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General election news – live: Tories face wipeout in latest poll as minister forced to deny Sunak will quit

In Europe
June 09, 2024

The Conservative Party is facing electoral wipeout, the latest poll has revealed, as a close ally of Rishi Sunak’s was forced to deny speculation that the prime minister could quit before the general election on 4 July.

Labour is set for a majority of 416 at the upcoming general election, leaving the Tories at just 37 seats, according to the new Deltapoll survey, which puts Sir Keir Starmer’s party on 46 per cent compared to the Conservatives on 21 per cent – with even the prime minister set to lose his Yorkshire seat.

Mr Sunak is claimed to be despondent over the furious backlash to his decision to skip a D-Day memorial attended by other world leaders, and he appeared to dodge questioning on Saturday after a scheduled press event was cancelled during a campaign visit to a walled garden at Auckland Castle.

With fierce critic Nadine Dorries claiming to have heard rumours on Saturday “that Sunak’s about to fall on his sword”, cabinet minister Mel Stride was forced to insist there was “no question” whether or not Mr Sunak would lead the Tories into polling day.

Table of Contents

Key Points

  • Sunak ally forced to deny that PM could quit before polling day

  • Labour set for staggering 416 majority, according to new poll

  • Rishi Sunak ‘cancels’ media slot amid backlash over D-Day event

  • PM ‘despondent’ over D-Day backlash …

  • … As second cabinet minister openly criticises PM

Labour’s Dover candidate: ‘I would not have stood under Corbyn’

18:00 , Tara Cobham

Labour’s general election candidate for Dover and Deal has said he would not have stood for the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Mike Tapp, who is fighting to replace Tory defector Natalie Elphicke in the battleground seat, told The Independent he did not feel he could trust the former Labour leader on defence and security.

But the 39-year-old former soldier praised Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership and said now voters in the constituency “understand that Labour takes this seriously”.

Political correspondent Archie Mitchell reports:

Labour’s Dover candidate: ‘I would not have stood under Corbyn’

Revealed: Voters mostly unfazed by Starmer’s Diane Abbott row

17:00 , Tara Cobham

Exclusive polling for the Independent can reveal that last week’s Diane Abbott-Labour row made “no difference” for 82 per cent of voters — in fact, it might have boosted Labour’s chances.

Tensions erupted in the Labour Party when the Times reported that Ms Abbott would be banned from standing for the party, following an investigation into comments she made on racism and anti-semitism.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer was repeatedly evasive on whether Ms Abbott would be able to stand as a Labour candidate in her constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

Data correspondent Alicja Hagopian reports:

Revealed: voters mostly unfazed by Starmer’s Diane Abbott row

Mel Stride responds to Farage’s claim Sunak does not understand ‘our culture’

15:57 , Tara Cobham

Mel Stride responds to Farage’s claim that Sunak does not understand ‘our culture’

Workers ‘desperate’ for change, says GMB union leader

15:29 , Tara Cobham

Workers are “desperate” for a change of government after 14 years of “chaos and failure” under the Conservatives, a senior union leader said.

Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB, told the union’s annual conference in Bournemouth that the building blocks of decency at work had been “hacked away” by the Tories.

Workers had suffered low pay, long hours and insecurity and had had enough of the way the country has been run, he said.

But Mr Smith also warned Labour that change cannot be just a “snappy election slogan”.

He told delegates: “The Tories have imposed austerity, hollowed out our public services and left our economy in tatters.

“They are agents of chaos and their time is up.

“My challenge to Labour is to recognise that ‘change’ can’t be just a snappy election slogan. It must be brought to life in the reality of government.”

Mr Smith said Labour’s New Deal for workers was a promising sign of the party’s plans in government, adding: “Our job is to hold the next Labour government to account and bring the New Deal to life.”

“There is the prospect of a better future for workers,” he added, praising Labour for pledging to scrap the controversial legislation aimed at ensuring a minimum level of service during strikes.

GMB general secretary Gary Smith (PA Media)

GMB general secretary Gary Smith (PA Media)

Starmer ‘critical’ of early release scheme

15:22 , Andy Gregory

At a campaign event in Essex, Sir Keir Starmer said he was “critical” of the early release scheme for prisoners but added that “tough decisions” would have to be taken.

The Labour leader said: “I am critical of the Tories’ early release scheme because what’s happened is that they’re releasing early prisoners who should still be in prison and that’s a shocking state of affairs. Like the many problems that they have left for the country, if we do come into power we’re going to have to fix it.

“Now that will involve building prisons, that will involve taking tough decisions because the money has been allocated for prison building but there are tough decisions about planning and getting those prisons up.”

Starmer accuses Tories of ‘scattergun’ approach on welfare reform

15:03 , Andy Gregory

Sir Keir Starmer has criticised the Tories’ “scattergun approach of desperate policy” in response to their latest pledge to halt the rising costs of welfare by reforming the benefits system.

The plan from the Tories would save some £12 billion a year by the end of the next parliament, the party has claimed, by ensuring more working age people currently claiming benefits have a job.

The Labour leader said: “I have never seen such an ill-thought-through proposal that’s been desperately put on the table today, and you will all be picking at it.

“You will have seen the reaction of the various bodies that look at the numbers, and what we’re seeing now on a daily basis is a sort of scattergun approach of desperate policy put on the table that isn’t thought through. We’ve seen this almost every day.

“I do accept that we do need to improve here; I do accept that we need to get the bill down.”

Claims Douglas Ross may have used Westminster expenses to travel for football linesman job

14:45 , Andy Gregory

Douglas Ross has “serious” questions to answer on whether he used Westminster expenses to travel for his job as a football linesman, Scotland’s first minister John Swinney has said.

According to the Sunday Mail, the Scottish Conservative leader’s advisers flagged concerns over 28 parliamentary travel claims which may have been combined with his work as a linesman.

Under UK parliamentary rules, MPs can only claim travel from their home airport – which was either Inverness or Aberdeen in Mr Ross’s case when he was MP for Moray. They can also claim for “diverted” journeys, but must supply detailed notes on the diversion.

Mr Ross’s aides reportedly raised alarm in November 2021 over expense claims which included a £58 parking fee at Inverness Airport in July 2018 while Parliament was in recess. It also stated £43 rail travel from Heathrow to central London was claimed the day after Mr Ross was a linesman in a match in Iceland.

