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Sunak urges voters not to hand Labour a ‘blank cheque’ by choosing Reform

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged voters not to give Labour a ‘blank cheque’ by choosing Reform UK (Christopher Furlong/PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged voters not to give Labour a ‘blank cheque’ by choosing Reform UK (Christopher Furlong/PA)

Rishi Sunak has insisted that voting for Reform UK would be “handing Labour a blank cheque” as he played down a major opinion poll showing Nigel Farage’s party overtaking the Conservatives.

The Prime Minister predicted a comeback as he stressed “we are only halfway through this election” and the choice between the Tories and Labour will “crystallise for people between now and polling day”.

It came after Reform UK leader Mr Farage claimed his party was now “the opposition to Labour” and flipped the Conservative campaign rhetoric by saying a vote for the Tories is a vote for Labour.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Times newspaper had Mr Farage’s party at 19% and the Conservatives on 18% in voting intention, in a crossover moment which is the latest blow to Tory hopes of returning to government.

But Mr Sunak, who was taking a break from the campaign trail to meet world leaders in Italy, expressed confidence his party would regain its lead over Reform UK.

He told reporters at the G7 summit in Puglia: “We are only halfway through this election, so I’m still fighting very hard for every vote.

“And what that poll shows is – the only poll that matters is the one on July 4 – but if that poll was replicated on July 4, it would be handing Labour a blank cheque to tax everyone, tax their home, their pension, their car, their family, and I’ll be fighting very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“And actually, when I’ve been out and about talking to people, they do understand that a vote for anyone who is not a Conservative candidate is just a vote to put Keir Starmer in No 10.”

Nigel Farage gestures as he takes part in a TV debate
Nigel Farage hailed the poll, claiming Reform UK was now the ‘opposition to Labour’ (Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA)

He added that there is a “massive difference” between Labour and the Tories, claiming that Labour would “raise the tax burden to the highest level in this country’s history” after Sir Keir’s party launched its manifesto on Thursday.

“I think that choice will crystallise for people between now and polling day,” the Prime Minister said.

In the YouGov poll which revealed the Tory-Reform reversal, Labour remains in the lead at 37% of voting intention, with the Liberal Democrats at 14%, the Greens at 7%, the SNP at 3%, Plaid Cymru at 1% and others at 2%.

It was conducted on a sample size of 2,211 adults in Britain between June 12 and 13 and pollsters caveated that Reform’s lead is within the margin of error.

At a press conference in Westminster later on Friday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott said the poll was a “stark warning” but insisted “we’re only halfway through”.

“But I’m not going to underplay it. If a result like this is replicated on election day, Keir Starmer would have huge and unchecked power to tax your home, your job, your car, your pension however he wants,” she said.

Ms Trott doubled down on the disputed Tory claim that Labour’s policies would cost every working family £2,094 in tax over the course of the next parliament.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, meanwhile, said the growth of Reform “is just the latest chapter in the Conservative Party’s psychodrama”.

“We’ve had Conservative candidates like Andrea Jenkyns putting Nigel Farage on her leaflet positively, rather than her own leader,” he said during a visit to West Yorkshire.

Mr Streeting said he hoped Mr Farage would not be elected as the MP for Clacton in Essex, adding: “One thing I would say to people about Nigel Farage is that he’s never been tested on actually delivering on the change he campaigns for.”

Mr Farage hailed Reform UK’s “phenomenal start” to the election campaign on Friday as he expressed hope the party can “get through the electoral threshold”.

But he declined to put a target on the number of seats he believed it could win at the General Election, telling BBC Breakfast: “I have no idea. The Labour Party are massively ahead in the polls, the Conservative Party has not bounced one little bit in these first three weeks, they’re not going to.

“And my message is very simple – that (Labour leader Sir Keir) Starmer is going to have a very big majority. I don’t think he has much of a plan, his six priorities didn’t even mention legal migration which is a huge issue, so I want us to become the opposition voice in Parliament and in the country. That’s the ambition.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the G7 summit in Italy
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the G7 summit in Italy (Christopher Furlong/PA)

During ITV’s seven-way election debate on Thursday night, Conservative frontbencher Penny Mordaunt labelled Mr Farage a “Labour enabler”.

But he shot back: “We are now ahead of you in the national polls. A vote for you is actually now a vote for Labour.”

The Tory and Labour election battle buses are not taking to the road on Friday but campaigning continues.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds met top bosses for breakfast to hear their views on Labour’s manifesto.

Leader Sir Keir will face a grilling from BBC journalist Nick Robinson in the latest Panorama election interview to be broadcast on Friday evening.

Elsewhere, Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper visited the east of England, as her party promotes its plans for a national food strategy.