Rishi Sunak says he is proud of disastrous election campaign - and claims he will win

Rishi Sunak has said he is “proud” of his disastrous election campaign and claims he will win Thursday’s general election.

The prime minister has come under fire in recent weeks for a series of calamities that included a rain-soaked announcement of polling day, leaving D-Day commemorations early and a gambling scandal.

But in a crunch interview with just days to go before the vote, Mr Sunak told the BBC‘s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg “this campaign is something I am very proud of” as he sought to disparage Labour’s plans.

He also said he believes he will win the election. Asked whether he thought he would still be prime minister on Friday, he said: “Yes. I’m fighting very hard and I think people are waking up to the real danger of what a Labour government means.”

Rishi Sunak, soaked in rain, pauses as he delivers a speech to announce the election date (Getty)
Rishi Sunak, soaked in rain, pauses as he delivers a speech to announce the election date (Getty)

But as the Tory blame game escalated before even a vote has been counted former cabinet minister John Redwood accused Mr Sunak of helping to deliver a large Labour majority.

He hit out at what he called the ‘One Nation leadership’ of his party and said together with Nigel Farage’s Reform, they will “visit on us a Labour government that may have a lower vote share than Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn gained in 2017 but have a large majority of MPs”.

In a small crumb of good news for Mr Sunak, however, the Reform candidate in Erewash, Liam Booth-Isherwood defected to back the Conservatives. “Whilst I have campaigned alongside many decent, honest and hardworking people during the course of the General Election campaign in Erewash, the reports of widespread racism and sexism in Reform have made clear that there is a significant moral issue within certain elements of the party,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, the Leave-campaigning Tory leader also admitted that Brexit has been bad for many British businesses.

He was confronted by comments by his small business minister Kevin Hollinrake that there was “no doubt” exporting to the EU had been made more difficult by the UK’s exit.

Mr Hollinrake said: “There’s no doubt, for some businesses, it is more difficult to trade with the European Union. There is no doubt that is the case.”

He went on to pick out businesses in the food and drink sector, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises.

Kevin Hollinrake admits Brexit was bad for many businesses (Good Morning Britain)
Kevin Hollinrake admits Brexit was bad for many businesses (Good Morning Britain)

Asked about those remarks, the prime minister said: “Of course when you leave the single market and the customs union that is going to change our trading relationships.”

He added: “But we have the deepest, bilateral free trade agreement with the European continent that any nation has anywhere around the world.”

He also claimed the UK is a “better place to live” in now than it was when the Tories took office in 2010, although he pointed to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine as he conceded “the last few years have been difficult for everyone”.

But he was then asked to look at a screen on which viewers’ comments were projected. One of them, Sheila, told the PM: “Our biggest worry is not about tax, it’s about having the basics.”

An at times tetchy PM also became involved in a spat with the BBC presenter, who at one point told him: “That’s not what I said prime minister.”

He also claimed there was a “clear difference” between his handling of the racism row surrounding Tory donor Frank Hester and how Nigel Farage responded to racist comments made about the PM by a Reform UK canvasser.

On the programme, he was shown a message from a viewer who expressed concern that Mr Sunak’s stance on racism had not been zero tolerance and who pointed to the Hester row.

The donor, from whom the party has continued to accept donations, allegedly said Labour MP Diane Abbott “should be shot” and that she made him “want to hate all black women”.

Mr Sunak said: “I think it’s reasonable when someone is genuinely contrite about what’s happened, accepts what they’ve done is wrong, then that apology is accepted.”

He added: “The difference here is... Nigel Farage has just described these comments as ‘inappropriate’.

“They’re not inappropriate. They were vile and racist and wrong, but he’s only said that they’re inappropriate.

“The person who made them has only apologised to the Reform party for the impact it’s had on them. It’s a very clear difference. There’s no contrition or remorse or acceptance of what’s happened in that case.”

For his part Mr Farage insisted “the bad apples are gone” from Reform.

After claiming the audience on BBC's Question Time on Friday, during which he was questioned about his party's supporters, "was rigged", which the BBC denies, he said Reform would campaign to abolish the TV licence fee as "the leading voice of opposition" because it had "abused its position of power”.

Earlier, Mr Sunak claimed Sir Keir Starmer could inflict “irreversible damage” on the UK within 100 days of entering Downing Street.

The PM said Labour “cannot be trusted” and predicted a plan to impose VAT on private schools would cause “chaos” for families.

Meanwhile, Labour said Sir Keir‘s first steps would be restoring economic stability and cutting NHS waiting lists as “the work of change begins”. The Labour Party leader said his party offered voters hope for a better future.

After the PM’s interview, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow paymaster general, said: “It’s excruciating to watch Rishi Sunak just gloss over the concerns of ordinary working people.

“Rishi Sunak has no remorse for his record: prices are up in the shops, NHS waiting lists have rocketed, and mortgages have soared. He just doesn’t understand what the Conservatives have inflicted on voters over the past 14 years.

“Britain simply cannot afford five more years of the Tories. Their pie-in-the-sky, unfunded manifesto risks heaping £4,800 more onto family mortgages.”