Mr Ross told the paper it was “not possible” to go from London to a football game as he would not have had his referee kit with him, saying: “I have only ever claimed expenses related to my role as a member of Parliament and the costs of getting me to and from Westminster.

“These have all been agreed by IPSA, the independent body that oversees MPs’ expenses, but I would have no issue with them being scrutinised again.”

Minister responds to Farage’s claim that Sunak does not understand ‘our culture’

15:37 , Andy Gregory

Cabinet minister Mel Stride has said Nigel Farage’s attack on Rishi Sunak for not understanding “our culture” is “deeply regrettable”, reports Oliver Browning.

He told BBC One’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that comments from the Reform UK leader were “ill-advised”. Mr Farage told the same programme that the prime minister was “disconnected by class [and] by privilege” from ordinary people.

“I feel very uncomfortable with that … I’ve sat around a Cabinet table that’s the most diverse in history,” Mr Stride said. “I’m very proud of the fact that we have a British Asian who is right at the top of our government.”

Watch: Labour candidate parachutes into Normandy to raise money for British Legion

14:27 , Andy Gregory

Emily Thornberry quizzed on Labour spending plans

14:08 , Andy Gregory

Emily Thornberry has given a series of combative media interviews this morning, appearing to take issue with the line of questioning taken by multiple different presenters.

Speaking to Kate McCann of Times Radio, Ms Thornberry was asked how Labour would avoid cutting £20bn of unprotected funding for prisons, justice and local government, to which the Labour frontbencher at one point said: “I thought I was going to talk about my announcement on prisons.”

“If you want better answers, you’d better get somebody from the Treasury team in,” Ms Thornberry later said, adding that Labour doesn’t yet have a detailed analysis of what money government does or does not have. Asked how she can then promise not to raise taxes, Ms Thornberry said: “Because the new things we’ve said we’re going to spend money on, we’ve said where the money is coming from.”

On LBC, Ms Thornberry criticised as “odd” Lewis Goodall’s question of whether she would be happy for Sir Keir Starmer to stay on as PM if he lost a Commons no-confidence vote, after she dismissed the vote lost by Labour’s first minister Vaughan Gething in the Senedd.

And the frontbencher accepted to GB News that school class sizes may have to rise because Labour’s imposition of VAT on private schools, saying: “There may well be complaints, but I am afraid if I have a choice between putting VAT on private schools and making sure the children in my area can have breakfast before they start learning, I know where I am.”

Sunak’s D-Day blunder ‘flawless in its perfection of wholesale stupidity’

13:51 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak’s D-Day blunder was “flawless in its perfection of wholesale stupidity”, biographer Sir Anthony Seldon has said.

Sir Anthony, who has written biographies of every prime minister through from John Major to Liz Truss, told Times Radio: “I do think it was obviously a spectacular own goal.

“If you had an AI team to design the most perfect cock up for what the prime minister could possibly do, it would be that. I mean, it was peerless, flawless in its perfection of of wholesale stupidity,” Sir Anthony said.

“And, you know, you can blame the aides, but the prime minister signs things off … He doesn’t have that political nous. In the last analysis, prime ministers alone need that hard-to-define quality of judgment or nous.”

Tory councillor accused of trying to ‘smear’ opponent over D-Day attendance

13:34 , Andy Gregory

While Rishi Sunak has been heavily criticised for skipping the international D-Day event in Normandy, one Tory councillor has sought to do the opposite – criticising a Labour candidate for being in France rather than campaigning.

Bayo Alaba, a former parachute regiment veteran who is Labour’s candidate for Southend, took part in D-day commemorations by doing a parachute jump in Normandy to raise money for the Royal British Legion and Trust Links charities.

In a Twitter post, Tory councillor Daniel Nelson is reported by LabourList to have said it was “great to be with [Conservative candidate Gavin Haran] in the constituency talking to residents”, adding: “Is the Labour candidate still in France?”

In a new post on Sunday, Mr Nelson said he wholeheartedly apologised to Mr Alaba, absolutely supported his decision to be in France, and had donated to his campaign, adding: “As a brother of a serving member of the Armed Forces I understand the sacrifice of our veterans and would never want to disrespect that in any way.”

Labour’s Angela Rayner and Wes Streeting had both criticised his previous remark, with the party’s deputy leader saying: “Tories smearing Bayo Alaba Labour’s candidate for Southend for visiting France? We see you … We’re proud of him. Shame on you.”

Southend Council’s Labour leader said the incident had seen donations to Mr Alaba’s fundraising page increase by £2,000.

£2 hourly pay rise could ease care worker shortage, says Ed Davey

13:17 , Andy Gregory

A £2 hourly pay rise could help tackle the care worker shortage, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has said.

He told Sky News: “If you paid this extra money to care workers, I think people would make a choice of not working in supermarkets or Amazon warehouses and things like that because they would feel that the tough job of being a carer would be properly rewarded.”

Sir Ed, who has previously spoken of his own caring responsibilities for his disabled son, added: “There are millions of people who have similar experiences to me and my family where they are doing a lot of the caring. If we support carers who are caring for their loved ones at home, then actually a lot of the caring will be done by families.

“If you are more generous with respite care, with carers’ allowance and helping people into work so they can balance caring and working – we have got a full package so yes, it is about paying care workers better and valuing them more. It is also [about] looking after the millions of family carers.”

He said one of the reasons why the Conservatives have got things “so badly wrong” is that they have been relying on people coming in from other countries.

Sir Ed added: “They have issued hundreds of thousands of healthcare visas and those people are doing a fantastic job and I think we should recognise that but imagine if we were paying healthcare workers more – I don’t think we would need to issue all those visas.

“I think that a lot of people in this country would be more willing to work in the care sector.”

Ministers ‘privately demanding Sunak step back to let others lead on election campaign’

13:04 , Andy Gregory

Following Rishi Sunak’s D-Day debacle, cabinet ministers are now privately demanding that Rishi Sunak takes a step back to allow other senior Tories to become faces of the campaign, the Sunday Times reports.

Meanwhile, morale at Tory headquarters is reported to be at rock bottom, with half of ministerial aides having refused to join the campaign despite being ordered to do so, and senior aides off sick on Friday, leaving the office largely deserted.

