Politics

UK general election live: Wes Streeting urges voters not to ‘give the matches back to the arsonist to finish the job’


Streeting urges voters against giving the ‘matches back to the arsonist to finish the job’

Wes Streeting urged voters against giving the “matches back to the arsonist to finish the job”, as he suggested a Tory election victory would be a “nightmare on Downing Street”.

Pressed on whether there could be greater spending increases for the NHS than is committed in the Labour manifesto, Streeting said: “If the conditions allow but only if the conditions allow because we’re not going to make promises we can’t keep, we’re not going to make promises the country can’t afford.

“That’s the challenge at this election. What we can’t do now is what the last Labour government did which is to say we’re going to put a penny on national insurance, because we know viscerally that families can’t afford it because they’re already paying a very heavy price – the highest tax burden in 70 years thanks to the Conservatives.”

Streeting said Labour “would like to go further on so many fronts”, adding on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “But we are dealing with a fundamentally weak economy and public finances that are an absolute state.

“I just warn people, against this backdrop of breathtaking complacency in the media about the opinion polls, do not give the matches back to the arsonist to finish the job.”

He added:

Do people want to see Liz Truss’s mini budget on steroids, which is the Conservative manifesto, being delivered if there’s a nightmare on Downing Street on 5 July or do they want to see a stable economy with economic growth, shared prosperity, enable us to invest in our public services without clobbering working people with taxes, that’s the choice at this election.

With all the parties having now unveiled their election manifestos, Labour has maintained a dominant 17-point lead over the Tories with less than three weeks to go until polling day. However, Reform and the Lib Dems are up two points each, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.

Key events

Labour will have a ‘blank cheque’ if they win election with large majority, transport secretary says

The transport secretary, Mark Harper, has said Labour will have a “blank cheque” if they win the 4 July general election with a large majority, echoing comments by the prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

A YouGov survey for the Times last week had Reform at 19% and the Conservatives on 18% in voting intention – which was called the “inflection” moment by Nigel Farage. The pollsters gave the caveat that Reform’s lead was within the margin of error.

Harper told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News:

I am still very much up for this fight and we’re fighting, the Conservative party, across the country led by the prime minister, is fighting for every vote.

I’ve seen the polls just like everyone else but it’s worth saying that, apart from a relatively small number of early postal voters, no one has voted in this election yet, not a single seat has been decided, and one thing I’ve learnt over the years is taking the British people for granted and telling everybody the election is over I don’t think is wise.

The polls do tell us one thing, they do show people that if people don’t vote Conservative and some of the smaller people vote for the smaller parties and Labour does end up with a very large majority, they’re going to have a blank cheque, they’re trying very hard in this campaign not to spell out how they’re going to pay for any of their promises.

We know there is a blackhole – we can have a debate about how big it is, we’ve said it’s going to be £2,000 for every family over the parliament – but there’s definitely a blackhole. We’ve set out the taxes that they might have to raise and they haven’t ruled them out.

A Conservative source told the Sunday Times that the Tories are targeting voters with warnings of a potential Labour landslide in a last-ditch attempt to turn the opinion polls in their favour.

They said: “We’re turning up the volume of the risk from Labour. People think a super-majority is bad. We need to make it terrifying. We now have a very simple message and Labour has a complicated one.” Using this argument, Tory chiefs claim, is not conceding the election but attempting to leverage the polls in their direction instead.

Wes Streeting has declined to rule out council tax hikes or re-evaluations.

Pressed on whether this could happen under a Labour government on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, the shadow health secretary repeated the party’s line: “We don’t want to see the tax burden on working people increase …

“None of those pledges in our manifesto requires increases in council tax or increases in fuel duty or any of the other number of taxes the Tories are claiming we want to increase.”

The government raises more than £1tn in tax every year, and more than half of that money comes from three sources: income tax, national insurance and VAT. Both the Tories and Labour have both promised not to raise the rates of any of those taxes.

Wes Streeting has also been interviewed on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme. He admitted that he would have liked Labour’s manifesto to be “more ambitious” on social care.

