Election campaign day 23: Sunak defiant as Farage claims polling boost

Election campaign day 23: Sunak defiant as Farage claims polling boost

The Prime Minister struck a defiant tone after an opinion poll put Nigel Farage’s Reform UK ahead of the Conservative Party.

Here are the key moments from day 23 of the General Election campaign:

– Polling palaver

Rishi Sunak said if a poll showing Mr Farage’s party overtaking the Tories was replicated on July 4 it would be “handing Labour a blank cheque” as he played down the nightmare result for the Tories.

The YouGov survey, which had Reform up two points to 19%, leapfrogging the Conservatives as they languish on 18%, dealt a fresh blow to his hopes of returning to No 10.

The embattled Prime Minister, who was taking a break from the campaign trail to meet world leaders in Italy, predicted a Tory comeback as he stressed “we are only halfway through this election” and that he is “still fighting very hard for every vote”.

He doubled down on the line that voting Reform helps Labour, saying the choice between his and Sir Keir Starmer’s party will “crystallise for people between now and polling day”.

Mr Farage meanwhile seized on the poll, hailing it as an “inflection point” at a presser called to celebrate its result and portraying himself as the “voice of opposition” to a Labour government.

However, YouGov caveated that Reform’s lead was within the margin of error, and five other polls published in the past 24 hours all showed Mr Farage’s outfit trailing the Tories.

Polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice said an average of recent polls shows backing for Reform is now at about 15% or 16%, which he declared is an “utter disaster for the Conservatives”.

– Being bullish

Mr Farage said he believes his party could get more than six million votes as he rejected that the “hopelessly split” Tory party could provide opposition.

The veteran Eurosceptic also demanded a spot on the BBC’s four-way leaders’ debate panel featuring Great Britain’s four largest political parties – the Tories, Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats.

Musing about Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin during a live BBC phone-in earlier, the Reform UK leader described the Nazi Germany dictator as “hypnotic in a very dangerous way” and reiterated his admiration for the Russian president as a “political operator”.

– Picture of the day

First Minister of Scotland John Swinney wearing a Scotland football shirt and a kilt at Marienplatz square, Munich, ahead of Scotland's Euro 2024 match against hosts Germany
First Minister of Scotland John Swinney wearing a Scotland football shirt and a kilt at Marienplatz square, Munich, ahead of Scotland’s Euro 2024 match against hosts Germany (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scottish First Minister John Swinney joined the Tartan Army in Marienplatz square in Munich, ahead of the country’s football team facing Germany in the Euro 2024 opener on Friday evening.

– Labour land

Sir Keir Starmer will be preparing for a grilling from BBC journalist Nick Robinson in the latest Panorama election interview to be broadcast on Friday evening, a day after he unveiled his party’s manifesto.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told top bosses over breakfast that Labour’s policy offering bore their “fingerprints”, while Mr Reynolds promised that the party’s engagement with businesses – dubbed by some the “smoked salmon offensive” – would not end if Labour came to power.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds at a breakfast with businesses (Lucy North/PA)

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott accused Labour of launching a “tax trap manifesto” after failing “to rule out 18 potential tax rises”.

– On the world stage

Mr Sunak took a second day off from campaigning to look prime ministerial strutting the international stage.

He defended Joe Biden after a video prompted speculation the octogenarian US president had wandered away from G7 leaders, saying Mr Biden was “being very polite” and going to talk to a parachutist.

Mr Sunak will hold a press conference from the Puglia G7 summit later on Friday.

– Social media moment

Labour posted a mood board-themed post on TikTok in an apparent bid to appeal to Gen Z voters, entitled Which Labour Manifesto Policy Aesthetic Are You?, which has had more than 37,000 views.

A slideshow features various “aesthetics” accompanied by related images, including “publicly owned Great British energy core” showing a wind turbine decorated with a pink bow and a “free primary school breakfast clubs core” option.

– Labour Actually

A £500,000 donation from the producer of Love Actually and Notting Hill helped Labour raise almost £1 million in the first week of the campaign.

Figures released by the Electoral Commission on Friday show the party received £926,908 in donations between May 30 and June 5, compared with £574,918 received by the Tories.

The bulk of Labour’s money came in the form of a £500,000 donation from Toledo Productions Ltd, whose owner Duncan Kenworthy produced several romantic comedies starring Hugh Grant.

– What’s happening tomorrow

The Prime Minister is expected to mark the King’s official birthday with an appearance at Trooping the Colour and to attend a peace summit for Ukraine in Switzerland this weekend.