Sunak acknowledges voters’ frustration but insists he can still win election

Rishi Sunak said he had “absolutely not” given up hope of winning the General Election despite acknowledging voters’ “frustration” with his record in No 10.

The Prime Minister warned that a vote for Labour would strengthen Vladimir Putin and see the UK becoming the “soft touch of Europe” for migrants.

Sir Keir Starmer said he would be forced to make tough choices to deal with the “very difficult inheritance” he would receive if he is in power after Thursday’s vote.

Labour’s opinion poll lead over the Tories has hovered around the 20-point mark for most of the election campaign and the Conservative strategy has shifted towards saving as many MPs as possible to form an effective opposition.

Mr Sunak told workers at a healthcare supply facility in Staffordshire: “I know many of you who supported us in the past have some hesitations about doing that again.

“I know you’re frustrated with me, frustrated with our party, it hasn’t been an easy few years for anybody, I get all of that, we haven’t got everything right, we’ve made mistakes. I appreciate and hear your frustration.”

Asked if he had given up trying to win, Mr Sunak said: “No, absolutely not.

“I’m fighting hard for every vote. I don’t take a single place or person for granted, but I don’t want Britain to sleepwalk into the danger of what an unchecked Labour government with a supermajority would mean.

“And that means handling Labour a blank cheque that people won’t be able to get back, a blank cheque to put up everyone’s taxes, to make us a soft touch of Europe when it comes to migration, to reverse my cost-saving net zero reforms and to ensure pensioners pay a tax for the first time in our country’s history on the state pension.”

Talk in Westminster has already turned to who could replace Mr Sunak as Tory leader should he lead the Conservatives to defeat on Thursday as expected.

But the Prime Minister did not rule out keeping hold of his party’s reins for a while longer, telling the BBC when asked: “My priority is focused on this election, right.

“I love this party dearly and of course I’ll always put myself at the service of it, and the service of my country.”

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from March 1 to July 1, with the final point showing Labour on 40%, Conservatives 20%, Reform 16%, Lib Dems 12% and Greens 6%. Source: PA graphic
(PA Graphics)

He also suggested the UK’s support for Ukraine could be at risk under Labour.

“Putin would like nothing more than for Britain to step back, to appease his aggression rather than face it down and that is what will happen with another party in power,” he told the Telegraph.

Sir Keir told reporters that he had shown a “united front” with the Government on support for Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukraine.

“I’ve been to see President Zelensky in Kyiv myself personally to say, should there be a change of government, there won’t be any change in our support for Ukraine.”

Sir Keir acknowledged he would face a series of domestic challenges if he becomes Prime Minister on Friday.

“If we do get over the line and come in to serve as a Labour government, it’s going to be really difficult because there’s going to be a very difficult inheritance after 14 years of failure under this Government, and we’re going to have to do really tough things in order to move the country forward,” he said.

After a stump speech at Hitchin Town Football Club, the Labour leader was asked whether he was concerned he could be the least popular opposition leader ever to enter No 10.

Sir Keir Starmer holds up a scarf
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer visited Hitchin Town FC scarf during a visit to Hertfordshire, while on the General Election campaign trail (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said: “In five years’ time, we will be able to look back and say: ‘You are truly better off, your public services are working properly and the economy is working for everyone.’

“I’ll be very, very happy to be judged on that record.”

Earlier, Home Secretary James Cleverly had claimed Labour wanted to “gerrymander” the British political system in order to ensure a permanent majority.

He told the BBC: “The reason that this is so important, is because Labour have already said they are going to gerrymander the system, they have said they’re going to pack out the House of Lords, they’ve said they’re going to get votes at 16, they’re going to get votes for foreign nationals, they’re probably going to get votes for criminals.”

Labour does have a policy of giving 16-year-olds the vote, but the other claims made by Mr Cleverly are not in the party’s manifesto.