Starmer says talking to Essex voters about crime was ‘really helpful’

12:43 , Andy Gregory

Sir Keir Starmer said talking to voters in Essex about crime was “really helpful”, adding “because when we’re sitting down another time hammering out what we’re going to do, it’s very important for us to say ‘hey, remember what we were told there or what a difference this would make?”’

When he asked the crime victims what the thought could help tackle the problem, they said more police community support officers on the streets, and the reintroduction of youth centres.

Speaking after his meeting with Sir Keir, Brian Johnson, 56, whose son’s motorcycle was stolen, said he “a million per cent” welcomes Sir Keir’s plans for more neighbourhood police, adding, “now it’s time for a change” and described the government as a “sinking ship”.

Labour manifesto ‘signed off with acclaim’, Starmer claims

12:16 , Andy Gregory

Sir Keir Starmer has claimed “nobody wanted to vote” on Labour’s general election manifesto, which he described as a “winning” document.

He told reporters in Essex: “The manifesto’s a really good document and I’m looking forward to you seeing it. And it was signed off with acclaim at the end of the meeting. We didn’t have a vote on it because nobody wanted to vote, it was signed off with acclaim.

“And I said to that meeting, and I’ll say to you now, that the best manifestos we produced as a party were 1945, 1964 and 1997 because they told the story about the future of the country and they were winning manifestos from opposition into power.

“I want the 2024 manifesto to join that list, of not only telling a story about the country, but being a winning manifesto. So it was a very good-natured meeting, it was signed off with acclaim, and very soon you’ll be able to see what’s in that manifesto.”

Starmer and Yvette Cooper on campaign trail in Essex

11:54 , Andy Gregory

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper have been out on the campaign trail in Essex, where they were to set out how Labour plans to crackdown on antisocial behaviour if they win the general election.

They will also meet activists and victims of antisocial behaviour.

Starmer vows not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT

11:34 , Andy Gregory

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has reiterated his party’s pledge not to raise taxes, despite reports from The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) that tax rises would be necessary to maintain current levels of departmental funding.

Sir Keir told reporters in Essex: “We will not be raising taxes on working people. That means we won’t be raising income tax, national insurance or VAT.

“We will launch our manifesto very soon and that will have no tax surprises in it because all of our plans are fully funded and fully costed and none of them require tax rises over and above the ones that we’ve already announced.

“What we do need to do, just to take up the challenge that’s been put to us is, we do need to grow the economy. We do need to make sure that the economy and living standards across the whole country are growing and that’s why step one, in government if we get to serve our country, will be to stabilise and grow our economy.

He added: “We are not returning to austerity.”

Gove’s replacement caught out on claim he moved to Surrey Heath as home found on AirBnb

11:24 , Andy Gregory

The Tory candidate to replace Michael Gove has boasted about moving into a home in the constituency, only for it emerge the property was seemingly an AirBnb.

Councillor Ed McGuinness, who is running to be the Conservative MP for Surrey Heath, said he is “now a resident of St Paul’s ward”. Alongside pictures of himself entering a house, Mr McGuinness said Surrey Heath residents “rightly expect their MP to be a part of their community”.

Blaming Mr Gove’s last minute decision to step down when the snap summer general election was called, Mr McGuinness said it has been “hard to get a place so quickly”.

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell has more in this report:

Gove’s replacement caught out on constituency house claim as home found on AirBnb

Sunak ally forced to deny that PM could quit before polling day

11:19 , Andy Gregory

One of the prime minister’s closest allies has been forced to reject speculation that Rishi Sunak could quit before the general election on 4 July.

Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said the PM was feeling the backlash over his decision to leave events in Normandy early “very personally” – but insisted there was “no question” Mr Sunak would lead the Tories into polling day, following speculation he could quit in the wake of the D-Day debacle.

In a sign of the febrile atmosphere, rumours about the Prime Minister’s future spread after he decided to campaign without media on Sunday following accusations of “dodging” reporters’ questions on Saturday.

Former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, a fierce critic of Mr Sunak, suggested in a late-night social media post on Saturday there were “rumours around tonight that Sunak’s about to fall on his sword”.

Sunak ally dismisses speculation PM could quit before polling day

Farage claims ‘dogwhistle’ attack on Sunak was reference to class and privilege

10:50 , Andy Gregory

In the wake of Rishi Sunak’s departure before the international event, Nigel Farage claimed the PM “doesn’t really care about our history, he doesn’t really care, frankly, about our culture”.

Asked what he meant by that on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Farage said: “I know what your question is leading at – 40 per cent of our contribution in World War One and World War Two came from the Commonwealth.

“He is utterly disconnected by class, by privilege, from how the ordinary folk in this country feel. He revealed that, I think spectacularly, when he left Normandy early.

“Out there now there are millions and millions of people who were Conservative voters, traditional Conservative voters, not the red-wallers, who are now thinking ‘Do we go on supporting the Conservatives or do we support Reform?’ This is going to be, I think, the acid test of this election.”

But Labour’s shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood was among those warning Mr Farage’s comments were a “dog whistle” attack – meaning comments which would be heard by intended recipients in one manner, while appearing otherwise uncontroversial.

She said: “I think this is a classic Nigel Farage trick, lean just enough to signal a bit of a dog whistle and then lean straight back and sound perfectly reasonable and say something good about the contribution that Commonwealth soldiers, ethnic minorities made towards the war effort.

“We can all see exactly what Nigel Farage is doing, he’s got form, it is completely unacceptable. 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 whilst he’s at it.”

Prison overcrowding ‘not a money problem’, says shadow justice secretary

10:21 , Andy Gregory

Solving overcrowding in prisons is “not a money problem”, Labour shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood has said.

Defending Labour’s plans to create additional prisons spaces without tax rises, she told the BBC: “Part of the reason we’ve got overcrowding in our prisons is because the government has run out of space because they haven’t delivered the full 20,000 prison spaces that they said they will do by next year.

“It’s actually not a money problem in that respect. The money has already been allocated in the Ministry of Justice budget, it’s actually a failure of the government because they’ve allowed the planning system to get in the way and they’ve allowed complaints from their members of parliament, backbenchers in particular, to stop any building in our country.

“So this is actually about the government having the will to get prisons built on day one. We would designate prisons as being of national importance, so that those decisions are ultimately made by ministers rather than the usual planning process.”

Labour declines to rule out ending prisoners early release scheme

10:19 , Andy Gregory

Labour shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood has declined to rule out ending the government’s scheme to release prisoners up to 70 days early to free up spaces in full-to-bursting prisons, saying she would first need to “lift that bonnet and see what horrors await”.

