Keir Starmer accused of 'spectacular own goal' over latest Rishi Sunak attack ad

17 April 2023, 10:46

Rishi Sunak attack ad Labour own goal
Labour has faced more criticism for its latest attack ad against Rishi Sunak . Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By James Hockaday

Labour has been accused of a “spectacular own goal” with its latest attack ad aimed at prime minister Rishi Sunak.

The online advert claims the Conservatives were “raising council tax by up to 15 per cent”, adding: “Do you think your council tax should be 15 per cent higher? Rishi Sunak does.”

But the only local authority in the country that’s actually raising the rate by this much is Croydon Council, which was given special permission to get its finances back on “suitable footing”.

The local authority was in £1.6bn in debt when the Labour Party lost power in the south London borough in May last year and issued its third bankruptcy in two years in November.

When it was run by Labour, the council borrowed £545m over three years for a flurry of commercial property investments that backfired.

Read more: 'There is no such thing as truth in politics': Lord Saatchi highlights flaws in Labour's attack ads

This prompted the Westminster government to give special permission to Croydon to raise more funds through council tax, so Tory MPs are puzzled as to why their rivals are drawing attention to this.

Home Office minister Chris Philp described the latest as “another spectacular own goal which serves to highlight something that is in fact Labour’s own fault”, MailOnline reports.

The MP for Croydon South told MailOnline: “I am astonished Labour is choosing to highlight the fact a council they ran until May 2022 went spectacularly bust on their watch necessitating this tax increase.

“Labour spectacularly bankrupted Croydon during their eight years running the Borough.”

The opposition party has already faced criticism over a previous attack ad in the same format, which suggests Mr Sunak doesn’t think child sex abusers should go to prison.

Read more: Ex-Labour aide brands Starmer attack ads against Tories a 'success'

Starmer Visits Burnley College, Campaigning Ahead Of Local Elections
Starmer Visits Burnley College, Campaigning Ahead Of Local Elections. Picture: Getty

The widely-condemned message said: "Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn't."

It cites statistics showing that 4,500 offenders who sexually abused children had served no prison time since 2010 - five years before Mr Sunak even became an MP.

Labour was accused of stooping to “gutter politics” and the ad was criticised by many of its own MPs, but opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and many of his frontbenchers have stood by every word.

Among those criticising was former Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who tweeted: “This is not the sort of politics a Labour Party, confident of its own values and preparing to govern, should be engaged in.

“I say to the people who have taken the decision to publish this ad, please withdraw it. We, the Labour Party, are better than this.”

Read more: UK must end 'anti-maths mindset' to boost economic growth, Sunak says, as he launches review into teaching plan

London, UK. 1st Mar, 2023. People from the London Borough of Croydon protest outside the Council offices against the council raising Council Tax by 15%.
Croydon Council was given special permission to raise its tax by 15% after years of mismanagement. Picture: Alamy

Describing the ad as “appalling”, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said: “We should be better than this. I’ve called it out on my own side for stooping low and do so again now.”

The party has published another advert, again in the same format, this time saying: “Do you think an adult convicted of possessing a gun with intent to harm should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”

It includes the statistic: “Under the Tories 937 adults convicted of possession of a firearm with intent to harm served no prison time. Labour will lock up dangerous gunmen.”