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''Economic Stability, Immigration': Rishi Sunak's Battle Lines For UK Poll Campaign

Rishi Sunak has set July 4 as UK election date

London:

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signalled in a speech Wednesday the issues on which he wants to fight the next general election, which he called for July 4.

‘Economic stability’

Despite a cost-of-living crisis and a recent recession, Sunak looks set to make “economic stability” a key plank of the campaign, calling it the “bedrock of any future success”.

Recent opinion polls show that voters trust Labour more than Sunak’s Conservatives on the economy, but Sunak hailed two recent “major milestones” that he is likely to highlight.

They are the return of inflation to under three percent, setting the scene for mortgage rate cuts, and IMF data showing that the UK economy is growing faster than those of France, Germany and the United States.

Covid chancellor

Sunak began his speech by saying that “in the last five years our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War” — and mentioned his own role in those crises.

Sunak was finance minister under prime minister Boris Johnson during the Covid pandemic, and on Wednesday he credited his furlough scheme for preventing “millions of job losses”.

However, the scheme also led to a record amount of peacetime borrowing.

Security

Sunak’s most recent reset as leader was positioning the Tories as the party of defence and security — and he emphasised the point again on Wednesday.

“This election will take place at a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War,” he said.

“I will forever do everything in my power to provide you with the strongest possible protection,” he added.

Of the top 10 key issues, defence is the only one on which the public trusts the Tories more than Labour, according to a YouGov poll.

Immigration

Sunak also noted his party’s record on immigration, just as new annual figures on arrivals were set to be published Thursday.

But the strategy is not without risk, with public anger still high over the number of people arriving by crossing the Channel.

He vowed that his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda would “stop the boats”, but because of significant legal delays for the proposal, few if any people will actually be sent to the African nation by election day.

Health

The National Health Service (NHS) is the second most important issue to voters. Sunak mentioned it only briefly, saying the Tories had provided it with “record funding”.

But record waiting lists have seen public faith in the government’s ability to run the NHS collapse, and it is likely to be an area Labour will capitalise on during the campaign.

Net zero

Sunak’s decision to push back the UK’s plans to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is one of the clearest dividing lines between the Tories and opposition parties.

Sunak defended the delay, which was widely denounced by environmental groups, in hopes will appeal to his party’s base, which tends to be more concerned about the economic costs of the net-zero goal.

“We prioritised energy security and your family finances over environmental dogma,” he said.

Keir Starmer

Sunak also gave indications of the attacks his campaign will launch against Labour leader Keir Starmer, the heavy favourite to become the next prime minister.

Sunak said Starmer had no plan for leadership and would “do anything to get power”.

“If he was happy to abandon all the promises he made to become Labour leader once he got the job, how can you know that he won’t do exactly the same thing if he wants to become prime minister?” he said.

While most voters view Starmer negatively according to polls, he is still far more popular than the prime minister, who has a “net favourability” rating of -51 according to a recent YouGov poll.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)