She told the BBC: “I think actually the government needs to level with the public. We all know that prisons are running at either 98 per cent capacity or 99 per cent. It is a dereliction of duty that the government hasn’t actually released all of the figures about their early release scheme – they’ve actually been doing that in secret.

“It would be irresponsible for me from Opposition, without seeing the data about the number of offenders that have been released or having all of that information, to make those decisions now.”

When asked if she would rule out continuing early release, Ms Mahmood said: “It would be irresponsible to make those decisions from Opposition without all of the information to hand. An incoming Labour government, if we’re privileged enough to win, would have to lift that bonnet and see what horrors await.”

Farage attack on Sunak ‘deeply regrettable’, minister says

09:56 , Andy Gregory

Cabinet minister Mel Stride said Nigel Farage’s attack on Rishi Sunak for not understanding “our culture” was “deeply regrettable”.

He told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “I think they are suggesting things – I’m not going to go any further than that because I didn’t want to stoke this whole thing up – but it just seems to me that that’s an ill-advised thing to have said.”

He added: “I feel very uncomfortable with that. We’ve had in our country, and it’s a source of great personal pride – as somebody who supported the prime minister, wanted him to be the leader of our party and our prime minister – that I’ve sat around a cabinet table that’s the most diverse in history.

“And I’m very proud of the fact that we have a British Asian who is right at the top of our government.” Mr Sunak’s “involvement in government has been characterised by outstanding public service, and I’m very proud of that”, he said.

Labour and Tories ‘don’t want to talk about scale of challenge facing them’

09:49 , Andy Gregory

Labour and the Conservatives “don’t really want to talk about the scale of the challenge facing them”, should they win the election, said Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“Both parties have tied themselves to the, in my view, rather bizarre fiscal rule which is they want debt down,” he told Sky News.

“They don’t want to talk about tax increases because that frightens the voters. Maybe they’re just hoping they get lucky”.

Labour assured Unite it would cover job losses in oil and gas sector, frontbencher says

09:35 , Andy Gregory

Labour has assured the union Unite that it will create enough jobs to cover potential losses in the oil and gas sector, shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood has said – after the union refused endorse the party’s manifesto.

Ms Mahmood told Sky News: “Unite have some areas of policy where they would probably want us to go further but they did not push any of those issues to a vote.”

She added: “[Unite] recognise that actually change is coming, the issue is speed and transition on which we were able to provide assurances on plans that have been backed by independent experts.

“We will create over 100,000 jobs as part of our plans. These are good quality jobs in the same sector.”

Asked if the Unite leadership had confidence in those assurances, Ms Mahmood said: “That’s a matter for Unite and their own internal management of their union.”

Reform candidate says airport arrivals lounge made him realise UK had too much immigration

08:26 , Alexander Butler

Next government will have to cut state or raise taxes, report warns

08:25 , Alexander Butler

A report has warned the next government it will have to cut the scope of what the state provides or raise taxes to maintain levels of departmental funding – despite Labour and the Conservatives vowing not to raise taxes.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) report looks at how spending as a proportion of national income has changed since the 1950s and how it will change in the next government.

It said the current Government’s spending has increased by “significantly more” than under any previous post-war Conservative government.

IFS research economist Bee Boileau said whoever wins the General Election on July 4 “will have a choice”.

“They can cut the scope of what the state provides, or accept further worsening of public services which already look under strain,” she said. “Or they can raise taxes, or borrow more, in order to top up spending and maintain real-terms levels of departmental funding.

“Neither the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party has been clear about which of these options they would take. Neither has shown any ambition to cut the scope of the state.”

She continued: “Both have ruled out increases in major taxes. Both have committed to a debt target that would prevent them from borrowing more.

“But, absent of really significant improvements in growth forecasts, one of these options must be chosen. The trade-offs here cannot be solved by denying their existence.”

What’s happening on the campaign trail today?

08:21 , Alexander Butler

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper are set to visit the East of England for a campaign visit related to crackdown on antisocial behaviour.

Scotland’s first minister John Swinney and SNP candidates will head to Paisley, Renfrewshire, as part of their ongoing bid for reelection.

Meanwhile, Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher will be joined by Perth and Kinross-shire candidate Luke Graham to campaign in Perthshire.

Starmer failing to ‘seal the deal’ as poll shows voter turnout could be worst in modern history

07:00 , Tara Cobham

Britain is heading for the lowest general election turnout in modern history, pollsters have warned, with the main parties and their leaders leaving many voters “politically homeless”.

The warning of mass apathy follows Techne UK polling this week which suggests that even in the middle of an election campaign with just a month to polling day, 20 per cent of people have already decided not to vote.

The poll of 1,645 voting age British people by Techne for Independent Media reveals that while the “won’t vote” percentage of the population is normally high in non-election periods, it is expected to drop significantly during the short campaign (the period between the dissolution of parliament and election day).

David Maddox and Alicja Hagopian report:

Voter turnout for general election could be worst in modern history

Conservatives pledge welfare reforms with aim at halting rising costs

06:00 , Tara Cobham

The Conservatives have pledged to halt the rising costs of welfare by reforming the benefits system if they win the election.

The latest offer from the Tories would help to save some £12 billion a year by the end of the next parliament, the party has claimed, by ensuring more working age people currently claiming benefits have a job.

The number of working age people who are out of work has risen sharply since the pandemic, and is thought to be driven in part by those who have taken early retirement and those with long-term health conditions waiting for treatment on the NHS.

But the Conservative Party said the 40 per cent increase in economically inactive people from two million to 2.8 million overall since the pandemic is unsustainable.

They have promised to bring this total down, claiming the cost of providing benefits for working age people with health conditions could rise as high as £90 billion by the end of the next parliament.

Among the steps the party would take to do this are several where the early stages have been floated by the Tories in government.

This includes a £700 million investment in NHS mental health treatment, to ensure 500,000 more people can access talking therapies to help with poor mental health.

A pledge to reform the disability benefits system and target it at those most in need is also part of the offer, as is a tightening of the criteria for work capability assessments.

Previously announced plans to pass on the responsibility for issuing sick notes from GPs to specialist work and health professionals are within the Tories’ plans.

