Rachel Reeves slaps down PM's hung Parliament claims & 'deluded' Tories 'gaslighting' Brits on economy

7 May 2024, 10:51 | Updated: 7 May 2024, 11:24

Keir Starmer Congratulates David Skaith On His Election To York And North Yorkshire Mayor
Keir Starmer Congratulates David Skaith On His Election To York And North Yorkshire Mayor. Picture: Getty
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Rachel Reeves has slapped down Rishi Sunak's claims that Britain is heading for a hung Parliament - as she hit out at the Tories for "gaslighting" voters over the economy.

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Soaring interest rates could be cut and Britain out of recession this month, the shadow chancellor predicted too.

In a major economic speech ahead of a crunch Bank of England rates decision this week, Ms Reeves insisted Labour would take the fight to the Tories over the economy.

She said a legacy of 14 years of Tory government had made people worse off.

But she refused to lay out much detail of how she would reboot Britain's sluggish economy, saying it would be "reckless" to lay out unfunded spending cuts.

Speaking in the City of London days after Labour swept to victory in last week's local elections, she rejected his suggestions Britain could be on course for a hung parliament.

And she insisted that the places Labour are winning are exactly where they need to be to form the next government.

Ms Reeves said: "We are fighting for every vote.... we can feel confident coming out of those elections that the message putting forward is resonating.

"I don't think they point to a hung Parliament.

"If Rishi Sunak is so convinced the election is so close, there's one way to test that... call an election and let the people decide."

The PM suggested yesterday that the election was "not a foregone conclusion" and there was still hope for the Tories yet.

He pointed to a predicted vote share from last week's elections - which if replicated at a general poll would show Labour short of a majority.

Sunak ‘determined to fight on' as he insists election not a foregone conclusion

However, the shadow chancellor did admit that the party had lost some Muslim voters as a result of their stance over the Middle East.

Independents and Greens hoovered up votes in some parts of the country last week as some voters took aim at Labour for not pushing hard enough for a ceasefire.

She admitted: "They did have concerns, including people in the Muslim community. We will seek to try and rebuild that in the weeks and months ahead."

In a drive-by of the Tory economic record, she accused the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and PM of being "deluded and out of touch with realities on the ground", adding: "The Conservatives are gaslighting the British public. They don't speak to economic reality."

Living standards are lower than when the Tories came to power, real incomes are down, and the economy is smaller than when the PM first came in, she said.

However, she predicted that the economy would be looking brighter - possibly as soon as later this month - with interest rates on track to fall and inflation dropping further too.

Labour would not be doing a "victory lap" to celebrate if they got into power, she said.

But when grilled by reporters, she suggested she would not be promising to unfreeze the freezing of income "stealth tax" thresholds anytime soon.

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She said: "I have made no bones about wanting taxes on working people to be lower... [but] I'm not going to make any unfunded tax cuts or spending commitments."

Ms Reeves called the PM's ambition to slash National Insurance again as the "last desperate throw of the dice" and "no answers on how they will pay for it".

She said: "The questions people will ask are... do you and family feel better off after 14 years of Conservative government?

Do our schools, hospitals, work better than 14 years ago?

Does anything in our country work better?

"The choice at the election is simply - five more years of chaos, continuing Britain on economic decline.

"Or stability with a changed labour party, offering hope, to make working people better off.

"It's time to turn the page, start a new chapter, and labour is ready."

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