General election: Voters annoyed at government's broken promises, admits minister

People are "really annoyed" the government has not always kept its promises, a Tory minister has said as he acknowledged the election was "tough" after 14 years in power.

Speaking to Sky News Johnny Mercer admitted the campaign had been "up and down", but insisted the polls showing the party lagging behind were not reflected on the doorstep.

He warned voters against giving Labour "unchecked power" by backing Nigel Farage's Reform UK, after a poll put his party one percentage point above the Conservatives.

It comes after a survey by YouGov for The Times put Reform UK at 19%, compared to the Conservatives at 18%.

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The veterans minister and former army officer, who is battling to be re-elected to the Devon seat of Plymouth Moor View, also disputed the findings of an IPSOS survey that indicated six in 10 people would accept higher taxes if it meant more money for the NHS.

He made his comments as Rishi Sunak remained away from the campaign trail for another day after attending the G7 summit in Italy.

The prime minister was also due to attend the Trooping the Colour ceremony to celebrate the official birthday of the King before jetting off again to attend a Ukraine Peace summit in Switzerland.

Mr Mercer told Sky News: "I've never found six out of ten people on the doors who want to pay more in tax in Plymouth.

"I respect all these surveys. I respect all the polls. There's one poll that matters on 4 July.

"I don't find six out of 10 people want to pay more tax. I find they want to bring their taxes down.

"They want better public services. They understand the challenge in the NHS.

"They also understand it's got record funding and record numbers of doctors and nurses. But we're up against a huge rise in demand, particularly under the pandemic, which is really, really difficult."

He added: "Of course, people are annoyed. People are really annoyed that we've made promises and that we haven't always met them.

"I think we've got a job of work to get over how hard the prime minister works on this, how difficult government is.

"But, no, I think people want to pay less tax. You have a clear choice in this election now, haven't you.

"You have got the Conservatives clearly saying we're going to reduce and continue to reduce tax... and a Labour government coming in, who is clearly going to raise taxes."

Mr Mercer went on: "This election is tough, right? And it was always going to be tough after 14 years in power, and clearly the campaign's been up and down as well."

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But insisting the Tories had a "bold plan", he warned: "If you vote for Reform, you're going to get a Labour government, you'll get unchecked power from a Labour government to come in and change the face of this country into something that I don't believe it is, I don't think it is a left-wing country."

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Mr Mercer rejected the Tory brand was "toxic" as he defended the absence of Conservative branding in his election literature.

He said: "Anyone looking at those leaflets can see that I'm in the Conservative Party and everybody has always known I'm in the Conservative Party."

He added: "It's blue... It's got me on there talking about my record in government. So which part of it is not clear that I'm in the Conservative Party?

"I think it does say on the back who I'm campaigning for. "

Meanwhile, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall defended her party's claim NHS waiting lists could rise to 10 million despite a thinktank saying it was "highly unlikely".

Responding to the Institute for Fiscal Studies' criticism, Ms Kendall told Sky News: "We're saying that if there's another five years of the Conservatives, you could see 10 million people waiting in pain or feeling they have to try and pay to go private to deal with their problem."

She said it was a "reasonable assumption" that was based on what had already happened under the Conservatives and "if the trend continues in the future, as it has done in the past, that's what we're likely to see".

The Tories have dismissed the Labour attack as "scaremongering".

Elsewhere, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is on the campaign trail in Surrey as he continues his party's efforts to chip away at the "blue wall", a collection of typically safe Conservative seats in southern England.

Other candidates in Plymouth Moor View are:

Shaun Hooper, Reform UK
Sarah Martin, Liberal Democrat
Georgia Nelson, Greens
Fred Thomas, Labour