Labour has promised to undertake a “programme of reform to create a National Care Service”, to create a “fair pay agreement” in adult social care and set up “local partnership working” between health and social care providers to improve hospital discharge times.

Streeting told the BBC:

But to get policies in the manifesto, you had to run the gauntlet of answering two fundamental questions. Can we keep this promise? Can the country afford this promise? And if the answer to either of those questions was no, it’s not in the manifesto …

Once we get the economy growing, which is the central starting point of a Labour government if we win the next general election, we will have more available to either invest in our public services or put back into people’s pockets.

Labour’s fair pay agreement for social care workers would be “transformational”, he argued, continuing: “What I’m absolutely committed to is building a national care service over the course of a decade.”

Streeting urges voters against giving the ‘matches back to the arsonist to finish the job’

Wes Streeting urged voters against giving the “matches back to the arsonist to finish the job”, as he suggested a Tory election victory would be a “nightmare on Downing Street”.

Pressed on whether there could be greater spending increases for the NHS than is committed in the Labour manifesto, Streeting said: “If the conditions allow but only if the conditions allow because we’re not going to make promises we can’t keep, we’re not going to make promises the country can’t afford.

“That’s the challenge at this election. What we can’t do now is what the last Labour government did which is to say we’re going to put a penny on national insurance, because we know viscerally that families can’t afford it because they’re already paying a very heavy price – the highest tax burden in 70 years thanks to the Conservatives.”

Streeting said Labour “would like to go further on so many fronts”, adding on Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “But we are dealing with a fundamentally weak economy and public finances that are an absolute state.

“I just warn people, against this backdrop of breathtaking complacency in the media about the opinion polls, do not give the matches back to the arsonist to finish the job.”

He added:

Do people want to see Liz Truss’s mini budget on steroids, which is the Conservative manifesto, being delivered if there’s a nightmare on Downing Street on 5 July or do they want to see a stable economy with economic growth, shared prosperity, enable us to invest in our public services without clobbering working people with taxes, that’s the choice at this election.

With all the parties having now unveiled their election manifestos, Labour has maintained a dominant 17-point lead over the Tories with less than three weeks to go until polling day. However, Reform and the Lib Dems are up two points each, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.

Wes Streeting says he is ‘beyond furious’ pay dispute involving junior doctors has not been resolved

The shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has been speaking to Sky News. In an interview with Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, he urged junior doctors to call off their strike and said he is “beyond furious” the dispute is not yet resolved.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said junior doctors would strike from 7am on 27 June until 7am on 2 July. Voters go to the polls on 4 July. The BMA has asked for a 35% pay rise, but ministers have described the demands as unreasonable.

Streeting said:

I don’t think there’s anything to be achieved by having strikes in the election campaign. The only thing we will see is more untold misery inflicted on patients who see their appointments and procedures delayed and also junior doctors out of pocket.

If there is a Labour government on 5 July, I will be phoning them on day one and asking the department to get talks up and running urgently …
I’m beyond furious that this is still happening.

But he said “the money isn’t there” to give junior doctors a 35% pay rise. “We didn’t have national strikes in the NHS under the last Labour government because we treated … staff with respect, we negotiated fairly and we had an economic record that meant that we could invest in staff pay in the NHS in a way that the Conservatives can’t dream of because of their spectacular mismanagement of the economy,” Streeting said last month.

Rishi Sunak has revealed that his Hindu faith has been helping him through the bruising election campaign.

“In Hinduism there’s a concept of duty called dharma, which is roughly translated as being about doing your duty and not having a focus on the outcomes of it,” the prime minister told the Sunday Times.

“And you do [your duty] because it’s the right thing to do, and you have to detach yourself from the outcome of it.”

Sunak – who is said to have a shrine in No 10 for family worship and works with a Lord Ganesh statue on his desk – made the comments as he denied he was frustrated at the public for not rewarding him for his work ethic.

He was also questioned about his decision to leave the D-day commemorations in France early, a gaffe that is reported to have had cut through on the doorsteps and one that dominated the news agenda for days.

