Rishi Sunak quizzed on support for national service veterans

Rishi Sunak painted a plate and was asked about his offer for a new generation of veterans who complete his proposed national service scheme as he visited a ceramics factory.

The Prime Minister toured Churchill China in Stoke-on-Trent during a campaign visit to the Midlands.

Mr Sunak was handed a paintbrush during a stop on the factory floor, and witnessed a spinning matte white plate in front of him turn a glossy light blue colour at his touch, which workers described as cornflower.

Jonathan Gullis, a deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, joined the Prime Minister for the walk around the building.

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with works manager Mark Meaney and Conservative parliamentary candidate Jonathan Gullis (right) during a visit to a ceramics factory in Stoke-on-Trent (Aaron Chown/PA)

There he was asked for more detail about his plans for a new national service scheme, under which 18-year-olds would be asked to serve in the military for 12 months or take part in monthly volunteer activities.

One employee, Dawn, said her sons, who are “more brawn than brain”, would benefit from the scheme,

Meanwhile, Jade Burden, who works in HR at the company, asked if Mr Sunak has a “plan to look after people in the future when they have then left the forces” following the scheme.

He replied that he wants the UK to be the “best country in the world to be a veteran”, and pointed to veterans minister Johnny Mercer’s place at the Cabinet table.

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak takes part in a Q and A session with employees during a visit to a pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent (Aaron Chown/PA)

“The experience he has described is a lot different to what I experienced and what a lot of my friends experienced when they were part of the forces.”

She said some veterans she knows have experienced problems with employment and housing on returning to civilian life.

Asked if she thinks the scheme could lead to a larger number of veterans facing these issues, she said: “Potentially, yes. I went in at 16 and I came out at 22 due to my asthma.

“Yeah, that could be potentially an issue, but it depends whether or not they look at producing something to get people ready for that when they come out.”

The staff member would not reveal how she might vote, but suggested Mr Sunak’s speech has not changed her mind.

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak played a game of bowls during a visit to Market Bosworth Bowling Club (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Prime Minister met members of the bowls club in the Leicestershire market town as he promoted his election offer of a tax break for pensioners.

Club coach Richard Newby gave Mr Sunak some tips on the game, before he played a round alongside club president Brenda Gilbert and Conservative MP for Bosworth Dr Luke Evans.

The Prime Minister appeared to win the game after Dr Evans’ final bowl knocked an earlier one played by Mrs Gilbert away from the jack, the small ball at which bowls are aimed.

“That’s one vote you’re not getting,” a club member joked from the sidelines after Dr Evans’ throw.

The club coach could also be encouraging Mr Sunak to take up the game once the election campaign is complete.

The two MPs played with blue balls in a nod to the Conservative Party’s colours.

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