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Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer to face grilling in Grimsby

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will go head to head to win voters over (Jonathan Hordle/ITV)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will go head to head to win voters over (Jonathan Hordle/ITV)

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will both face a grilling in Grimsby on Wednesday, after the Prime Minister pledged to halve immigration and Labour promised to fix potholes.

The Prime Minister and the Labour leader will go head to head to win over voters as they take questions from journalist Beth Rigby and the studio audience during Sky News’ leaders special.

It comes after Mr Sunak unveiled a £17.2 billion package of tax cuts at the Silverstone motor racing circuit on Tuesday.

But with Labour’s poll lead stubbornly around 20 points, the Tory leader will be expected to come out fighting during Wednesday’s live broadcast to keep his place in No 10.

Despite his upcoming appearance on Sky News on Wednesday evening, Mr Sunak has revealed he was forced to go without Sky TV when he was younger.

In an interview with ITV, which meant the Prime Minister left D-Day commemoration events in Normandy early, he said: “There’ll be all sorts of things that I would’ve wanted as a kid that I couldn’t have.

“Famously, Sky TV, so that was something that we never had growing up actually. But it was lots of things but again, that’s my experience. What is more important is my values and how I was raised.”

Meanwhile in Scotland, leaders clashed over economics and austerity in a live TV showdown on Tuesday, with First Minister John Swinney repeatedly claiming a Labour government would “prolong” the austerity agenda imposed by the Tories.

This was denied by the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who said: “Read my lips. No austerity under Labour.”

At the Conservatives’ manifesto launch, Mr Sunak acknowledged that people were “frustrated” with him and admitted the Tories “have not got everything right”.

Labour said the Tory plans would push up borrowing, risking increased interest rates and rising mortgage costs.

Mr Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was joined by his wife Akshata Murty for the manifesto launch at Silverstone (James Manning/PA)

The Tories promised to cut a further 2p off employees’ national insurance by April 2027 and abolish the main rate of the tax for the self-employed entirely by the end of the parliament.

“We are cutting taxes for workers, for parents and pensioners, and we are the party of Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, a party, unlike Labour, that believes in sound money,” Mr Sunak said.

He set out plans to slash immigration as he responded to political pressure from the right of his party and concerns about the threat posed by Reform UK.

Mr Sunak acknowledged that “migration has been too high in recent years” but said: “Our plan is this: we will halve migration as we have halved inflation, and then reduce it every single year.”

The manifesto commits to require migrants to undergo a health check in advance of coming to the UK – with the prospect of paying a higher rate of the immigration health surcharge or forcing them to purchase insurance if they are “likely to be a burden on the NHS”.

It confirmed plans for a “binding, legal cap” on work and family visas which would “fall every year of the next Parliament and cannot be breached”.

As well as measures to reduce legal migration, the manifesto committed to “stop the boats” crossing the English Channel, including through the Rwanda asylum scheme – with the first flights promised in July.

But the document stops short of saying the UK could leave the European Convention on Human Rights, as some on the Tory right, including former home secretary Suella Braverman, have called for.

The convention, and the Strasbourg court which rules on it, has been seen as a stumbling block in the effort to send migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

The manifesto said: “We will run a relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants to Rwanda with a regular rhythm of flights every month, starting this July, until the boats are stopped.

“If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights), we will always choose our security.”

The manifesto sets out plans for billions in tax cuts, which the Tories claim would be paid for by £12 billion of savings on welfare and £6 billion from tackling tax dodgers.

In total, the package of employee and self-employed national insurance cuts – combined with the previously announced “triple lock plus” tax break for pensioners, changes to child benefit for high earners, taking most first-time buyers out of stamp duty and suspending capital gains tax on sales to tenants – would amount to a £17.2 billion annual cost to the Exchequer by 2029-30.

Mr Sunak said the measures in the Tory manifesto will make the tax burden about one percentage point lower in every single year compared with the forecast outlined in the spring budget.

The Tories also pledged to build 1.6 million new homes in England in the next five years by speeding up planning on brownfield land in inner cities and scrapping legacy European Union “nutrient neutrality” rules intended to protect the environment, which Mr Sunak described as “defective”.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said analysis by her party suggested the Tory plans required an extra £17.4 billion of borrowing in 2029-30, and a total of £71 billion over the whole five-year period.

That could result in the Bank of England putting up interest rates by 56 basis points, resulting in someone with an 85% mortgage on the average house in England facing £4,800 in extra mortgage payments over the five years.

Reform’s Nigel Farage said the manifesto was “more lies” from the Conservative Party about cutting immigration.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “This manifesto isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. No-one will believe anything they’re promising today.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) economic think tank was sceptical about the Tories’ ability to raise the money needed for the plans, with its director Paul Johnson branding them “uncertain, unspecific and apparently victimless savings”.