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Streeting warns against complacency and giving ‘matches back to the arsonist’

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has warned against complacency over polls predicting a Labour victory (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has warned against complacency over polls predicting a Labour victory (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has urged voters not to give “matches back to the arsonist to finish the job”, as he suggested a Conservative election victory would be a “nightmare on Downing Street”.

The Labour frontbencher warned against “breathtaking complacency” over opinion polls predicting a victory for Sir Keir Starmer’s party at the General Election.

Polls have continued to heap pressure on Rishi Sunak and underline why the Tories have shifted strategy to warn would-be Reform UK voters not to risk handing Labour a landslide win.

Cabinet minister Mark Harper insisted the Conservatives are “fighting to win this election” as he repeated the Prime Minister’s warning that a vote for Nigel Farage’s Reform UK would give Labour “a very large majority” and a “blank cheque” in office.

It came after analysis and modelling by Survation put Labour on course for a 262-seat majority with the Tories reduced to a rump of just 72 MPs and Reform potentially picking up seven seats.

Mr Streeting told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “I just warn people, against this backdrop of breathtaking complacency in the media about the opinion polls, do not give the matches back to the arsonist to finish the job.”

He added: “Do people want to see Liz Truss’s mini-budget on steroids, which is the Conservative manifesto, being delivered if there’s a nightmare on Downing Street on July 5, or do they want to see a stable economy with economic growth, shared prosperity, enable us to invest in our public services without clobbering working people with taxes? That’s the choice at this election.”

Mr Harper told the same programme it it not “wise” to regard the election result as a foregone conclusion.

But, he continued: “The polls do tell us one thing – they do show people that if people don’t vote Conservative and some of the smaller people vote for the smaller parties and Labour does end up with a very large majority, they’re going to have a blank cheque, they’re trying very hard in this campaign not to spell out how they’re going to pay for any of their promises.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the Conservatives are ‘fighting for every vote’ (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Transport Secretary went on to repeat the much-disputed Tory claim that a Labour government would increase taxes by £2,000, as the bitter clash over tax and spending plans continues.

The Conservatives have produced a list of 17 potential tax increases Labour could make, but Sir Keir’s party said it would refuse to be drawn into the Tory trap of responding to each claim.

Mr Streeting declined to rule out council tax rises or re-evaluations.

When pressed on this on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, he evaded the question and repeated the party’s line: “We don’t want to see the tax burden on working people increase.

“None of those pledges in our manifesto requires increases in council tax or increases in fuel duty or any of the other number of taxes the Tories are claiming we want to increase.”

Mr Streeting suggested there could be greater spending increases for the NHS than committed to in the Labour manifesto, saying this could happen “only if the conditions allow”.

The Conservatives seized on this, with a party spokesman saying: “Labour’s manifesto is just window dressing for the election campaign and they are planning to spend and tax more than they are telling the public.”

PA infographic showing opinion poll tracker
(PA Graphics)

It followed analysis by the Nuffield Trust think tank that suggested both Labour and Tory pledges on the NHS would leave the health service with lower annual funding increases – at 1.1% and 0.9% respectively – than during the austerity era.

Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney said: “Scotland has already suffered the consequences of 14 years of Tory cuts, Brexit, and a cost-of-living crisis – the last thing our NHS needs now is even more cuts, Brexit and creeping privatisation imposed by Sir Keir Starmer’s incoming Westminster government.

“Independent experts are clear the Labour Party is planning around £18 billion of cuts to public services – and will starve the NHS of the cash it needs to improve health and care services.”