The Conservatives also promise to toughen benefit sanction rules, speed up the rollout of universal credit, and clamp down on benefit fraudsters.

Police would get powers to scrap noisy off-road bikes under Labour plans

05:00 , Tara Cobham

Labour is promising new powers for police to quickly scrap noisy dirt and quad bikes causing havoc in neighbourhoods as part of a crackdown on antisocial behaviour.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party also wants to hike on-the-spot fines for using off-road bikes or ignoring officers’ instructions to stop, which are currently as low as £100.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that if Labour wins the General Election, police will get the powers to take the bikes that are a “nightmare for communities” off the streets for good.

Under the plans, set out in the Mail on Sunday and Sunday Express, police will be able to dispose of off-road bikes being used antisocially within 48 hours.

Currently, bikes seized by officers have to be impounded for two weeks before disposal, with the steep costs incentivising forces to auction them off and risk handing them back to offenders.

Labour would also extend closure notices for drug dens from 48 hours to 72 hours, giving police more time to get them shut down at court.

Data-driven hotspot policing would target the most prolific antisocial offenders under the party’s proposals.

Watch: Rayner and Mordaunt share laugh minutes after fiery clash at election debate

04:00 , Tara Cobham

Sinn Fein will ‘dust themselves down’ and ‘learn lessons’ from Irish elections

03:00 , Tara Cobham

Sinn Fein are to “dust themselves down” after early indications showed the party has not had the result it had hoped for in Ireland’s local elections.

It comes after the public expenditure minister said the expectation that Sinn Fein would be in the next government has been “shattered” by early indications in the local elections.

Ireland’s main opposition party faces a tough local election battle over the weekend, after government parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael appeared on Saturday to have polled strongly.

Cillian Sherlock reports:

Sinn Fein will ‘dust themselves down’ and ‘learn lessons’ from Irish elections

Watch: Farage claims Sunak ‘not a patriotic leader’ after D-Day blunder

02:00 , Tara Cobham

Editorial: This election could see record low voter turnout

01:00 , Tara Cobham

Turnout could hit a record low in the general election, many experienced observers tell The Independent. Robert Hayward, the Conservative peer and elections guru, said: “I have felt that we may have a record low turnout because it is clear that a lot of voters look politically homeless.”

Luke Tryl of More in Common, the polling and campaigning organisation, said: “It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if turnout hit a low this year.”

An exclusive opinion poll for The Independent carried out by Techne found that one in five electors has already decided not to vote. Michela Morizzo, Techne’s chief executive, said: “The risk of a low turnout is very high.” One of the causes is the uninspiring choice presented by the two main parties. As Ms Morizzo put it, “there is abstentionism among those who voted Conservative and have lost confidence”, while the Labour alternative has failed to generate much enthusiasm to compensate.

Read more here:

If this election sees record low turnout, blame our politicians

‘Huge relief’ to see rescue of four hostages by Israel, Rishi Sunak says

Sunday 9 June 2024 00:00 , Tara Cobham

Rishi Sunak said it is a “huge relief” to see the return of hostages who were kidnapped in Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October.

Israeli forces rescued four captives in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, in the largest such recovery since the militants’ assault triggered the conflict.

The Prime Minister said on social media site X: “It is a huge relief to see hostages returned after their unimaginable ordeal and heartwarming to see the pictures of them reunited with their families.

“We will continue to strive towards an end to the fighting as well as safety and security for all.”

Labour vows to level playing field for small businesses with overhaul of rates

Saturday 8 June 2024 23:00 , Tara Cobham

Labour has promised to level the playing field for small businesses with an overhaul of the business rates system.

Speaking at a brewery in his constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, Sir Keir Starmer criticised the Conservative Government for failing to “fix” the system which he said has caused problems for businesses for a “long time”.

The party is also pledging to accelerate the establishment of banking hubs, stamp out late payments of invoices by forcing large firms to report on their payment practices, and crack down on antisocial behaviour to “revitalise” high streets.

Rhiannon James reports:

Labour vows to level playing field for small businesses with overhaul of rates

Starmer failing to ‘seal the deal’ as poll shows voter turnout could be worst in modern history

Saturday 8 June 2024 21:59 , Andy Gregory

Britain is heading for the lowest general election turnout in modern history, pollsters have warned, with the main parties and their leaders leaving many voters “politically homeless”.

The warning of mass apathy follows Techne UK polling this week which suggests that even in the middle of an election campaign with just a month to polling day, 20 per cent of people have already decided not to vote.

David Maddox and Alicja Hagopian have the full report:

Voter turnout for general election could be worst in modern history

Labour set for staggering 416 majority, according to new poll

Saturday 8 June 2024 21:33 , Tara Cobham

Labour is set for a majority of 416 at the upcoming general election, leaving the Tories at just 37 seats, a new Mail on Sunday poll has revealed.

MailOnline reported the survey conducted by Deltapoll puts the party on 46 per cent compared to the Conservatives on 21 per cent, giving Sir Keir Starmer’s party a 25-point lead, with even Rishi Sunak set to lose his Yorkshire seat. Reform UK was put at 12 per cent.

The company does warn the projection should be treated with caution as it is based on a crude uniform swing.

Labour reportedly set to pledge to establish 80 new rape courts amid growing backlog

Saturday 8 June 2024 21:20 , Tara Cobham

Labour will reportedly pledge to establish 80 new rape courts across England and Wales in its general election manifesto this week.

The party’s announcement is part of wider plans to combat violence against women and girls.

The Guardian reported Labour aims to fast-track rape cases with the specialist courts, which will be set up in unused rooms in every crown court, tackling the growing backlog.

Currently, 60 per cent of rape survivors are forced to drop out before the start of their cases, according to the newspaper, amid what Labour has said is a 346 per cent rise in the crown court backlog when it comes to adult cases.

With a mere 2.6 per cent of rape cases actually leading to a charge, claims are being made that rape has effectively been “decriminalised”.

Sir Keir Starmer has reportedly pledged to halve the incidents of violence against women and girls, as well as to bring in harsher sentences for rapists.

Watch: Nigel Farage claims Rishi Sunak ‘not a patriotic leader’ after D-Day blunder

Saturday 8 June 2024 21:19 , Andy Gregory

Full report: Sunak openly condemned by second cabinet minister over D-Day row as he cancels press event

Saturday 8 June 2024 21:13 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak’s decision to skip a D-Day memorial has been openly criticised by a second cabinet minister before he then cancelled a press event as the row engulfing the prime minister over the blunder deepened.

