Election campaign day 10: Sunak pokes Abbott wound as Starmer seeks to move on

Sir Keir Starmer declined to answer questions about Diane Abbott as he sought to move on from the row, but Rishi Sunak deployed it as an attack line in a stump speech.

Here are the key moments from day 10 of the campaign:

– Starmer quashes questions on Abbott

At the launch of Labour’s battle bus in west London, Sir Keir refused to be drawn into talking about Ms Abbott, telling broadcasters: “I dealt with that issue yesterday.”

The Labour leader on Friday finally gave the veteran left-winger the green light to stand for his party in the election, after days of questions over her future and infighting overshadowed his campaign.

Sir Keir sought to draw a line under the debacle with an upbeat unveiling of his deputy Angela Rayner’s red campaign coach, joking that she should check the on-board fridge in case Boris Johnson, whose former Uxbridge constituency they were speaking in, was hiding in there.

General Election campaign 2024
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and deputy Angela Rayner at the launch of Labour’s campaign bus in Uxbridge (Lucy North/PA)

The Labour leader wanted to focus on his plan to get people back to work, including a new combined national jobs and careers service.

But Mr Sunak was not letting go, attacking his Labour rival for changing his mind after having insisted the decision over Ms Abbott’s candidacy was not up to him.

Launching the Tories’ blue battle bus on Redcar Racecourse, the Prime Minister said the Labour leader “doesn’t stick by anything he says”, and accused Sir Keir of caving to the Labour left.

– Number of the day

– PM defends cash-for-towns pledge

Mr Sunak was facing questions over whether he was trying to buy votes with a promise of cash for towns.

He batted off criticism that 17 of the 30 towns set to benefit from the £20 million boost were represented by Tory MPs in the last parliament.

He said the methodology used to select the towns had been used “multiple times before” based on “an objective set of criteria”, including “levelling-up needs, looking at economic opportunities, skills, health and life expectancy”.

He also insisted he is “going right across the country” when asked about his campaign’s focus so far on seats that are being defended at the election by the Conservatives.

– Quote of the day

– Picture of the day

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets Jack Symon and his baby son George at the launch of the Conservative campaign bus at Redcar Racecourse (Jonathan Brady/PA)

– Social media moment of the day

A Conservative candidate has taken an unusual approach to campaigning, adopting Labour colours to win over those that would usually support the rival party.

Robert Largan posted a picture of himself on X in front of a red background and the words “Labour for Largan”.

The Tory candidate for High Peak, who won the Derbyshire seat with a wafer-thin 590 majority in 2019, tweeted: “So many local Labour voters have told me they’re going to vote for me, because they want to keep me as their local MP.

“There have been so many that I’m launching a new Labour for Largan club.”

– Songs saga

Sir Keir brushed off a snub from the pop group behind New Labour’s 1997 victory anthem Things Will Only Get Better.

The Labour leader said his party would pick a different tune after D:Ream’s founding members said they would deny any request to use their track in the upcoming election.

The band expressed regret at letting Tony Blair have permission for the track after his 1997 landslide because of the UK’s later involvement with the Iraq war.

Sir Keir said: “We’re not in 1997. We’re in 2024.”

Meanwhile, songs accompanying the Tory battle bus launch included Mr Brightside by The Killers and Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People.

Quizzed about his reported fandom of Taylor Swift, Mr Sunak said he was not sure he met the “threshold” needed to be described as a “Swiftie”.

General Election campaign 2024
Rishi Sunak speaks to the media at the Tory battle bus launch at Redcar Racecourse (Jonathan Brady/PA)

– What else has been happening?

On a day when Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey took time off from attention-grabbing stunts to care for his son, his party warned an extra 100,000 households will be stung by a mortgage hike between now and polling day.

North of the border, First Minister John Swinney said a Labour government would “lead to the devastation of employment” in the oil and gas industry in north-east Scotland.

– What’s happening tomorrow?

Mr Swinney will launch the SNP’s campaign in Glasgow.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party, are appearing on the Sunday morning broadcast round.

Mr Sunak and Sir Keir’s plans are not yet known, but they may well be taking the day off campaigning after a busy week.