Rishi Sunak in trouble once again after latest stunt: He 'lacks the common touch'

Rishi Sunak can't seem to catch a break as he's facing the heat again for taking a helicopter for a short trip instead of the train.

Rishi Sunak in trouble once again after latest stunt: He 'lacks the common touch'
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Rishi Sunak in trouble once again after latest stunt: He 'lacks the common touch'

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing backlash once again, this time for using a tax-funded helicopter to travel a short distance when he could have taken the train.

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Sunak flew to the south coast to visit Southampton on Tuesday 9 May and back again to London. During the visit, he announced a new government health policy which will allow pharmacists to provide prescriptions for millions of patients in England to help alleviate the burden on GPs.

Sunak could have taken the train from Waterloo station for the 80 mile trip, with a duration of one hour 15 minutes and cost of approximately £30 return. However, he chose to travel by air, costing taxpayers £6,000.

No 10 defends Sunak's actions

Sunak's official spokesperson attempted to justify the helicopter trip in part because he had 'a series of meetings' in the afternoon that he had to attend. They said his transport plans 'will vary depending on his time and where he's going to make the best use of both his time and in the interest of the taxpayer'.

They added:

Obviously there's a lot of pressure on his time and he wants to make the most effective use of that time... Sometimes wanting to get to and from places quickly is the best use of his time.

However, Sunak reportedly told receptionists at Weston Lane Surgery that he would be visiting his family after leaving the pharmacy.

No 10 Downing Street could not say when Sunak last travelled by train.

Read more ⋙ Rishi Sunak facing criticism over 'heartless' response to woman's inability to afford a lightbulb

Helicopter hardly quicker than train

However, the Mirror looked at flight records and found that taking the train would have taken almost the amount of time as the helicopter.

According to the publication, the helicopter departed RAF Northolt at approximately 8:53am, before landing at Wellington Barracks in Westminster to pick up Sunak. He landed at Southampton Airport at approximately 9:47am.

However, Sunak could have taken train at 8:35am from Waterloo and arrived in the city only a few minutes later at 9:50am.

Rishi Sunak 'lacks the common touch'

The incident has only increased concerns that Sunak's 'out of touch'. One Tory MP joked:

Is it unfair to say that the weekend was about a powerful unelected individual who is unfeasibly wealthy and lacks the common touch … and King Charles III?
To go backwards from our results in 2019 when we lost 1,300 seats is a damning indictment of the public view of the government. To outperform our own very low expectations is appalling.

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A Labour source said:

While Keir Starmer was working with 20 new Labour councils to bring in new cost of living action plans, Rishi Sunak was gallivanting around in a helicopter for a journey which would have taken an hour on the train.
Last week, the British public told the Prime Minister to get his head out of the clouds - it seems he just isn't listening.

Liberal Democrat climate change and transport spokeswoman, Wera Hobhouse, said:

Being the Prime Minister is not an excuse to use a private helicopter whenever you want. No politician should be above using public transport to get around the country - especially for a journey that would take little more than an hour.
Rishi Sunak has seemingly abandoned the government's environmental responsibilities while throwing taxpayer money away so he can travel in luxury. This is just another example of him being wildly out of touch with the British people.

Sources used:

The Guardian: 'Tory MPs voice unease over Sunak’s flying pharmacy visit'

Mirror: 'EXCLUSIVE: Rishi Sunak takes VIP helicopter for trip that would have taken 1h15m on train'

BBC: 'Downing Street defends Rishi Sunak's helicopter flight to Southampton'

Rishi Sunak's latest move has citizens worried about the future of the UK: ‘Very unusual’ Rishi Sunak's latest move has citizens worried about the future of the UK: ‘Very unusual’