Mr Sunak is said to be “despondent” over the backlash to his missing the international ceremony attended by other world leaders, including US president Joe Biden and French president Emmanuel Macron, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Allied landings.

The prime minister did not take media questions on Saturday’s campaign trail after his awkward exchange with broadcasters the previous day. A scheduled opportunity for reporters to quiz him did not take place as was originally planned, with the Conservatives calling off the “huddle” citing time constraints, as Mr Sunak toured County Durham and Yorkshire.

My colleague Tara Cobham has this report on Saturday’s political developments:

Rishi Sunak condemned by second minister over D-Day row as he cancels press event

Last time government was third in polls was 2010, analyst says

Saturday 8 June 2024 20:30 , Andy Gregory

Professor of Politics Philip Cowley has pointed out that, the last time the government was third in the polls, was 2010, when the Lib Dems were briefly in first place.

Reform will overtake Tories to be the next opposition, Farage claims

Saturday 8 June 2024 19:44 , Andy Gregory

Nigel Farage has claimed that his Reform party “now intends to be that voice of opposition in parliament and the country”

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: “The Prime Minister has campaigned so woefully that I believe that we are now approaching a tipping point as voters realise that the general election is effectively over. Labour has won. The Conservatives will be in opposition, but not the Opposition.

“In their place, Reform UK now intends to be that voice of opposition in parliament and the country.”

He added: “There is no need for this to be more than a one-term Labour government. Reform is ready to grasp the centre-Right of British politics and lead the opposition against Starmer’s already unpopular Left-wing rabble. The Conservatives had their chance and blew it. That’s why Reform UK must not be underestimated.”

Sunak accused of ‘dodging’ media questions on campaign trail

Saturday 8 June 2024 19:01 , Andy Gregory

Labour has criticised Rishi Sunak for “ducking the cameras and dodging” media questions on the campaign trail on Saturday – after a slot allocated for media questions on Saturday was cancelled during his visit to a walled garden.

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said: “If Rishi Sunak is going to come out with yet another desperate wish list of manifesto proposals this weekend, the least he can do is face up to proper public scrutiny over how he plans to pay for them, what the impact on people’s finances will be, and when he intends to deliver on the first set of pledges he made to the British people 18 months ago.

“But instead, he has spent the day ducking the cameras and dodging all those legitimate questions – just another farcical episode in this calamitous Conservative campaign. It’s time to turn the page on this chaos, and vote for change with Labour on 4 July.”

Seven in 10 of UK public say Sunak leaving D-Day early is ‘unacceptable’, reveals poll

Saturday 8 June 2024 18:43 , Tara Cobham

Seven in 10 – or 68 per cent – of the UK public say it is “unacceptable” that Rishi Sunak left D-Day commemorations early, according to a Savanta poll for The Telegraph.

That includes 61 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters, the pollsters said.

Chris Hopkins, Savanta’s political research director, said: “Rishi Sunak’s actions this week may well go down as the greatest act of electoral self-harm in modern UK political history.

“Our snap poll suggests that his decision to leave D-Day commemorations early are roundly deemed unacceptable by the majority of the electorate, including 61 per cent of 2019 Conservatives. Whether they vote Conservative again remains to be seen.

“Because so much of the Conservatives’ electoral strategy was pinned on older, Reform UK-curious supporters, Sunak is uniquely vulnerable to upsetting this group of voters. How this will impact voting intention polls is genuinely unknown, because this situation is unprecedented.”

Lib Dem leadership would be ‘very practical’, says Ed Davey

Saturday 8 June 2024 18:24 , Andy Gregory

Liberal Democrat leadership in Westminster would be “very practical”, Sir Ed Davey has said.

“I’ve been determined in my leadership that we didn’t mislead people about what is possible,” the Lib Dem leader told the PA news agency, taking questions about his party’s long-term ambitions.

In an ITV Tonight programme interview this week, Sir Ed dodged questions about whether he would want to rejoin the European Union and said: “What I’m focusing on is what can be done in the next parliament.”

ICYMI: Labour’s largest union donor Unite refuses to endorse party’s election manifesto

Saturday 8 June 2024 17:41 , Andy Gregory

Keir’s Starmer’s election campaign has suffered a blow after Labour’s largest union donor Unite refused to endorse the party’s manifesto.

The decision by the union was such a shock it even caught some shadow cabinet members by surprise. Party figures had described a crunch meeting on Friday, in which shadow ministers, union representatives, MPs and Labour members gathered to set the final manifesto, as “positive”.

But it is thought that the party’s stance on practices like fire-and-rehire meant it could not support the plans.

Our Whitehall editor Kate Devin reports:

Unite union refuses to endorse Labour’s election manifesto

Lord Frost helps Suella Braverman launch campaign after urging Tories to abandon the centre ground

Saturday 8 June 2024 17:25 , Andy Gregory

Ex-Brexit minister Lord Frost said he helped Suella Braverman launch her campaign today, over a fortnight after Rishi Sunak announced the election on 22 May.

However it came just hours after the Tory peer wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the Conservatives “must give up the fantasy that governing from the centre can be a route to success” – and warned that Rishi Sunak’s party “can’t afford more mistakes” in its so-far “mishandled” campaign.

Urging a lurch to the right, the influential Tory peer said: “I have been warning for two years that a meltdown was coming if the Conservative Party didn’t get back to conservatism. This week it arrived.

“The Party has to go in hard on Labour now, because it doesn’t have any other options left after this mishandled campaign. There’s plenty of material for it – but will anyone be listening?

“A lot is at stake in the next few days. The Party can’t afford more mistakes – and it must give up the fantasy that governing from the centre, and failing to offer voters a real choice, can be a route to success.”

Reform standing candidates in 611 seats

Saturday 8 June 2024 17:04 , Andy Gregory

Our chief political commentator John Rentoul notes that Reform have placed candidates in nearly every constituency.

Reform are fielding 611 candidates, compared with 631 for Labour – down at least one on the potential number Nigel Farage’s party were hoping for, after one of his candidates quit at the last minute before the deadline and instead endorsed Tory former cabinet minister Sir Gavin Williamson:

Ed Davey interviewed while playing tennis

Saturday 8 June 2024 16:41 , Andy Gregory

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has now been interviewed while playing tennis, following a similar feat on a paddleboard at the outset of the campaign.

