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Tories step up attacks on tax and ‘supermajority’ in face of stubborn poll gap

Labour has described the Conservative attacks as ‘hysterical’ and ‘desperate’.

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Rishi Sunak in shirt sleeves in front of supporters holding 'Vote Conservative' posters

The Conservatives have launched yet more attacks on Labour with a series of demands that the party rule out specific tax rises while the opposition is set to continue its bid to woo businesses.

Late on Monday, the Conservatives called on Labour to rule out scrapping the requirement for local authorities to hold referendums on tax rises above a certain level.

At the same time, the party accused Labour of having a “secret plan” to abolish inheritance tax relief for farmers, saying the party had not committed to keeping the exemption in its manifesto.

A Labour spokesperson dismissed the Conservative attacks as “hysterical” and “desperate nonsense”, while reiterating that the party would not raise taxes on “working people”.

With the Prime Minister expected to campaign in south-west England on Tuesday, Environment Secretary Steve Barclay accused Labour of treating farmers with “contempt” and stressed the Tories’ commitments to increasing the farming budget and implementing a legally binding food security target.

The demands on tax follow challenges for Labour to rule out increasing capital gains tax on people’s main homes and reforming council tax bands.

Labour has ruled out both policies, but the Conservatives are still keen to ask questions about whether it would countenance further tax hikes to fill what the party claims is a black hole in the opposition’s spending plans.

In a second prong of the Conservative attack on Labour, Rishi Sunak continued to claim that a Labour victory in July would keep the party in power for a generation.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister accused Sir Keir Starmer of trying to “entrench his power” by lowering the voting age to 16.

Mr Sunak added that Sir Keir would raise taxes to the “highest in our history” and that the party poses “a generational threat to everyone’s financial security”.

The Prime Minister also accused the Labour leader of “not prioritising our country’s security at a time that is undeniably the most dangerous and uncertain that our country has been in in decades” after he did not match the Tories pledge to spend 2.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) on defence.

Boris Johnson is also reported to be making a similar warning in letters due to be sent to tens of thousands of voters by the Conservative Party.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the former prime minister has signed letters that argue voting for Reform UK would put Labour in power for “a generation”.

Sir Keir Starmer smiles while holding a drink in a pub
Labour is set to announce a plan to help stop pub closures as it continues to focus on the economy (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Tory figures have already urged voters not to give Labour a “supermajority” as the party has struck an increasingly concerned note in the face of dire polling numbers.

Tuesday’s twin attacks follow another day that saw Labour’s commanding lead over the Conservatives little changed and the Prime Minister forced to insist that his party can win the election after Cabinet minister Grant Shapps said such a victory was unlikely.

The Tories will also hope that the news a second failed asylum seeker has agreed to voluntarily relocate to Rwanda in exchange for £3,000, reported by The Sun newspaper, will help persuade voters its plan to tackle small boat crossings will work.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from February 17 to June 17, with the final point showing Labour on 41%, Conservatives on 21%, Reform on 15%, Liberal Democrats on 12% and Greens on 6%. Source: PA graphic
Labour has retained a commanding average lead in the polls since the election was called (PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Labour itself is set to continue with its plans to focus on the economy this week.

Having addressed big businesses on Monday, the party is expected to turn its attention to small businesses on Tuesday with its pledge to roll out 350 banking hubs to towns and villages across the country.

Party deputy leader Angela Rayner said Labour would “breathe new life back into Britain’s high streets”, which shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said had been “reduced to ghost towns”.

The pair are also expected to announce a five-point plan to arrest the decline of British pubs, following figures that suggest as many as 10 per week have closed since 2010.

Along with Labour’s plans to support small businesses in general, the proposal will see a “right to buy” community assets such as pubs that are threatened with closure or set to be sold to the highest bidder.

Ms Rayner said: “Change with Labour will mean the support our pubs need, with high street banking, community ‘right to buy’, run and restore pubs, along with cuts to energy bills to help landlords keep the doors of our locals open.”

Elsewhere, Scottish Labour will launch its own manifesto, which is expected to contain a strong focus on young people and some hints about what the party would offer if it won the Holyrood election in 2026.

But Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is likely to come under pressure to challenge Sir Keir on the two-child benefit limit, with SNP leader John Swinney urging Mr Sarwar to join him in calling for the policy to be scrapped.

The Liberal Democrats have returned to the theme of sewage, promising 100 new water quality inspectors to help crack down on water companies dumping effluent in Britain’s rivers and seas.

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