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Sunak ally dismisses speculation PM could quit before polling day

09 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.Photo Oli Scarff/PA Wire

A Cabinet minister has insisted all is not yet lost for the Tories as he quashed speculation Rishi Sunak could quit before the July 4 election.

Mel Stride, one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies, said there is “no question” Mr Sunak will lead the Conservatives into polling day, following speculation he could quit in the wake of the D-Day debacle.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Stride acknowledged the Prime Minister is feeling the backlash over his decision to leave events in Normandy early “very personally”.

‘Dodging reporters’

In a sign of the febrile atmosphere, rumours about the Prime Minister’s future spread after he decided to campaign without media on Sunday following accusations of “dodging” reporters’ questions on Saturday.

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, a fierce critic of Mr Sunak, suggested in a late-night social media post on Saturday there were “rumours around tonight that Sunak’s about to fall on his sword”.

But Mr Stride told Sky News Mr Sunak will “absolutely” lead the party into the election.

“There should be no question of anything other than that,” he said.

Poll deficit

He also denied that “all is lost” for the party, despite an average 20-point poll deficit to Labour.

He said “taxes are coming down” and “we can continue that journey because of our stewardship of the economy and the fact we have got a plan”.

The alternative for voters, he said, is to “go to Labour, who have got no plan, who simply are going to this ‘Ming vase strategy’ where they’ve got a poll lead, they don’t want to say anything, tell you anything, no plan, no ideas, anything about the future”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary told Sky News that Labour hopes to “drift across the line almost without anybody noticing”.

He told Sky’s Sir Trevor Phillips: “To your point about whether ‘all is lost’, we have four weeks, that’s a long time in politics.”

He said Mr Sunak “deeply regrets” his decision to leave D-Day 80th anniversary events in Normandy early.

Mr Stride said Mr Sunak is “deeply patriotic” and committed to supporting veterans.

He added: “The Prime Minister has accepted that he made a mistake. He has apologised unequivocally for that.

“I think he will be feeling this personally, very deeply, because he’s a deeply patriotic person. He will be deeply uncomfortable with what has happened.”

Cost of welfare

Mr Stride was seeking to highlight a Tory pledge to halt the rising costs of welfare by reforming the benefits system on the Sunday morning broadcast round.

The party claims it would help save some £12 billion a year by the end of the next Parliament, although the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said this “looks difficult in the extreme” as the measures have been previously announced and have therefore already been incorporated into the Budget forecasts.

Meanwhile Labour sought to reassure voters with a cast-iron pledge in the manifesto not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years.

Sir Keir Starmer told reporters in Essex: “We will not be raising taxes on working people. That means we won’t be raising income tax, national insurance or VAT.

“We will launch our manifesto very soon and that will have no tax surprises in it because all of our plans are fully funded and fully costed and none of them require tax rises over and above the ones that we’ve already announced.”

Sir Keir insisted “we are not returning to austerity” despite ruling out personal tax rises to pay for public services, claiming he would deliver sustained economic growth.

“What we do need to do, just to take up the challenge that’s been put to us, is, we do need to grow the economy,” he said. “We do need to make sure that the economy and living standards across the whole country are growing and that’s why step one in government, if we get to serve our country, will be to stabilise and grow our economy.”

Anti-social behaviour

The Opposition also highlighted measures to combat anti-social behaviour, particularly the use of off-road bikes.

Police will be given new powers to scrap noisy dirt and quad bikes within 48 hours, instead of having to keep them impounded for two weeks, if Labour wins the General Election.

The party also promised to deliver 14,000 more prison places as it blamed Conservative inaction for the prison estate bursting at the seams.

Shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood declined to say whether Labour would ending the Conservative Government’s early release scheme for prisoners, saying her party would have to look at the details of the situation it inherits.

She told the BBC: “I think actually the Government needs to level with the public. We all know that prisons are running at either 98% capacity or 99%. It is a dereliction of duty that the Government hasn’t actually released all of the figures about their early release scheme – they’ve actually been doing that in secret.

“It would be irresponsible for me from Opposition, without seeing the data about the number of offenders that have been released or having all of that information, to make those decisions now.”

She said an incoming Labour administration would have to “lift that bonnet and see what horrors await”.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 hours ago

Into the valley of death stumbled the remains of the Fat Shanks 365, how many will get past the people’s guns and live forever into the gloomy shadows !

Only kidding, daddy has me covered in the BVI and the yacht is bobbing on a mooring in the sun…

PPE made me stinking rich, ain’t life a beach…

20 hours ago

Well, the strategy of bringing back SIR David Cameron, was, in my view, to wait in the wings to lead the next Conservative government…

17 hours ago
Reply to  Chrissie

What next Conservative government?

16 hours ago
Reply to  Chrissie

HE couldn’t do that from the House of Lords these days.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
18 hours ago

The big question is what planet is Sunak on? A six year old would have realised not finishing the D-Day event would be seen in a very very bad light, denting an already poor campaign. He’s truly clueless. It seems in this election Labour just needs to sit back and watch the Tories do the work for them.

Les Cargot
Les Cargot
16 hours ago

Given his recent form, a premature departure could well be in the offing. Let’s hope he stays on for the next Tory party conference. That promises to be fun.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
14 hours ago

Winchester make better rifles than Prime Minister…

Sunak is only the second after Henry Addington 1801-1804 who was no match for Napoleon…

Two failures in 220 years…

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
10 minutes ago

Ms Dorries has a long history of dubious late evening social media posts, usually after wine o’clock.

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