John Rentoul | The opposition to a Starmer government will come from within the Labour Party

Saturday 8 June 2024 16:15 , Andy Gregory

In his weekend column, The Independent’s chief political commentator John Rentoul writes:

Nigel Farage, the well-known political commentator, put his finger on it in the TV debate on Friday night: “The real leader of the Labour Party is here on the stage – at least she’s got some personality.”

Angela Rayner has grown in power since she was exonerated on the Conservative charge of tax-dodging. She used her renewed strength to put herself at the head of the Labour rebellion against Keir Starmer, which forced him to back down from the plan to stop Diane Abbott, Jeremy Corbyn’s ally, returning to the Commons as a Labour MP.

In the seven-way TV debate, Rayner was conspicuously loyal to Starmer. She even energetically denied that she was opposed to Britain’s nuclear weapons – one of the symbols of her ideological difference from the Labour leader.

Her strategy is transparent: unity now and maybe a different position later. Starmer can hardly complain; it was how he won the leadership of the party, after all. But it does suggest that there might be trouble ahead.

The opposition to a Starmer government will come from within the Labour Party

Deborah Meaden joins Starmer on campaign trail

Saturday 8 June 2024 16:03 , Andy Gregory

Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden joined Sir Keir Starmer on the campaign trail today as they pulled pints at a brewery in Camden.

Meaden described Labour’s GB Energy plan as “absolutely brilliant”, and said Labour’s policies were “reflective of many of the issues I hear” from small and medium-sized businesses.

Sunak asked about NHS backlog at village fete

Saturday 8 June 2024 15:55 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak received a largely warm welcome from attendees at a village fete in his Richmond constituency on Saturday afternoon, where he met stall holders, chatted with members of the public, and played a game of “splat the rat”.

He was welcomed by applause from some who appeared to be local Conservative members, but a consultant who identified herself as only Chloe to the PA news agency asked the PM about the NHS backlog as he arrived.

The doctor, who said she recently rejoined Labour ahead of the election, said she “wanted to know what his plan is for waiting lists” and claimed the government had left the NHS “completely unprepared” for the pandemic.

Elsewhere at the fete, children shouted “we love you Rishi” and filmed the PM as he visited a stall fronted by gift bags which read “Wine or Surprise”.

Tom Wilson, Labour’s candidate for the reorganised Richmond and Northallerton constituency that Mr Sunak is seeking to hold, was also at the village event and at one point could be seen following the Prime Minister’s party at a distance.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a village fete ((Peter Byrne/PA))

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a village fete ((Peter Byrne/PA))

BBC debate watched by 3.2 million people, broadcaster says

Saturday 8 June 2024 15:41 , Andy Gregory

The BBC general election debate between seven senior political party figures was watched by more than three million viewers, the broadcaster has said.

An average audience of 3.2 million tuned in across BBC One and the BBC News Channel on Friday evening to watch the politicians clash over D-Day and support for war veterans, immigration and the state of the NHS, according to overnight ratings.

Reform candidate says airport arrivals lounge made him realise UK had too much immigration

Saturday 8 June 2024 15:30 , Andy Gregory

A Reform candidate has claimed they realised Britain had a problem with immigration when he saw the number of people at an airport arrivals lounge.

George Woodward, Reform’s parliamentary candidate for Leigh, told the News Agents podcast he decided to get involved in politics because of migration, citing a moment last year when he was coming through arrivals at an airport.

“I was like, ‘wow, there’s a lot of people coming in here and we need to re-examine this,” he said.

Put to him by a bemused Lewis Goodall that many of those people were presumaby tourists or Britons returning from holidays, he said: “Some of the, absolutely. Some not. You can tell.”

Sunak ‘despondent’ over backlash to skipping D-Day event

Saturday 8 June 2024 15:07 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak was left despondent over the backlash to him skipping the D-Day event with other world leaders, people close to the prime minister have told Bloomberg.

Cabinet ministers told the outlet that his misstep had exacerbated their concerns about his judgement and confidence – including one former loyalist who is reportedly said to regret the Tories had not ousted him as PM earlier this year.

During a campaign visit to a walled garden at Auckland Castle on Saturday, a scheduled media slot with the prime minister was reportedly cancelled, as residents climbed a hill to peer over the walls for a glimpse of Mr Sunak.

Lib Dems are not the party of nimbys, Ed Davey insists

Saturday 8 June 2024 15:02 , Andy Gregory

Sir Ed Davey has denied that the Liberal Democrats are the party of nimbys – those opposed to local development, often characterised by the acronym of the phrase “not in my back yard” – for focusing on national parks amid a housing crisis and low economic growth.

The Lib Dems vowed to plough £50m a year into maintaining three new national parks in their latest policy offer. He told the PA news agency: “No, far from it. You’ll see when we publish our manifesto we’ve got ambitious plans on housing as well, but the right houses in the right places.

“But people don’t just want houses, they want to know that there’s the environment there to enjoy. And investing in the environment is right to deal with the nature crisis.”

He accused the Conservatives of being the party of nimbys, “but they’re also the party of developers”, adding: “They have a developer-led approach. We have a community-led approach.”

Opinion | The Green Party’s stance on childbirth isn’t just tone-deaf – it’s dangerous

Saturday 8 June 2024 14:47 , Andy Gregory

Reading the Green Party’s childbirth policy – which has been speedily whipped down from its website, so in order to read it you’ll have to find a screenshot on Twitter – you’d be forgiven for thinking they had never met or conversed with an actual human woman, writes Harriet Toner.

This is surely the only reasonable explanation for the party’s policy on so-called “natural birth”, which describes childbirth as a “normal and non-medical event” – words a woman who has been through such an event would never utter.

It would be a forgivable error if the Greens’ policy had been withdrawn before the publication of the damning Ockenden review, or the release of the report from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for birth trauma – which highlighted “harrowing” stories of trauma caused by “mistakes and failures” in the system. But the party’s website suggested the page was updated as recently as April – at which point their childbirth “policy” went from being an oversight to being tone deaf, patronising and dangerous. It’s a wonder Green co-leader, Carla Denyer, wasn’t grilled on the issue during last night’s debate.

A senior party official has since said that the policy – which in its most basic form was an aim to reduce the number of medical interventions in childbirth – has been scrapped. But what was it doing there in the first place?

