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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

‘I’m not going to stop’: Rishi Sunak says he WON’T be quitting ahead of election despite growing Tory panic over D-Day shambles and stuttering campaign – with fears Reform could leapfrog party in polls and right-wingers pushing to ‘welcome’ Nigel Farage

Rishi Sunak sounded defiance today as he scrambled to get the Tories‘ election campaign back on track after the D-Day shambles.

The PM insisted he is ‘not going to stop’ as he visited Horsham in West Sussex – traditionally a stronghold – after an extraordinary weekend of recriminations.

Mr Sunak was accused of ducking interviews in the wake of his grovelling apology for returning early from commemorations of the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy to carry out an election interview.

He reiterated his regret saying he ‘hoped people can find it in their hearts to forgive me’.  

But Mr Sunak roundly dismissed wild rumours that he could quit during the campaign, saying: ‘The reality is I’m not going to stop going, I’m not going to stop fighting for people’s votes, I’m not going to stop fighting for the future of our country.

‘I believe in what we are doing deeply. I think our country is at an important moment, we’re at a crossroads, and that’s why I called this election because, having restored economic stability, this is the moment to really think about how we can deliver a more secure future for everyone.’

Focus groups conducted by think-tank More in Common have laid bare the impact of the D-Day episode, with doubts about Mr Sunak ‘turbocharged’ and the premier now seen by voters as a drag on his party. 

Meanwhile, Suella Braverman has sparked a fresh meltdown by suggesting that Nigel Farage should be ‘welcomed’ into the party. 

That triggered a blunt response from moderates, with former justice secretary Robert Buckland telling the BBC: ‘We’re a broad church, but not an Amazon warehouse.’ 

Alarm is rising in Tory circles about a ‘crossover’ moment in the polls, where Reform support leapfrogs the party. 

In other twists and turns today: 

  • Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has announced he is quitting after a backlash at the prospect he would be an MP and MSP;
  • The Tories could pledge to cut national insurance by another 2p in their manifesto later this week; 
  • Mr Sunak is doing a BBC Panorama interview to be broadcast at 8pm tonight;
  • The PM refused to comment on Nigel Farage’s suggestion that he does not understand ‘our culture’, amid a backlash that it was ‘dog whistle’ politics; 
  • Labour is launching a childcare plan after U-turning on bringing back the lifetime allowance on pension funds; 
  • Keir Starmer has been forced to deny a suggestion from his own frontbencher Emily Thornberry that state classes could get bigger as a result of adding VAT to private school fees;
  • The Lib Dems are launching their manifesto promising to hike taxes on the rich.

Rishi Sunak is scrambling to get the Tories ‘ election campaign back on track today after the D-Day shambles and with infighting flaring over the Reform threat 

Alarm is rising in Tory circles about a ‘crossover’ moment in the polls, where support for NIgel Farage’s Reform leapfrogs the party

Suella Braverman has sparked a fresh meltdown by suggesting that Nigel Farage should be 'welcomed' into the party

Suella Braverman has sparked a fresh meltdown by suggesting that Nigel Farage should be ‘welcomed’ into the party

Mr Sunak spent a low-key weekend regrouping after a storm of criticism at his decision to return early from last week’s 80th anniversary commemorations, for which he apologised on Friday.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride was forced to quash speculation Mr Sunak could resign before the election.

He said the PM was ‘deeply patriotic’ and had taken the criticism ‘very deeply, personally’ but there was ‘no question’ of him quitting.

Mr Farage has pounced on the row, accusing Mr Sunak of being ‘not patriotic’. But the Reform leader was accused of ‘dog whistle politics’ – code for subtly appealing to racist sentiments – after suggesting the premier does not care about ‘our culture’.

Ms Braverman, who was brutally sacked by Mr Sunak in a cabinet reshuffle in November, told The Times there was ‘not much difference’ between Mr Farage’s policies and the Tories’.    

‘We need to, in the future, to find some way to work together because there shouldn’t be big differences between us,’ she said. 

‘I would welcome Nigel into the Conservative party. There’s not much difference really between him and many of the policies that we stand for. 

‘We are a broad church, we should be a welcoming party and an inclusive party and if someone is supportive of the party, that’s a pre-condition and they want Conservatives to get elected then they should be welcomed.’ 

But Sir Robert gave the idea short shrift, and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has previously indicated she would not serve in the party alongside Mr Farage.

Touring broadcast studios this morning, police minister Chris Philp dismissed the question as ‘theoretical’ – pointing out Mr Farage was running against the Tories. 

Mr Farage told the BBC Mr Sunak ‘should have known in his heart, that it was right to be there’.

He claimed the Tory leader ‘doesn’t really care about our history, he doesn’t really care – frankly – about our culture’.

Challenged over the comments, he insisted he had been talking about Mr Sunak’s ‘class’ rather than his heritage as the son of first-generation immigrants.

Mr Farage denied any racial element, saying that ’40 per cent of our contribution’ in the two world wars ‘came from the Commonwealth’.

He added that the PM was ‘utterly disconnected by class, by privilege, from how ordinary folk feel. He revealed that, I think spectacularly, when he left Normandy early’.

Mr Stride said he was ‘very uncomfortable’ at the ‘ill-advised’ comments, adding: ‘I’m very proud we have a British Asian right at the top of our Government.’

Labour’s justice spokesman Shabana Mahmood accused Mr Farage of ‘dog whistle’ politics.

‘We can all see exactly what he is doing, he’s got form, it is completely unacceptable,’ she added.

‘This is a man that has a track record of seeking to divide communities who just wants to do it with a veneer of respectability.’

Mr Sunak attended D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth and Normandy, France, last week.

But he left Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron to represent Britain at an ‘international event’ attended by Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelensky and other world leaders. 

Mr Sunak with the King and Queen and The president of France, Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at the commemoration on Friday morning

Mr Sunak with the King and Queen and The president of France, Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at the commemoration on Friday morning

The PM apologised the next day, saying he ‘deeply regrets’ his decision to leave early. The backlash has deepened the gloom around the Tory campaign which has so far failed to dent Labour’s huge poll lead.

Former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries suggested at the weekend the PM could even ‘fall on his sword’ but senior Tories dismissed this.

One said: ‘In the words of Churchill, he has got to keep buggering on – there isn’t any other option. He just needs to stop buggering up.’

Mr Sunak told The Mail On Sunday: ‘We all make mistakes. We’re all human. But I’m motivated to do what I can for this country to the best of my ability. That’s what keeps me going.’

He hopes to reboot the Conservative campaign tomorrow when he is expected to unveil the party’s manifesto and focus on the political divide over tax.

Mr Stride told Sky News that Mr Sunak will ‘absolutely’ lead the Tories into the election and denied that ‘all is lost’.

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