Rishi Sunak takes ‘staged’ question from Tory councillor posing as worker

The prime minister was asked about his Rwanda deportation plan by Tory councillor Ross Hills.

Tory councillor Ross Hills (circled) was called on to ask a question to Rishi Sunak at a biscuit factory. (Sky News)
Tory councillor Ross Hills (circled) was called on to ask a question to Rishi Sunak at a biscuit factory. (Sky News)

Rishi Sunak has been accused of taking a “staged” question from a man who turned out to be a Tory councillor.

The prime minister kicked off his first day of campaigning for the surprise snap election with a visit to a William West & Sons distribution centre in Derbyshire. Sunak answered questions from workers wearing hi-vis jackets about his plans for the country if he stays on as prime minister in July.

Sunak picked one 'worker' for a question, who told the prime minister: “I imagine you're a pretty busy guy right now. The biggest issue, I think, is going to be immigration over this general election campaign.

“You've obviously got your Rwanda plan, but is it going to see results and stop the small boats coming?”

Sunak gave a lengthy response before thanking the man for his “important question”. However, the questioner was not a worker at the factory and was revealed to be Tory councillor Ross Hills by the Byline Times website. The website claims Hills told them he has been asked to appear at the event but did not answer whether he was asked to question Sunak about Rwanda.

Hills is listed as a Tory councillor on the Leicestershire County Conservatives Group website. His profile on X has since been protected.

Responding to the claims that Hills was deliberately planted into the audience, Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney told Yahoo News UK: “Rishi Sunak's campaign start has been one embarrassment to another. Since the public has long given up on this failed Rwanda policy, he has now left it to Conservative councillors to help him out. What a mess.”

A Labour spokesperson told Yahoo News UK: “Rishi Sunak spent months dodging the verdict of voters and even now he’s still running scared.”

Yahoo News UK has contacted the Leicestershire County Conservatives Group and the Conservative Party for a response.

Ross Hills’s profile on the Leicestershire Council Conservative Group website.
Ross Hills’s profile on the Leicestershire Council Conservative Group website.

If Sunak wanted to answer a question about his Rwanda deportation plan, it may be because of his admission that flights would not take off before the election. During the Wednesday morning broadcast round, the prime minister admitted planes carrying asylum seekers to Kigali would take off after polling day, but vowed the “preparation work” had already happened.

Speaking to LBC, Sunak admitted that flights to Rwanda, which are central to the government’s ambition to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel, will now take off “after the election”.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Gillingham Football club in Gillingham, Kent, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Thursday May 23, 2024.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Rishi Sunak of calling an election to avoid a test on his Rwanda deportation policy. (PA)

“If I’m elected, we will get the flights off,” he said. Pressed further on timing, he said: “No, after the election. The preparation work has already gone on.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Sunak of never believing the Rwanda deportation plan would work, saying the election was only called so that he would not have to test the policy. Speaking on a visit to Gillingham in Kent, a traditional Conservative heartland, Starmer said: “I don’t think he’s ever believed that plan is going to work, and so he has called an election early enough to have it not tested before the election.”