Sunak’s campaign takes another blow as Starmer claims confident victory in YouGov poll after Sky debate

 (Sky News)
(Sky News)

Rishi Sunak’s faltering election campaign took another hit as a snap poll found Sir Keir Starmer won Wednesday night’s TV debate by a significant margin.

A YouGov survey conducted after Sky’s Battle for Number 10 found that two-thirds of voters felt the Labour leader performed better than Mr Sunak in the clash.

Some 64 per cent said Sir Keir performed better, with 36 per cent saying the prime minister was the winner. YouGov spoke to 1,864 voters shortly after the debate, during which the two leaders were grilled on their plans for government.

The debate followed another frantic day on the campaign trail, during which Mr Sunak was forced to push back on suggestions that Labour was on course for a “supermajority” come 5 July.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, claimed that Labour could record an even bigger victory than the 1997 landslide won by Tony Blair as he urged Reform voters to back his party.

 (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

His comments came after Tory HQ published an advertisement on Facebook claiming that votes for Reform could see Labour win up to 490 seats, leaving the Conservatives with just 57, in the latest sign of how defensive the party’s election campaign has become.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” the PM told reporters on the Tory election battle bus as he travelled to Lincolnshire ahead of the debate.

“And every time someone says something to me about a poll, I always give you guys the same answer, which you’ve heard me say multiple times. The poll that matters is the one on July 4.”

Sir Keir, campaigning in Grimsby ahead of the debate, denied that the election was a foregone conclusion, saying that he was fighting for every vote.

“No, we know that we have to earn every vote,” he told broadcasters.

“Not a single vote has been cast and I know that every day we have to make a positive case for change.”

Earlier this week Mr Sunak launched the Conservative Party manifesto, which included promises to cut taxes, halve immigration and introduce national service for young people.

The prime minister announced a total of £17bn in giveaways – including a 2p cut to national insurance contributions (NICs) – that he said would be funded by clamping down on tax avoidance and “efficiencies” in the civil service.

But economists cast doubt on whether the numbers added up, while the Labour Party described the manifesto as the “most expensive panic attack in history”.

Keir Starmer at Sky TV debate with Beth Rigby (AP)
Keir Starmer at Sky TV debate with Beth Rigby (AP)

Sir Keir Starmer’s party is launching its own manifesto on Thursday and Labour has already announced a number of policies that will feature in the document, including a vow not to raise income tax, national insurance contributions or VAT.

The party has, however, so far failed to rule out raising corporation tax and capital gains tax while insisting that everything outlined in the manifesto will be fully costed.

Experts have criticised both parties spending plans, accusing them of engaging in a “conspiracy of silence” over the scale of spending cuts or tax rises needed to balance the books after the general election as the country’s finances continue to recover following the twin shocks of the Covid pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.