Keir Starmer denies ‘targeting’ Sunak’s wife despite Labour advert attacking her non-dom status

‘Nobody is targeting the prime minister’s wife’, claims Labour leader

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 12 April 2023 20:12 BST
Keir Starmer praises Margaret Thatcher for views on law and order

Sir Keir Starmer has said denied “targeting” Rishi Sunak’s wife as he again defended the Labour Party’s highly controversial online attack adverts.

The Labour leader claimed the ads – the latest which specifically focused on the non-dom tax status previously held by the PM’s wife Akshata Murty – were “highlighting the failures” of the Tory government.

Mr Starmer has stood firmly behind the campaign despite senior figures in his party condemning the “gutter politics” after the initial Twitter poster claimed Mr Sunak did not think child sex abusers should be in prison.

The most recent online ad, posted on Tuesday, said: “Do you think it’s right to raise taxes for working people when your family benefitted from a tax loophole? Rishi Sunak does.”

The Independent revealed last year that Ms Murty held the special tax status which allows people on overseas income – reportedly saving her millions – but has since said she will pay UK taxes on all her worldwide income.

Featuring a picture of Mr Sunak, it also said the Conservatives “have raised taxes 24 times since 2019” while refusing to “close the non-dom tax loophole” for foreign residents in the UK.

During a visit to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk on Wednesday, Sir Keir said: “I make no apologies for highlighting the failures of this government.

“They’ve broken our NHS, they’ve broken our economy. And this argument that because they’ve changed prime minister five times, that somehow the prime minister doesn’t bear responsibility for 13 years of grief for many, many people, I just don’t think stacks up.”

Pressed on the latest ad highlighting the tax benefits enjoyed by the PM’s wife, Sir Keir said: “Nobody is targeting the prime minister’s wife.

“Behind these adverts is a basic truth – that they have broken our criminal justice system, broken our NHS, and broken our economy.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (right) and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (PA)

Labour MPs told The Independent they had personally complained to their leader about the Twitter ads – warning him that it will damage the party’s standing in “blue wall” seats in the south of England.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper distanced herself from the Twitter graphic on child sex abusers – with her team making clear she was not consulted about the ad devised by Labour strategists.

Former home secretary David Blunkett told said Labour was better than “baseless allegations and spurious slurs”. But Jack Straw, another former Labour home secretary, told The Independent: “The Tories are always ready to dish it out, but they squeal like stuck pigs when they are on the receiving end.”

Mr Sunak called for “less talk, more action” from politicians as he hit back at Labour’s contentious attack adverts against him.

The PM said he was “focused on delivering for the British people” when asked about the opposition party’s widely criticised claim that he did not want child sex abusers to be jailed.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir said he disagreed with the pay rise demands of striking junior doctors. “I don’t think 35 per cent is affordable”, he said – but called on the government to “sort this issue out and negotiate a settlement”.

He told reporters: “I think 35 per cent is unaffordable, but that’s not an excuse to sit on your hands and do nothing, that’s a reason to get in the room and negotiate and that’s what the government should be doing.”

Sir Keir also described the US as a “close ally” when asked about president Joe Biden’s visit, adding: “I think all of us want to see the institutions in Northern Ireland back up and running, that’s the best outcome from all of this.”

But Labour pounced on reports that negotiations for a UK-US free trade deal will not restart until 2025 at the earliest, nine years on from Brexit, despite Mr Sunak’s meeting with Mr Biden in Belfast.

Negotiations are unlikely to restart until after the next US election, The Telegraph reported, with the White House confirming that there were no “active” talks happening about a trade deal during Mr Biden’s visit.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, said it was “final confirmation of the failure of the Conservatives to deliver on trade”.

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