Sunak warns Labour government would be ‘disaster’ as he battles to save campaign

Rishi Sunak will warn that it would take decades to recover from the “disaster” of a Labour government as he seeks to rally Tories to fight for every vote in the closing stages of the General Election campaign.

The Prime Minister will tell activists they have just 10 days to “take our message to every corner of the United Kingdom” before polls open on July 4.

With the Conservatives still around 20 points behind in the polls and after a bruising few days dominated by allegations about alleged insider betting, Mr Sunak will urge Tories not to “surrender” to Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

The Prime Minister will launch the Scottish Tory manifesto and address a campaign event in London at the start of the last full week of campaigning.

His latest intervention comes with him under pressure from within the Conservative Party to take a tougher stance against those being investigated by the Gambling Commission for betting on the election date.

According to extracts of his speech briefed to the Daily Mail, Mr Sunak will say: “We have 10 days to take our message to every corner of the United Kingdom.

“To make the argument that this country needs lower taxes, not £2,000 more taxes for every working family.

“To make the case that a Labour government would be bad for our country, and an unchecked Labour government would be a disaster from which it would take decades to recover.”

Graph showing average opinion poll data for the main political parties from February 23 to June 23
(PA Graphics)

Labour has repeatedly denied Tory claims that it is planning to increase taxes on working families.

But Mr Sunak will say: “When a politician won’t tell you what they are going to do, it means that they know you won’t like it.

“All their evasions tell you is that they are going to whack up council tax and a bunch of other taxes.

“And one thing we know about Keir Starmer is that he has no problem going back on his promises. His career is a story of commitments dropped as soon as they became too difficult to keep.

“I tell you this: once you have handed Keir Starmer and Labour a blank cheque, you won’t be able to get it back.”

In an attempt to boost Tory morale, Mr Sunak will say: “Don’t surrender to Labour. Fight for every vote, fight for our values, fight for our vision of Britain.”

The Conservative campaign has been plunged into a deeper crisis by the gambling controversy, with the party’s chief data officer Nick Mason understood to be taking a leave of absence amid claims he placed bets on the election date.

Director of campaigning Tony Lee has also taken a leave of absence, while Mr Lee’s would-be MP wife Laura Saunders and fellow candidate Craig Williams, who was a parliamentary aide to the Prime Minister, are also under investigation by the Gambling Commission.

Home Secretary James Cleverly
Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was not aware of any ministers caught up in the betting row (Lucy North/PA)

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris faced questions about how wide the inquiry might go as he was sent out on the airwaves for a faltering broadcast round on Monday morning.

The minister said it would be wrong to “suggest somebody is guilty until proven innocent” when asked why the Prime Minister would not take what former defence minister Tobias Ellwood called “robust action”.

Asked whether Mr Sunak should ask Mr Williams when he placed his bet, the Northern Ireland Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if that conversation has been had, but you asked me if I knew, and I don’t.”

He suggested the Conservative Party does not know whether the Tory candidate had insider knowledge when he placed his bet or whether it was “just a hunch”.

“There’s both a principle point and a practical point there,” Mr Heaton-Harris told LBC when asked why Mr Williams had not had party backing withdrawn pending the inquiry.

“It needs to be determined whether or not he had prior knowledge.”

Asked how damaging the scandal was, he said: “It’s not great because we should be talking about how we’re going to lower taxes and how we’re going to lower immigration.”

Mr Ellwood on Monday joined a growing chorus of senior Tory voices calling for the Prime Minister to take action over the allegations.

The Conservative candidate for Bournemouth East said the inquiries were a “deeply unhelpful, self-inflicted distraction” and suggested Mr Sunak should have suspended those being investigated.

Ministers have been pressed on whether members of Cabinet could be involved after the Prime Minister repeatedly refused to say whether he could confirm his top team would not face allegations.

Asked if ministers had bet on the date, Home Secretary James Cleverly told the BBC: “Not to my knowledge.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove compared the impact of the row with the Partygate scandal.

“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” he told the Sunday Times, adding: “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”

Mr Gove went on to suggest it was “just not acceptable” for those in a “privileged position” close to the Prime Minister to use what he described as “inside information to make additional money for yourself”.

Mr Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will face questions from Sun readers on Monday afternoon in the latest set piece of the election campaign.

Labour is set to focus on health issues, raising concerns about “DIY dentistry” because of a lack of NHS treatment.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “It’s virtually impossible to get a dentist appointment after 14 years of Conservative neglect.

“People are resorting to pulling their own teeth out – DIY dentistry should be the stuff of Charles Dickens’ books, not Britain in 2024.”