Mr Sunak can present himself as sensible, workman-like fresh start for the party after the scandal and chaos of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Mr Sunak began his speech in Stratford, East London with a brief mention of the NHS crisis south of the border and the UK-wide wave of strikes.

He said: “New Year should be a time of optimism and excitement, yet I know many of you look ahead to 2023 with apprehension. I want you to know that, as your Prime Minister, I will work night and day to change that, and quickly.

“Not just by providing relief and peace of mind for the months to come, although we will, but also by changing our country and building a better future for our children and grandchildren.

“A future that restores optimism, hope and pride in Britain.”

Calling for a reasonable dialogue with the unions, he said: “We hugely value public sector workers like nurses. They do incredibly important work and that’s why we want a reasonable dialogue with the unions about what’s responsible and fair for our country. And in the coming days, we will update you on the Government’s next steps.”

In a dig at his predecessors, he said his Government would reflect the “people’s priorities” and focus on delivery rather than political drama.

He said: “People don’t want politicians who promise the earth and then fail to deliver. 

“They want government to focus less on politics and more on the things they care about – the cost of living, too high. Waiting times in the NHS, too long. Illegal migration, far too much.

“I think people do accept that many of these challenges are at least in part, the legacy of Covid and impacted by the war in Ukraine.

“But that’s not an excuse. We need to address these problems, not just talk about them.”

He said that since entering Number 10, progress had been made. But he said: “But of course, we need to do more.”

He went on: “I want to make five promises to you today. Five pledges to deliver peace of mind. Five foundations, on which to build a better future for our children and grandchildren.

“First, we will halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security.

"Second, we will grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country.

"Third, we will make sure our national debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services.

“Fourth, NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.

"Fifth, we will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.

“So, five promises – we will: Halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats.

“Those are the people’s priorities. They are your Government’s priorities. And we will either have achieved them or not.

“No trick… no ambiguity… we’re either delivering for you or we’re not. We will rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all. So, I ask you to judge us on the effort we put in and the results we achieve.”

He also said the UK needed a change of “mindset” to thrive in future.

“My aim is to build a better future for our children and grandchildren. A future where they feel optimism, hope and pride. And to realise that vision, we need to change our mindset.”

“No Government, no prime minister, can change a country by force of will or diktat alone. Real change isn’t provided. It’s created. It’s not given, it’s demanded. Not granted, but invented.”

“We need to change the way our country works, and that requires a change in mindset.

“And what does that mean in practice? It means a more innovative economy, stronger communities and safer streets, a world class education system, an NHS built around patients and a society that truly values the family.”

He said change would require “sacrifice and hard work”. 

He said: “It’s a big risk for a politician to say that, but the stakes are too high and the rewards too great not to level with you. So change is hard. It takes time. But it is possible.”

Most of the policies he covered were in  devolved areas, including health, education and justice, and were clearly aimed at an English audience.

This included his aim for children to be taught maths until they are 18.

He said: “Right now, just half of all 16 to 19-year-olds study any maths at all. Yet in a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, our children’s jobs will require more analytical skills than ever before. And letting our children out into the world without those skills, is letting our children down.

“Just imagine what greater numeracy will unlock for – people the skills to feel confident with your finances, to find the best mortgage deal. The ability to do your job better and get paid more and greater self-confidence to navigate a changing world.”

He repeatedly painted himself as a leader capable of delivery where others had failed to live up to their promises.

“Others may talk about change, I will deliver it. I won’t offer you false hope or quick fixes, but meaningful lasting change," he said.

“I want people to feel something that they do not always feel today – a belief that public services work for them, and knowledge that if you work hard in the good times, the state will be there for you during the bad.”

Ending his speech, he said: “I guarantee that your priorities will be my priorities. I pledge that I will be honest about the challenges we face. And I will take the tough but necessary decisions to ensure our great country achieves its enormous potential.

“I will only promise what I can deliver, and I will deliver what I promise.”

But in the media Q&A, Mr Sunak was exactly what he meant by his promise on stopping small boats - no crossings by the next election or just fewer small boat crossings - and failed to set a target.

“Ultimately the country will judge… the country will be the judge of whether we as a Government are straining every sinew to focus on their priorities and deliver meaningful progress and change on them," he said.

Asked whether the need for new laws showed a failure by the Tories to address the issue, he said: "I just want to make sure that we fix this problem. My belief is that we do need new laws if we want to actually comprehensively deal with this challenge.

“Returns agreements – where we have people who are here who shouldn’t be here - we need to make sure the returns agreements we have with countries are working.”

He said that the Government had taken powers in legislation to “impose visa penalties, where that makes sense, on countries that are not cooperating in receiving back failed asylum seekers from us.

“And that should be part of the conversations we’re having with countries around the world and we are seeing good progress on those. That is one of the parts of the plan we need to deliver on as well.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner described Mr Sunak as the “do-nothing Prime Minister”, who is “too weak to stand up to his party or vested interests”.

She added: “That means that from housing and planning laws to closing tax avoidance loopholes, he can’t take the big decisions to put the country first.

“For weeks this speech was hyped up as his big vision – now he’s delivered it, the country is entitled to ask: is that it?”

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said Mr Sunak's speech was "an advert for why Scotland needs independence".

He said: "He spoke at length about improving numeracy - yet offered no hope to those weighed down by the harsh figures that are preventing them from heating their homes, putting food on the table or paying their mortgages.

"On Westminster's watch, Scots are energy rich but fuel poor, our businesses are struggling to trade with Europe, our public sector has been hampered by the end of free movement of people and another generation of young people are facing a future of high costs and low pay.

"This speech was an opportunity for Rishi Sunak to fix the Broken Britain that Westminster has created - to mend a broken relationship with the EU, to pay public sector workers what they are worth and to protect those who need help the most. He did none of those things.

"Instead, the Prime Minister made five flimsy promises, whilst people in Scotland are paying the price of five Tory Prime Ministers over the last thirteen years. Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss and now Sunak have all made plenty of promises - what they have actually delivered is austerity, Brexit and a denial of Scottish democracy.

"Independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from the constant crisis and long-term damage being imposed by Westminster."