Sunak says he will stay on as MP if Tories lose, as Farage threat looms

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he will stay on as MP if the Conservatives lose the General Election.

Mr Sunak maintained he will “fight to the last day” as he responded to a poll putting Reform UK ahead of the Tories.

The Prime Minister was asked by a reporter at the G7 in Italy: “If you win the General Election, will you commit to serving a full five-year term as Prime Minister, and if you lose will you commit to a full five years as an MP?”

He replied: “Yes, and yes.”

Mr Sunak maintained that “the only poll that matters” is election day,  when asked why Tory voters seemed to be turning to Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

A YouGov survey commissioned by The Times newspaper had Mr Farage’s party at 19% and the Conservatives on 18% in voting intention, in a crossover moment which is the latest blow to Tory hopes of returning to government.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking during a press conference at the G7 leaders’ summit in Italy
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking during a press conference at the G7 leaders’ summit at the Borgo Egnazia resort, in Puglia, Italy (Christopher Furlong/PA)

During a press conference at the G7 leaders’ summit in Italy, Mr Sunak said: “I think we’re only halfway through this campaign and the Conservative Party and me are going to fight for every single vote until the last day.

“And you know, what you saw this week was actually an important moment in the campaign because the only poll that matters is the one on July 4.

“What you did see this week is the two leading parties put out their manifestos for the future of our country, and there’s a very clear choice.”

He added: “What I would say is if that poll and all these things were replicated on election day, what that would be is handing a blank cheque to Keir Starmer to increase people’s taxes on their home, their car, their job, their pension, their house, that’s what it will do.

“So I’m going to continue fighting very hard to make sure everyone understands the choice that’s ahead of them.”

Mr Sunak was asked if his discussions at the G7 had come too late to make a meaningful difference to migration levels in the UK that would allow him to tackle the threat of Reform.

He said: “I think the first thing to say is this is the first time that the G7 summit has had a dedicated discussion on migration. So the fact that the G7 has been discussing migration is itself something of note and that’s something that we have pushed for.

“So I, together with (Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni), as you know have been talking a lot about this issue, leading on this issue is important to me and to her that the G7 discussed this and the discussion today was incredibly productive.”

He added: “Obviously, these things don’t happen overnight. But as I said when I got this job and made my first speech on illegal migration that where the UK lead others will follow, 18 months since then has shown that to be true.”

Without referring to the Reform Party or Mr Farage in his answer, Mr Sunak concluded that he is “confident” the G7 migration policies “will make a difference”.

Rishi Sunak welcoming Pope Francis during the G7 leaders’ summit in Italy
Rishi Sunak welcomes Pope Francis during the G7 leaders’ summit (Christopher Furlong/PA)

At a London press conference called to celebrate the YouGov poll, Mr Farage said: “We are not going to get four million votes, we’re not going to get five million votes, we’re going to get a very, very substantial number of votes.

“I genuinely think we can get over six million votes. I don’t know where the ceiling is.”

That total would be significantly more than the 3.9 million votes his former party, Ukip, received under his leadership in 2015, when it secured 12.6% of the vote.

Mr Farage claimed Reform is “well ahead” of the Conservatives in several regions including the North East, the North West, the East Midlands, in the West Midlands, as well as in the so-called red wall.

“The inflection point means that, actually, if you vote Conservative in the red wall, you will almost certainly get Labour. A Conservative vote in the red wall is now a wasted vote,” the arch Brexiteer said.

He also said: “It isn’t going to be Rishi Sunak leading the opposition – I mean, he’ll probably be in California anyway.

“The Conservatives will choose someone and they probably won’t last very long. And they can’t provide opposition because they are hopelessly split down the middle on policy …

“I put it to you that I believe I can be that voice of opposition.”

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference at The Wellington, central London
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference at The Wellington, central London, while on the General Election campaign trail (James Manning/PA)

Elsewhere during a BBC panorama interview, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer distanced himself from predecessor Jeremy Corbyn and said that Labour’s manifesto plans would not lead to austerity.

Asked if he meant what he said when he praised Mr Corbyn in the past, Sir Keir replied: “I have changed my mind and the reason for that is, having reflected politically on those four losses in a row, I took the decision that we needed to change the Labour Party and drag it closer to the country.”

Put to him that public services will need to be cut in light of Treasury figures predicting £18 billion of cuts, Sir Keir said there would be a “cash injection straight away” into police, hospitals and schools and Labour would carry out reform to provide “a really better service”.

General Election campaign 2024
Sir Keir Starmer talking to Nick Robinson on the BBC’s Panorama Leader Interviews (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Pressed on whether there would be cuts in other areas as a result, Sir Keir said: “Firstly, we’re not going back to austerity. I ran a public service during austerity, I know what that feels like, I know the damage that it did, and that’s been the legacy of the last 14 years, so we’re not going to go to austerity.