Bitter clash over tax as UK election battle intensifies

The Tories and Labour have clashed over Keir Starmer's tax and spending plans as the election campaign became increasingly bitter.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt claimed Sir Keir would turn the UK into what he dubbed "taxtopia" while Labour accused the Tories of being "desperate" and having "massive holes" in their own plans.

Meanwhile, opinion polls continued to heap pressure on Rishi Sunak and underlined why the Tories have shifted strategy to warn would-be Reform UK voters not to risk handing Labour a landslide win.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has spoken about the Hindu concept of "dharma" on the election trail. (AP PHOTO)

The prime minister revealed that his faith was helping him through the tough election campaign.

"In Hinduism, there's a concept of duty called dharma, which is roughly translated as being about doing your duty and not having a focus on the outcomes of it," he told the Sunday Times.

"And you do (your duty) because it's the right thing to do, and you have to detach yourself from the outcome of it."

The Tory focus on tax came after Sir Keir ruled out imposing capital gains tax on the sale of family homes.

But the Conservatives have now demanded that he rules out a series of other potential tax measures which they claim would be needed to fill a "£38.5 billion black hole" in Labour's plans.

Mr Hunt told the Sun on Sunday: "On tax, yes we put it up. But we started putting it down with four pence off national insurance."

"That's a tax cut for working people and we want to go further in the next parliament.

"Compare that to taxtopia. Taxtopia is what we will get under a Labour government."

The Tories have produced a list of 17 potential tax hikes Labour could make, but Sir Keir's party said they would refuse to be drawn into the Conservative trap of responding to each claim.

A Labour spokesman said "this desperate Tory party is now reduced every day to making up a new Labour plan that does not exist".

"We are not going to spend the next two weeks responding to whatever fantasy plans the Tories are making up," the spokesman said.

"They would be better off considering how they were meant to be the antidote to Liz Truss and ended up becoming nothing more than the latest instalment of her disastrous approach."

Nigel Farage
Britain's Conservatives also face a challenge from the Reform Party of Brexiteer Nigel Farage. (AP PHOTO)

Meanwhile, the very public Tory soul-searching about how to respond to a potential electoral defeat and the threat posed by Nigel Farage's Reform UK has continued.

The Conservative strategy has been to warn would-be Reform voters that they risk denying Tories seats, which would result in a huge majority for Labour.

Mr Farage predicted Tory divides would become more apparent, telling the Telegraph: "You will start to see those MPs, who I agree with on most things, start becoming much more vociferous about their stance as opposed to that of the party."

"The splits are going to get worse. And to them, I will say: 'Sorry guys, you are just in the wrong party'."

The scale of the challenge facing the Conservatives was underlined by two separate opinion polls.

Analysis and modelling by Survation put Labour on course to a 262-seat majority with the Tories reduced to a rump of just 72 MPs and Reform potentially picking up seven seats.

Survation, who polled 42,269 people between May 31 and June 13, put the Liberal Democrats on 56 seats and the SNP on 37.

A voting intention poll by Savanta also contained bad news for Mr Sunak, with a warning the Tories could face "electoral extinction".

The Savanta study for the Sunday Telegraph gave Labour a 25-point lead, with Sir Keir Starmer's party on 46 per cent, up two from last week, and the Tories on 21 per cent, down four points.