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Election campaign day 27: Boris Johnson enters the fray

Boris Johnson is to enter the General Election fray (Victoria Jones/PA)
Boris Johnson is to enter the General Election fray (Victoria Jones/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has welcomed Boris Johnson’s decision to get involved in the Conservatives’ General Election campaign effort.

– Boris is back

Mr Sunak’s relationship with Mr Johnson – his predecessor but one – did not end well.

It was Mr Sunak’s resignation as chancellor after one scandal too many which precipitated the rush for the exit door by a slew of fellow ministers, leading to Mr Johnson’s defenestration from No 10.

Since the election was called, the former prime minister has been notable by his absence from the campaign trail, escaping Britain’s soggy summer for a holiday in the Italian sun with wife Carrie and their three children.

Rishi Sunak on board a fishing boat with fishermen
Rishi Sunak, out campaigning with lobster fishermen in Devon, has welcomed Mr Johnson’s return (Leon Neal/PA)

But with the Tories continuing to trail in the polls, he has now apparently agreed to put his shoulder to the campaign wheel, with a letter, due to go out next week, targeting tens of thousands of voters urging them to back the Conservatives on July 4.

His intervention was welcomed by a grateful Mr Sunak, who said it was being done in co-ordination with the central Conservative campaign.

“It’s great that Boris is supporting the Conservative Party, I very much welcome that. I know that will make a difference,” he said.

It was unclear, however, whether that support will extend to endorsing Mr Sunak personally.

So far his involvement has been largely limited to recording video messages for old allies – such as Sir Simon Clarke, who earlier this year called on the Tories to dump the present occupant of No 10.

– Quote of the day

– Taxing questions for Starmer

After ruling out increases to income tax, national insurance and VAT (bar a levy on private schools), Sir Keir Starmer continues to face questions over Labour’s tax plans if he gains power on July 4.

The issue came up repeatedly during his appearance on an LBC radio call-in, when he was pressed on whether his assurance the party would not need any rises beyond those already announced extended to a revaluation of council tax bands.

Sir Keir Starmer, in headphones, talking into an LBC radio microphone
Sir Keir Starmer takes listeners’ questions during an LBC radio phone-in (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Labour leader replied that he was not going to “sit here two-and-a-bit weeks before the election and write the budgets for the next five years”.

Sir Keir was however happy to put paid to a suggestion that Labour could impose a 10% levy on Premier League transfers as recommended by the recent fan-led review into football governance.

“Let me just kill it dead, we’re not looking at that,” he said.

Separately, Sir Keir suggested that Labour could support pubs by extending the current freeze on beer duty.

“I think it is important that we support hospitality and the beer duty is part of the package there,” he said.

– Picture of the day

Labour frontbenchers Jonathan Reynolds, Angela Rayner and Rachel Reeves standing behind a row of beer pumps on a pub bar holding glasses of beer
Labour frontbenchers Jonathan Reynolds, Angela Rayner and Rachel Reeves on the campaign trail (Peter Byrne/PA)

– It’s a stitch-up

To no great surprise at Westminster, Reform UK has found itself in hot water over some of its choices of election candidates.

Last week the party’s candidate for Bexhill and Battle apologised after it emerged he had previously said Britain should have taken up Hitler’s offer of neutrality, while others have been found to have links to a British fascist leader.

Nigel Farage arriving on foot for a press conference
Nigel Farage said Reform has been ‘stitched up’ by its vetting company (James Manning/PA)

Nigel Farage, however, insists that none of this is the fault of the party, blaming instead Vetting.Com – the vetting company it paid £144,000 to run the rule over its would-be MPs.

“Have we had trouble with one or two candidates? Yes, we have,” he said.

“We paid a large sum of money to a well-known vetting company, and they didn’t do the work. We have been stitched up politically, and that’s given us problems. And I accept that and I’m sorry for that.”

The company acknowledged that it had been caught out by Mr Sunak’s decision to go for a July election, saying its “working assumption” had been that the poll would take place in the autumn.

The party said it is now consulting lawyers.

– Starmer’s debate frustration

Sir Keir has expressed his frustration after admitting he struggled to get some of his points across in his first TV head-to-head with Mr Sunak.

Following the encounter screened on ITV, some viewers expressed surprise it took him so long to challenge the Prime Minister’s claim Labour was planning a £2,000 tax hike for every household – something it strongly denies.

The Labour leader acknowledged that he had had difficulty with the tight format, and had needed his wife, Victoria, to pick him up afterwards.

“She is very supportive. After the first debate I was slightly frustrated because I didn’t think the 45 seconds to answer a question really worked for me. I know why the programme set it up in that way.

“So I was pretty sort of – ‘argh!’ – frustrated. I am not good company when I am in that place. But Vic cheered me up on that one.”

– Here be dragons

While Mr Johnson is giving his backing to the Tories, Labour has had the endorsement of the prominent businessman Theo Paphitis.

Sir Keir Starmer sitting alongside Theo Paphitis on a train
Sir Keir Starmer with former TV ‘dragon’ Theo Paphitis on a train to Hampshire (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Joining Sir Keir on the campaign trail in Hampshire, the former Dragons’ Den investor told the BBC he was “fed up with the chaos” from the Conservative Party.

“Stability for business, growth and wealth creation used to form part of their agenda,” he said.

“Well, they’ve forgotten it, now that very much sits in the Labour Party. That’s why I’m here, I haven’t changed, they’ve gone away from me.”

– Social media moment

The Conservatives have been fact checked by users on X, formerly Twitter, after they appeared to link the Labour Party with the 2007-08 financial collapse.

In response to an X post from Labour about bringing back face-to-face banking, the official account for the Tory party wrote: “Face to face banking last time Labour were in charge”, accompanied with a photo of a crowd of people queueing outside a branch of British bank Northern Rock – which was nationalised by the government in 2008 during the financial crisis.

A community note underneath the post, which allows users to add context to potentially misleading content, read: “The banking crisis was global and started with American subprime mortgage lending. It wasn’t caused by the Labour (government) this is factually incorrect.”

– What the polls are saying

Four opinion polls have been published in the past 24 hours, all of which show Labour holding its large lead over the Conservatives, while one puts Reform level with the Tories.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from February 18 to June 18, with the final point showing Labour on 42%, Conservatives 21%, Reform 16%, Lib Dems 11% and Green 6%. Source: PA graphic
(PA Graphics)

The poll from Redfield & Wilton puts Labour on 43%, 25 percentage points ahead of the Tories who are tied with Reform on 18%.

Elsewhere JL Partners puts Labour 17 points ahead of the Conservatives, More in Common gives Labour a 16-point lead and Deltapoll has the party 27 points ahead.

– What’s happening tomorrow

The Office for National Statistics publishes the inflation figures for May.