Election campaign day eight: Rayner backs Abbott to run for Labour

Deputy leader Angela Rayner has backed Diane Abbott to stand as a Labour candidate on July 4 as Sir Keir Starmer denied he was carrying out a “cull” of left wingers.

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

– Row over Abbott rumbles on

Ms Rayner has added to the pressure on her leader, saying she saw no reason why Ms Abbott should not be allowed to stand again for the party and that the row over her candidacy was “not a great look”.

Her comments helped ensure that the dispute continues to overshadow Labour’s other campaign efforts.

It follows the disclosure that two other prominent Corbynistas – Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who was MP for Brighton Kemptown, and Fazia Shaheen, who represented Chingford and Woodford Green – have been told they cannot defend their seats.

Ms Abbott, who has vowed to run in the poll on July 4 by “any means possible”, described the exclusions as “appalling” and accused the leadership of conducting a “cull” of the left.

The veteran left winger claims she has also been barred from standing despite having the Labour whip restored following her suspension last year after she said Irish, Jewish and Traveller people were not subjected to racism in the same way as black people.

Sir Keir again insisted that no decisions had been taken and that it was a matter for the party’s ruling national executive committee, which meets on Tuesday to endorse its list of candidates.

Campaigning in Monmouthshire, he heaped praise on Ms Abbott – describing her as a “trailblazer” – but many on the left remain convinced he is determined that she and other left wingers will not be allowed to run.

– Quote of the day

– VAT spat

Labour and the Tories both ruled out any increase in VAT if they hold the keys to the Treasury after July 4 as the two main parties clashed on tax policy.

Shadow treasury chief secretary Darren Jones denied Labour had been “bounced” into making the commitment after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt claimed they were planning a VAT hike to fill what the Tories say is a £9 billion “black hole” in their spending plans.

The claim, made in an article for The Daily Telegraph, was dismissed by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves as “nonsense” within minutes of it appearing online, underlining how sensitive an issue it is in the campaign.

While she had previously ruled out increases in the rates of income tax or national insurance, saying they did not need any new tax rises beyond those already announced, she had refused to make the same specific commitment in respect of VAT.

Doing the morning broadcast round, Mr Jones said Labour has been consistent that it had “no plans, no expectations” to raise taxes for working people.

However, confirming that the Tories would not put up VAT, Mr Hunt claimed that Labour had “buckled under pressure”.

– Picture of the day

General Election campaign 2024
SNP leader John Swinney (right) chats with a voter in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

– Tice says no deal with Tories

Reform UK leader Richard Tice has stamped on suggestions his party could strike a deal with the Tories, saying they had “betrayed” Brexit voters.

Nigel Farage, the party’s founder and honorary president, had sparked speculation about a possible pact, saying they “might have a conversation” about what the Conservatives could offer them.

However, Mr Tice insisted the comments were just “a bit of banter”.

General Election campaign 2024
Nigel Farage speaks at a Reform UK news conference as party leader Richard Tice looks on (James Manning/PA)

“We are doing no deals with the Tories. They have betrayed Britain, they have betrayed Brexit, they have betrayed their promise to reduce immigration,” he said.

Appearing alongside Mr Tice at a news conference to highlight Reform’s plans for an “employer immigration tax”, Mr Farage said his remarks had been “deeply sarcastic”.

“What are they ever going to give me? The answer is three-fifths of five-eighths of very little. There is no deal with the Conservatives whatsoever,” he said.

– Green “push” for Starmer

The Greens have pledged to “push” Labour into adopting more radical policies if they succeed in increasing their representation at Westminster.

At the party’s campaign launch in Bristol, co-leader Carla Denyer said people were “disappointed” at the way Sir Keir had backtracked on policies such as Labour’s green investment plans.

General Election campaign 2024
Green Party co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay at the party’s campaign launch in Bristol (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“That’s why it’s so important that when Labour form the next government, they are pushed beyond the timid change they are offering,” she said.

The party is concentrating its campaign efforts on four target seats it believes it can win – including Bristol Central, where Ms Denyer is standing – in the hope that it can quadruple its tally of one MP in the last Parliament.

– Number of the day

– Voters rush to register

Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call a General Election has prompted a sharp upsurge in applications to register to vote.

In the seven days following the Prime Minister’s rain-drenched announcement on the steps of Downing Street, a total of 405,063 applications were submitted – more than double the 159,770 in the previous seven-day period.

On May 23 alone – the day after the election was called – there were 122,034 applications: the second highest total for a single day so far this year.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The highest was on April 16, which was the deadline to submit applications to vote in the local elections on May 2.

– Social media moment of the day

Perhaps following in the tradition of the famed Brexit bus of the 2016 referendum, the Tories decided to move their campaigning to the side of a vehicle – adorning a truck driving through Westminster with a red piggy bank and the words: “If you think Labour will win – start saving… Labour promises to cost working families £2,094.”

Trying to temp engagement on X, the party posted a picture of the campaign van with a caption asking its followers: “Have you seen it?”

Meanwhile, Labour continued to lean into internet culture on its TikTok account, sharing a re-imagined rendition of viral hit “Looking for a Man in Finance” – a tongue-in-cheek song about looking for love which has inspired a variety of remixes viewed by millions in recent weeks.

With a collage of images of leader Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour rendition of the meme garnered hundreds of thousands of views by changing the lyrics, “I’m looking for a man in finance, trust fund, six-five, blue eyes” with: “I’m looking for a new Prime Minister, big plans, good vibes, change lives.”

– What the polls are saying

Two opinion polls have been published in the last 24 hours, both giving Labour large leads over the Conservatives.

POLITICS Election Polls
(PA Graphics)

Polling carried out last week by Savanta puts Labour 17 percentage points ahead while a more recent poll by More in Common, gives them a 19-point lead.

A simple average of all polls that were carried out wholly or partly during the seven days to May 30 puts Labour on 45%, 21 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives on 24%, followed by Reform on 11%, the Lib Dems on 9% and the Greens on 5%.

– What’s happening tomorrow

Rishi  Sunak is campaigning in the North West. Sir Ed Davey takes the Liberal Democrat campaign to Hertfordshire and south west London.