Sunak accused of acting ‘like A-list celeb’ by flying to Blackpool instead of £257 strike-affected train ride
Rishi Sunak has been criticised for using a jet to travel to Blackpool as he opts for flights around Britain rather than trains.
The Prime Minister took an RAF jet from Northolt to Blackpool as he carried out a series of visits in northern England linked to an announcement on new levelling up funding.
Labour accused Mr Sunak of “jetting around the country on taxpayers’ money like an A-list celeb” and making a “mockery” of his environmental strategy after the 41-minute flight on Thursday.
But Downing Street defended the mode of transport as making “the best use of his time” and Mr Sunak said he had to be as “effective as possible”.
A train journey from London Euston to Blackpool takes less than three hours, with a single fare coming in at £73.40, or £189.80 to travel during peak hours. First class could cost £257.
Disruption and delays hit earlier services on Thursday.
Tory MP Mark Jenkinson defended Mr Sunak’s jet use, saying “he’s the Prime Minister, multiple train changes with a security detail and unreliable” Avanti West Coast trains “would be madness”.
Mr Sunak instead made the trip on a Dassault Falcon 900LX, with the French manufacturer having reportedly been favoured by stars including Taylor Swift.
Last week, No 10 defended Mr Sunak flying to Leeds because there is a “great deal of pressure” on his schedule.
He went on to take an RAF plane to Scotland as he announced two new “green” freeports.
On Thursday, Mr Sunak admitted that “trying to get across the north is not as easy as it should be” while speaking to an audience in Morecambe, Lancashire, before defending his jet use.
“I travel around so I can do lots of things in one day, I’m not travelling around just for my own enjoyment – although this is very enjoyable, of course,” he said.
“Trust me, I’m working as hard as I can to deliver for you and I travel to make myself as effective as possible.”
His spokesman said Mr Sunak uses “different modes of transport depending on what’s in the best interest of the best use of his time to enable him to get around the entire UK”.
The official did not know when the Prime Minister had last travelled by train, saying: “I haven’t asked him that question.”
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: “Rishi Sunak’s expensive private jet habit is costing the environment and the taxpayer dear.
“Instead of catching the train like the rest of us, he’s swanning around like a washed-up A-lister courtesy of the public, making a mockery of his own Government’s ‘zero-jet’ strategy.”
John Travolta and Ms Swift are among the stars who have reportedly had Dassault jets in their collections.
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Rishi Sunak has learnt nothing from the past few weeks as he continues to jet about the country on taxpayers’ money.
“It is simply ridiculous that he can’t get a train like the rest of the British public do.
“Yet again, this Prime Minister is completely out of touch with the rest of society.”
Mr Sunak was in Lancashire to discuss the allocation of £2 billion in levelling up funding.
Ministers have defended London and the South East getting the largest share of the funding, receiving £362 million compared to the North West’s £354 million, £109 million for the North East and £177 million for Scotland.
Critics have also said Tory areas are being favoured with Catterick Garrison in the Prime Minister’s wealthy North Yorkshire seat receiving £19 million to regenerate the high street.
But Mr Sunak said: “If you look at the overall funding in the levelling-up funds that we’ve done, about two-thirds of all that funding has gone to the most deprived part of our country.”
Press Association – Sam Blewett