Labour calls Sunak’s mid-party conference visit ‘desperate’

Labour have accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of a “desperate” attempt to distract people from its party conference by holding high-profile engagements on the day shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves made a set-piece speech.

Senior Labour figures were irritated by what they saw as Mr Sunak’s bid on Monday to overshadow their conference in Liverpool, but said it was the action of an imperilled leader.

Mr Sunak denied he was visiting Newark, Nottinghamshire, before a BBC radio interview, because he was worried about the Conservatives’ chances at the next election.

The Prime Minister spent Monday visiting a Currys repair and customer service centre for a “PM Connect” event with employees, before appearing on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 show.

Mr Sunak was asked by a reporter whether his decision to make a public visit during the Labour conference was a sign of desperation.

“No, I think that kind of approach to everything is incredibly political,” the Prime Minister said.

“I’m here to talk about the plans that we’ve announced. Just over the past few weeks we’ve announced some pretty big things that are going to impact all of you, whether that is on net zero, on HS2, on support for towns like Mansfield, like Newark.

“I wanted to come here to the East Midlands to talk about it and the impact that those decisions (will have) on people, to explain why I think they are the right thing for people here and to hear from them.

“I think that is the right thing to do in this job.”

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts a PM Connect event in Newark (Joe Giddens/PA)

The two largest parties have what is said to be an informal agreement to keep a low profile during each other’s autumn conferences.

Both Newark and Mansfield will benefit from the Government’s £1 billion investment to improve the UK’s towns, which was announced ahead of the Tory conference in Manchester.

They are among 55 areas to be given £20 million over a 10-year period to help regenerate high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour.

Communities minister Lee Rowley also defended the Government making announcements while Sir Keir Starmer’s party is hosting its conference.

Mr Rowley told LBC the announcements were not because the Tories were worried about their election prospects but rather because ministers were “getting on with the job”.

He said: “We’re taking the difficult decisions, and the challenging decisions which need to be taken, but we’re also just doing what is needed.”

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