Sunak Ramps Up Fear Factor in Last Ditch Election Push

(Bloomberg) -- Labour leader Keir Starmer dismissed as “desperate” Rishi Sunak’s last-gasp efforts to stoke fears about the opposition party winning a huge majority at Thursday’s UK election, with the prime minister’s campaign turning increasingly frantic as it sought to avert a crushing Conservative defeat.

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Two days out from the vote, Sunak ramped up attacks on Labour and warned that typical Conservative voters staying home could hand Starmer a result in line with current opinion polls which project him securing a parliamentary majority of more than 200 seats. That would mean the incoming government would have a “blank check” to do what it likes, Sunak said.

While Sunak denied he’s given up on victory, the Tories have pivoted in the past two weeks to issuing warnings about the scale of a Labour victory — an apparent concession that the governing party is not going to win after a succession of surveys deploying seat-by-seat analysis projected the opposition is heading for a victory of historic proportions. In all, 10 of 11 so-called MRP polls project Labour will take more seats than in Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997.

The polls — and Labour’s stubborn 20-point lead that’s budged little over the campaign — highlight how little the Tories’ initial messaging around sticking with Sunak’s plan cut through with voters. The last campaign days appear now to be an exercise in damage limitation, geared toward convincing former Tory supporters who are either considering not voting or backing Nigel Farage’s right-wing Reform UK party to turn out on Thursday and vote Conservative.

In a video on Sunak’s X social media account, the Tory campaign suggested a Labour government would crash the FTSE 100 and cause energy blackouts. Yet Bloomberg reporting shows investors increasingly see the UK as a safe haven due to political and economic stability brought by a change of government.

Throughout Tuesday, the Tories have also attacked Starmer over comments he made to Virgin Radio, that he blocks out appointments after 6 p.m. on Fridays to spend time with his family. Starmer’s wife comes from a Jewish family, and the Labour leader has spoken about the importance of their Friday evenings.

Even so, prominent Tories took aim at Starmer’s remarks. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps accused him of planning to be a “part-time prime minister” while minister Maria Caulfield told broadcasters Starmer wanted to work a four-day week — something the Labour leader did not say.

“It really is desperate. My family’s really important to me as they will be to every single person watching this,” Starmer told reporters on his own campaign visit. “It’s increasing desperation bordering on hysterical now.”

The Conservative attacks, which were widely criticized by leaders in Britain’s Jewish community, come despite Sunak saying just two weeks ago that he admired Starmer for ensuring he has family time.

“He does a very good job of balancing family life and work life and making sure that he prioritizes that and makes time for it,” Sunak told LBC radio then.

Asked by Bloomberg if he endorsed the comments by his campaign alleging Starmer would not be able to defend the country because he’d finish work at 6 p.m., Sunak replied: “I do worry about our country’s security under Keir Starmer and I have deep concerns about it.”

Yet the overall vibe is of a campaigning running out of ideas to try to close the polling gap to Labour.

Tory leaflets warn of “French-style union laws,” national road charging and more money spent on welfare benefits. That’s despite Labour saying changes to working rights will be carried out in communication with business, pledging to get people off benefits and into work, and having announced no plans for national pay-per-mile charging on roads.

On the BBC, the premier warned that “illegal migrants will be out on the street” if Labour wins, and that asylum-seekers were “queuing up” at Calais in northern France, waiting for a Starmer government before attempting to cross the English Channel in small boats. That’s despite the Channel crossings through the end of June reaching a record for the first six months of the year.

Labour has denied any plan to raise taxes, insisting it will not put up any on “working people” and categorically ruling out rises to income tax, the national insurance payroll tax, corporation tax and valued-added tax. The party has also accused Sunak of lying to the public about their policies on borders and the work ethic of their would-be premier.

The “stench of their lies and hypocrisy” is “overwhelming,” Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said on social media.

(Updates with Starmer comment in eighth paragraph.)

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