Starmer accuses Sunak of ‘vanity’ over election date

Labour leader said he suspects PM wants a late election so he can mark two years in office

Kate Devlin
Sunday 07 January 2024 13:02 GMT
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Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of allowing “vanity” to delay the date of the general election as the battle for the keys to Downing Street becomes increasingly personal.

The Labour leader hit out at the prime minister, saying he suspected he wanted to stay in No 10 until later this year to hit a milestone of two years in office.

Mr Sunak’s decision this week to announce an election was likely only in the second half of 2024 was putting "vanity before country", he added.

He also rounded on Conservative attacks over his plans to borrow £28 billion to invest in green policies, saying “bring it on”, and accused the Tory leader of floating future tax cuts because he was out of ideas.

For his part Mr Sunak used an interview with the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme to repeatedly focus on Sir Keir, even suggesting questions the Labour leader should be asked when he makes an appearance on the same show next week.

He said tax cuts paid for by cutting the benefits bill were about “fairness” because Britain's welfare system was "not working", after the numbers signed off sick from work tripled in 10 years.

Ministers would bring about reforms that meant "everybody who can work does work", he said, adding that he was looking to control public spending "across the board".

Sir Keir said talk of pre-election tax cuts was the Prime Minister acting "in his own self-interest" and was the "wrong way to govern".

"He has run out of ideas,” he said: “They are desperately thrashing around and trying to find the dividing lines to go into the election.

"It is not part of a strategy for growing the economy, it is simply picking tax cuts that the Prime Minister thinks might create a dividing line going into the election.

"That is the wrong way to govern.”

He added: ““If he had a plan, he would set the date and he should set the date because at the moment it is very hard to see how him continuing in Government improves the lives of anybody in the country, so there is drift.

“I can’t help feeling that all he really wants to do is to get two years clocked up of his own premiership, and that means he is putting vanity before country.”

He said that the tax burden on working people was too high, however, but declined to set out which taxes he would like to see reduced.

He also said he was "absolutely up” for a fight on Labour's pledge to deliver clean power by 2030.

"But look, it is absolutely clear to me that the Tories are trying to weaponise this issue, the £28 billion etcetera. This is a fight I want to have…so if they want that fight, bring it on."

He also said he was kept up at night worrying about the impact of his job on his family and said he wants to "desperately try to protect" his two teenage children.

He added: "The only thing that keeps me up at night, the only thing that worries me is our children, because they're 13 and 15, that's difficult ages.

"It will impact them, we don't name them in public, we don't do photographs with them, they go to the local school and I just desperately try to protect them in that way, but I know it's going to be harder and I do worry about that."

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