Election campaign day 20: Sunak’s big manifesto launch

Rishi Sunak has launched the Tories’ General Election manifesto with a £10 billion headline pledge to cut employees’ national insurance contributions.

Here are the key moments from day 20 of the General Election campaign:

– Sunak’s big ideas

The Prime Minister sought to present himself as the tax-cutting heir of Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson as he finally unveiled his blueprint for the next five years if he makes it back to No 10.

Confirmation of the pledge to take 2p off national insurance contributions (heavily trailed overnight) was the nearest thing to a rabbit-out-of-the-hat moment at the famed Silverstone motor racing circuit where the launch took place.

Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty surrounded by Tory supporters at the party's manifesto launch
Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty at the Tory manifesto launch (James Manning/PA)

Other policy commitments – from regular deportation fights to Rwanda for illegal migrants to the return of national service for 18-year-olds – had already been well aired on the campaign trail.

Labour described the national insurance cut as “the most expensive panic attack in history” – warning it had not been properly funded and risked a return to the chaos of Liz Truss, a claim rejected by the Tories.

After the bruising backlash over his early departure last week from the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations, Mr Sunak acknowledged that some voters were not entirely happy with him.

“I’m not blind to the fact that people are frustrated with our party and frustrated with me,” he said.

He nevertheless insisted: “We are the only party in this election with the big ideas to make our country a better place to live.”

– Quote of the day

– Suella erased

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin famously had his rival Leon Trotsky erased from photographs of Lenin addressing the Bolshevik masses.

Now Suella Braverman has suffered something of a similar fate at the hands of Mr Sunak at the Conservative manifesto launch.

In his address to supporters, he praised the record of Tory former home secretaries Theresa May and Priti Patel as well as the present incumbent, James Cleverly.

Head and shoulders picture of Suella Braverman
There was no mention of Suella Braverman in the Prime Minister’s speech (Justin Tallis/PA)

However, there was, pointedly, no namecheck for Ms Braverman whom he restored to the post when he became Prime Minister after she helped him secure the leadership over Boris Johnson.

The two subsequently fell out spectacularly – resulting in her sacking last year. She has since emerged as one of his most strident critics from within the Tory ranks, particularly over the failure to get deportation flights to Rwanda off the ground.

Ultimately, Stalin had his rival bumped off by an assassin wielding an ice axe. Such drastic remedies are, presumably, not available to the occupant of No 10.

– Leave us out of it, says Civil Service chief

Whitehall’s most senior mandarin has issued a plea to the country’s warring politicians not to drag civil servants into their election battles.

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, said all parties had a duty to uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service amid the heat of the election debate.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case walking with the aid of a walking stick
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case (Victoria Jones/PA)

His warning follows the controversial claim by Rishi Sunak that Labour is planning a £2,000 tax hike for every household, a figure he said was based on costings carried out by “independent” officials.

That has drawn a furious response from Labour who produced a letter from the top official at the Treasury saying it was wrong for politicians to say the figure emanated from his department.

In a letter to Tory Party chairman Richard Holden, Mr Case said: “Upholding the impartiality of the Civil Service is a duty rightly shared by both the Civil Service itself and all political parties.

“I would therefore be grateful for your ongoing assistance, and that of your counterparts in other parties, in protecting our impartiality during the election period.”

– Picture of the day

Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting in a school classroom with a boy holding toothbrush
Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School, Middlesbrough, where pupils have been demonstrating their teeth-cleaning exercises (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– Labour’s Monster ban

Sir Keir Starmer has said he is prepared to brave accusations of “nanny state” interference to protect children’s health.

As Labour set out plans to ban the sale of high-energy drinks such as Monster to under-16s, Sir Keir said he had been “genuinely shocked” to learn that more six to 10-year-olds are admitted to hospital to have their teeth taken out than for any other operation.

Visiting a primary school in Middlesbrough, he said: “I don’t really care what people call it. If the price for a child of not taking action is losing your teeth, that’s a price that’s too high.”

Labour’s plans have been welcomed by the TV chef and healthy eating campaigner Jamie Oliver who said there were children “bouncing off the walls” after being sent to school with an energy drink for breakfast.

“Child health hasn’t been put central to any manifesto in the last 20 years, ever, ever, ever,” he said. “This is really exciting for me. It means they’re looking at the detail, it means they’re looking at the science.”

– Social media moment

The Conservative manifesto launch provoked both humorous and shocking reactions from other political parties.

The Lib Dems posted the words: “We now cross live to the Conservative manifesto launch at Silverstone” to X, formerly Twitter, alongside a video of the front wheels of an F1 car flying off.

Labour appeared to leave X users aghast when it posted a picture of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss’s faces edited together, alongside the words: “The money isn’t there for Rishi Sunak’s plan. Just like it wasn’t there for Liz Truss’.”

One person commented under the post with the words: “That image should come with a warning.”

– What the polls are saying

Two nationwide opinion polls have been published in the past 24 hours, both showing Labour still well ahead of the Tories.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from February 11 to June 1, with the final point showing Labour on 44%, Conservatives 22%, Reform 14%, Lib Dems 10% and Green 5%. Source: PA graphic
(PA Graphics)

A poll by JL Partners gives Labour a lead of 17 percentage points, while Redfield & Wilton puts Labour 26 points ahead.

An average of all polls that were carried out wholly or partly during the seven days to June 11 puts Labour on 44%, 22 points ahead of the Conservatives on 22%, followed by Reform UK on 14%, the Lib Dems on 10% and the Greens on 5%.

Reform’s average is up two percentage points on the previous week while Labour is unchanged and the Tories are down two points

– What’s happening tomorrow

The Green Party of England and Wales launches its manifesto in Hove.