The Reform party leader, Nigel Farage, was among those to attack the prime minister over the decision. He said it showed Sunak, the UK’s first prime minister of colour, was not “patriotic” and did not understand “our culture”.

Sunak told the Sunday Times:

My grandparents emigrated to the UK and then two generations later I’m sitting here talking to you as prime minister.

I actually don’t think my story is possible in pretty much any other country in the world and what it shows is, in our country, if you work hard, if you intefrom grate, if you subscribe and adhere to British values, then you can achieve anything.

So that’s what patriotism means to me: it’s having pride in our incredible country for everything that it’s done for me and my family.

Farage has declared himself the real “leader of the opposition” and predicted his Reform UK party will gain more than 6m votes at the general election, after polling ahead of the Conservatives for the first time.

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Labour and the Conservatives would both leave the NHS with lower spending increases than during the years of Tory austerity, according to an independent analysis of their manifestos by a leading health thinktank.

The assessment by the respected Nuffield Trust of the costed NHS policies of both parties, announced in their manifestos last week, says the level of funding increases would leave them struggling to pay existing staff costs, let alone the bill for massive planned increases in doctors, nurses and other staff in the long-term workforce plan agreed last year.

The Nuffield Trust said that “the manifestos imply increases [in annual funding for the NHS] between 2024-25 and 2028-29 of 1.5% each year for the Liberal Democrats, 0.9% for the Conservatives and 1.1% for Labour.

“Both Conservative and Labour proposals would represent a lower level of funding increase than the period of ‘austerity’ between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

“This would be an unprecedented slowdown in NHS finances and it is inconceivable that it would accompany the dramatic recovery all are promising. This slowdown follows three years of particularly constrained finances.”

The trust added that the planned funding increases “would make the next few years the tightest period of funding in NHS history”.

You can read the full story by my colleagues Toby Helm, Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Michael Savage here:

Opening summary

Good morning, and welcome to our continued coverage of the 2024 general election campaign.

Labour and the Conservatives are set to continue clashing over tax on the campaign trail today, with the Tories appearing to put most of their efforts into trying to make this a key dividing issue in an election they are looking extremely likely to lose, according to the polls.

After the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, yesterday said he would not impose capital gains tax (a tax you pay when you sell an asset which has gone up in value) on the sale of family homes, the Tories challenged him to rule out changes to council tax bands and rates.

Labour’s manifesto has offered more money for schools and the NHS while pledging to avoid raising tax on “working people”. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Treasury chief secretary Laura Trott said that if Labour refused to rule out those changes “then they are planning to do it”, prompting a Labour spokesperson to say: “We are not going to spend the next two weeks responding to whatever fantasy plans the Tories are making up.”

Speaking to the Sun on Sunday, the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, claimed Labour would turn Britain into a so-called “taxtopia” – an attack Labour described as desperate.

Hunt said:

On tax, yes we put it up. But we started putting it down with four pence off national insurance.

That’s a tax cut for working people and we want to go further in the next parliament. Compare that to taxtopia. Taxtopia is what we will get under a Labour government.

The transport secretary, Mark Harper, and shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, are being interviewed by broadcasters this morning. Expect them both to be pressed on their tax policies then.

Health also features heavily on today’s agenda, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats both trailing their plans to cut cancer waiting times.

The shadow health secretary has said his party would deliver an extra 40,000 appointments, tests and scans each week at evenings and weekends and double the number of CT and MRI scanners.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, say they plan a cash injection of £1bn for radiotherapy machines, increasing their number by 200 throughout the NHS system.

It comes as analysis indicates that the election points to historically low support for the two major parties. Elections researcher Dylan Difford found that according to current polling, the main parties were on course for their lowest share of the vote since 1945. He said that the elections that took place in the wake of Brexit could actually be the exception, masking a longer-term fall in backing for the big two.

It is Yohannes Lowe here for the next couple of hours. If you want to get my attention then please do email me on yohannes.lowe@theguardian.com. Also, please note that comments will not be open on the blog until around 10am.

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