Boris is back: Ex-PM takes on Labour and Farage's Reform with taxes, 'wokery' and illegal immigration warning

Boris Johnson stepped up the Tories’ general election battle as they were desperately trying to stop voters deserting them for Nigel Farage’s Reform.

The former Prime Minister was writing letters and doing campaign videos for some candidates, including in the so-called “Red Wall”.

In one for Alice Hopkin, Tory candidate in Normanton & Hemsworth, West Yorkshire, he warns voters against giving Sir Keir Starmer a “super-majority”.

His intervention comes as polls pointed to voters deserting the Conservatives for Reform in significant numbers, which could cost Rishi Sunak’s party dozens of seats.

Mr Johnson said: “If you vote for Alice you will avoid handing Labour a majority, even perhaps a super-majority, to take this country backwards with higher taxes, more wokery, kowtowing to Brussels again and of course more illegal immigration.

“Don’t let Starmer get away with it.”

Mr Johnson’s message seemed designed to appeal particularly to voters who may be considering backing Mr Farage’s party.

It may be less tailored to London where the Tories are fighting to avoid losing around a dozen seats.

Farming minister Sir Mark Spencer, doing the media round for the Government, praised Mr Johnson but stressed that it was Mr Sunak who was now moving the Conservative Party forward.

Asked by Sky News if the ex-PM was the Conservatives' "antidote" to Farage’s Reform, Sir Mark said: "Boris was a fantastic Prime Minister, certainly in delivering what he did for the Covid vaccine, in making sure that he put us front and centre in the fight for Ukraine. They were huge achievements of the Johnson campaign.

"Boris is no longer a Member of Parliament. He has stepped back from politics and I think now we have got a Prime Minister in Rishi Sunak who has steadied the ship, who is moving us forward.

"I think let's just concentrate on the huge tax challenge that is coming from a future Labour government."

Mr Johnson was not expected to play a major role in the campaign, going from constituency to constituency.

In an apparent sign of a limited involvement in the election, his wife Carrie posted pictures on Instagram of them and their three children on holiday in Sardinia.

But with some Tories keen for the ex-PM to take centre stage again, Sir Keir Starmer told LBC Radio: “Is this the third or fourth relaunch of their strategy in six weeks.

“They started saying vote Tory because ‘we are going to win’, then they said vote Tory because ‘Labour is going to win’, now they are saying something about Boris Johnson.

“Honestly, if you can’t even have a strategy that holds for six weeks you really don’t deserve to win.”

The Conservatives were on Tuesday stepping up their claims that a Labour government would mean higher taxes and that a vote for Reform would make it more likely that Sir Keir would get into No10.

But it was not clear whether the Tories’ tax allegations were hitting home, especially after the Treasury, independent fact checkers and the UK’s statistics watchdog had undermined their claim that a Labour government would mean a £2,000 hit to households.

Seeking to keep the spotlight on Labour, ministers were demanding that it rule out specific tax rises.

Sir Keir’s party was pressing on with its attempts to woo businesses.

Late on Monday, the Conservatives called on Labour to rule out scrapping the requirement for local authorities to hold referendums on tax rises above a certain level.

At the same time, the party accused Labour of having a “secret plan” to abolish inheritance tax relief for farmers, saying the party had not committed to keeping the exemption in its manifesto.

A Labour spokesperson dismissed the Conservative attacks as “hysterical” and “desperate nonsense”, while reiterating that the party would not raise taxes on “working people”.

The latest Tory demands on tax follow challenges for Labour to rule out increasing capital gains tax on people’s main homes and reforming council tax bands.

Labour has ruled out both policies, but the Conservatives are still keen to ask questions about whether it would countenance further tax hikes to fill what the party claims is a black hole in the opposition’s spending plans.

In a second prong of the Conservative attack on Labour, Mr Sunak continued to claim that a Labour victory in July would keep the party in power for a generation.

The Prime Minister accused Sir Keir of trying to “entrench his power” by lowering the voting age to 16.

Mr Sunak added that Sir Keir would raise taxes to the “highest in our history” and that the party poses “a generational threat to everyone’s financial security”.

Having addressed big businesses on Monday, Labour was expected to turn its attention to small businesses on Tuesday with its pledge to roll out 350 banking hubs to towns and villages across the country.

Party deputy leader Angela Rayner said Labour would “breathe new life back into Britain’s high streets”, which shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said had been “reduced to ghost towns”.

The pair were also expected to announce a five-point plan to arrest the decline of British pubs, following figures that suggest as many as 10 per week have closed since 2010.

The Liberal Democrats were returning to the theme of sewage, promising 100 new water quality inspectors to help crack down on water companies dumping effluent in Britain’s rivers and seas.