The Green Party’s stance on childbirth isn’t just tone-deaf – it’s dangerous

Liberal Democrat manifesto to pledge under 35s can live, study and work in EU despite Brexit

Saturday 8 June 2024 14:33 , Andy Gregory

The Liberal Democrat election manifesto will include a commitment to ensure under 35s can live, study and work in the EU despite Brexit, The Independent can reveal.

The party will also accuse the Conservative government of “abandoning young people and our economy”. It comes as Ed Davey’s party battles to win younger, more Labour-minded voters in key ‘blue wall’ seats in the south of England it believes it can take from the Tories.

In April, both Labour and the Conservatives rejected an EU offer to strike a post-Brexit agreement to allow young Britons to make a home in the bloc for up to four years. The move triggered anger with thousands of voters writing to their MP to demand they accept.

Our Whitehall editor Kate Devlin has more in this exclusive report:

Lib Dem manifesto to pledge under 35s can live, study and work in EU despite Brexit

Watch: Rishi Sunak responds after D-Day veteran says he let the country down

Saturday 8 June 2024 14:19 , Andy Gregory

Here was Rishi Sunak’s apology yesterday for leaving D-Day commemorations early:

Sunak has ‘destroyed’ his credibility by leaving Normandy early

Saturday 8 June 2024 14:04 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak has “completely destroyed” his credibility as prime minister by leaving D-Day commemorations early, Scotland’s first minister John Swinney has said.

Speaking to journalists on the campaign trail in Livingston, West Lothian, Mr Swinney said: “I think Rishi Sunak’s credibility is completely destroyed by his departure from D-Day early and the insult he delivered to the veterans who had travelled to Normandy for that solemn occasion.

“It also, frankly, was a desertion of the international responsibilities of the Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister and especially the Conservative election campaign is now utterly in tatters.”

Starmer vows no surprises on tax in manifesto

Saturday 8 June 2024 13:51 , Andy Gregory

Asked during a brewery visit in Camden whether he would be cutting taxes as part of Labour’s manifesto, Sir Keir Starmer told reporters there “won’t be any surprises on tax”.

The Labour leader said: “All of our plans are fully costed, fully funded, none of them involving tax rises over and above those that we have already set out.”

Ed Davey tries his hand at crazy golf

Saturday 8 June 2024 13:36 , Andy Gregory

After trying his hand at tennis in Newbury, Berkshire, Sir Ed Davey has arrived at an adventure golf course in Wokingham.

Sir Ed is using the weekend to speak to voters in and around London and the Home Counties.

The Liberal Democrat leader was two over par on the first hole, flanked by a triceratops and a tyrannosaurus rex.

 (Will Durrant/PA Wire)

(Will Durrant/PA Wire)

Minister claims Sunak should offer Farage deal to stand down Reform candidates, report says

Saturday 8 June 2024 13:18 , Andy Gregory

A Tory minister has suggested that Rishi Sunak should offer Nigel Farage whatever it takes in a deal for him to stand down Reform candidates, Bloomberg reports.

However, an ally of Mr Farage told the outlet he would never agree a deal because the Tories had reneged on commitments they made as part of their pact with Boris Johnson in 2019.

Commentator Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, said he believed doing so would be a “daft error” and would only hand ammunition to the Reform leader:

Starmer says it was his ‘duty’ to thank veterans at event skipped by Sunak

Saturday 8 June 2024 13:03 , Andy Gregory

Sir Keir Starmer has said it was his “duty” to thank veterans at the international D-Day event which the prime minister skipped.

He did not answer a question on whether Rishi Sunak’s apology was enough.

On a campaign visit to 3 Locks Brewing Company, a canal-side craft brewery in Camden, the Labour leader told broadcasters: “I thought it was very important to be there myself as leader of the Labour Party.

“I took a little bit of time on Thursday just to contemplate what it must have been like for those young men to run up the beach at 17, 18, 19 years old, into gunfire. And of course, this was Allied troops. This was different countries all working together, that international effort, and to consider that they didn’t share a uniform, they didn’t share flags, they didn’t share a language, but what they did share was a determination to carry out the task that was asked of them, which led to the liberation of Europe.

“I found that very, very moving. I thought it was my duty to thank the veterans who were there on their own behalf, but also on behalf of those that didn’t return.”

GB Energy plan ‘very popular’ with small businesses, Starmer claims

Saturday 8 June 2024 12:47 , Andy Gregory

Labour’s GB Energy plan is “very popular” with small businesses, Sir Keir Starmer has claimed.

Speaking at 3 Locks Brewery in Camden, the Labour leader said: “Everybody must remember for a small business you put your money in, you put yourself in, you put your whole self in, and they take risks.

“They’ve had a really hard time with this Government in recent years, so our plan is to support small businesses and give them that chance that they need.

“That does involve replacing rates, because business rates put a real drag on businesses. It also involves stabilising the economy, of course, and Great British Energy, because what’s come up here, comes up with all small businesses, energy is too expensive.

“What you can’t have if you run a small business is sort of costs that you can’t control, so Great British Energy, a publicly-owned company for renewables, is very, very popular with small businesses.”

 (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Nicola Sturgeon has ‘huge’ contribution to make to SNP, Swinney insists

Saturday 8 June 2024 12:43 , Andy Gregory

Nicola Sturgeon has a “huge” contribution to make in the SNP, the party’s new leader John Swinney has insisted.

Ms Sturgeon has kept a relatively low profile amid Police Scotland’s Operation Branchform investigation, which saw her arrested and later released without charge as officers probe the spending of £600,000 of SNP funds. Her husband and former party chief executive Peter Murrell has been charged with embezzlement.

Charges have not been brought against Ms Sturgeon, and Police Scotland say the investigation “remains ongoing”.

Ms Sturgeon was quizzed in May on why she had not yet joined her former deputy – now first minister – to campaign for the party. She announced a tentative campaign return, stating she would contribute in “ways I think are helpful”, and is set to endorse Glasgow South candidate Stewart McDonald later this month.

Speaking on a visit to Livingston, Mr Swinney said: “I welcome very much Nicola’s contribution to our election campaign. She is supporting a range of different candidates around the country and that’s good. I work collaboratively and closely with Nicola, and welcome her participation in the campaign.

“I think Nicola has got a huge amount to contribute to the SNP and the cause of Scottish independence.”

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