Sunak and Starmer kick off campaigns ahead of July 4 election

Sunak and Starmer kick off campaigns ahead of July 4 election

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are kicking off their election campaigns on Thursday, six weeks before the country goes to the polls.

The Prime Minister is touring broadcast studios before embarking on a two-day whistlestop trip taking in all four nations of the UK.

Political correspondents were on an early morning train out of London to follow Mr Sunak on his tour.

Sir Keir Starmer is heading to south-east England in a sign he wants to make inroads in Tory areas.

In London, Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice is staging a press conference setting out his party’s plans.

The party’s most high-profile figure, honorary president Nigel Farage, said he was thinking about whether to return to frontline politics by standing in the July 4 election.

Nigel Farage and Richard Tice
Nigel Farage and Richard Tice (PA)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is expected to visit a target seat as he launches a campaign expected to focus on targeting Conservative-held seats following a series of eye-catching by-election successes.

Mr Sunak fired the starting gun for the election in a damp Downing Street, surprising many in Westminster who had expected an autumn polling day.

Even his own Cabinet was kept in the dark until the last minute, with Home Secretary James Cleverly telling ITV’s Peston “we don’t get particular advance notice” and it was largely a matter for Mr Sunak and his inner circle.

The news caused disquiet among Tory MPs fearful of losing their jobs, and those who have already said they will not stand and are having to say goodbye to Parliament sooner than expected.

Despite speculation at Westminster about a Tory rebel effort to oust Mr Sunak and call off the election, one prominent critic of the Prime Minister said it was “too late” to get rid of him.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who has called for Mr Sunak to go, said she understood “other letters have been going in” to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady but “colleagues, it’s too late, I told you six months ago we should have done this”.

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Just two more days of Commons business have been scheduled, during which important legislation will have to be rushed through.

Party whips from the Conservatives and Labour are holding talks to work out what outstanding legislation can become law before prorogation – the end of the current parliamentary session – on Friday.

That includes the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which includes measures to establish a compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal.

In his Downing Street statement, the Prime Minister said the election would be a question of trust, warning that Sir Keir was not the man to lead the country through “uncertain” times.

Sir Keir said the election would be a chance to turn the page on 14 years of Conservative rule and “stop the chaos” at Westminster.

Mr Sunak hopes that Consumer Prices Index inflation falling to 2.3% in April and a recovering economy will help overturn a 20-point opinion poll deficit.

It was “proof that the plan and priorities I set out are working”, Mr Sunak said, but he acknowledged “for some it might still be hard when you look at your bank balance”.

He also highlighted that whoever was in No 10 would have to deal with a world “more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War” with Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East, China’s efforts to “dominate the 21st century” and migration “being weaponised by hostile states”.

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He added: “On July 5, either Sir Keir Starmer or I will be prime minister. He has shown time and time again that he will take the easy way out and do anything to get power.

“If he was happy to abandon all the promises he made to become Labour leader once he got the job, how can you know that he won’t do exactly the same thing if he were to become prime minister?

“If you don’t have the conviction to stick to anything you say, if you don’t have the courage to tell people what you want to do and if you don’t have a plan, how can you possibly be trusted to lead our country, especially at this most uncertain of times?”

At a Tory rally on Wednesday night, he said “the only certainty with Labour is that they will run out of money” and Sir Keir’s pledge to scrap the Rwanda plan would “enact a de facto amnesty for asylum seekers, making us a magnet for every illegal immigrant in Europe”.

“In every way, Labour would make our country less secure,” he claimed.

Tacitly acknowledging his opinion poll deficit, he said: “Labour want you to think that this election is over before it has even begun. But we are going to fight every day for our values and our vision and the British people are going to show Labour that they don’t take too kindly to being taken for granted.”

But Labour leader Sir Keir said: “If they get another five years they will feel entitled to carry on exactly as they are. Nothing will change.”

He promised a “new spirit of service”, putting the country before party interests.

“I am well aware of the cynicism people hold towards politicians at the moment, but I came into politics late, having served our country as leader of the Crown Prosecution Service, and I helped the Police Service in Northern Ireland to gain the consent of all communities.”

He added service was the “reason, and the only reason why I am standing here now asking for your vote”.