General Election 2024: Keir Starmer slams Rishi Sunak's rainy announcement as 'daft'

Sunak and Starmer on the campaign trail (.)
Sunak and Starmer on the campaign trail (.)

Sir Keir Starmer on Friday called Rishi Sunak “daft” in a clash over the Prime Minister’s Rwanda plan as the Labour leader mocked his opponent’s rain-soaked election announcement this week.

On the second full day of campaigning, Sir Keir headed to Glasgow to promote Labour’s energy plans and its ambitions to seize some 20 seats in Scotland to ease the path to a UK-wide victory.

Dividing lines over the “small boats” crisis were clear as he was challenged on LBC about the Conservatives’ charge that Labour’s own approach amounts to a “blanket amnesty” for migrants.

“Well, that's as daft as he looked standing in the rain without an umbrella,” Sir Keir said after Mr Sunak stood in a torrential downpour outside No10 to announce the July 4 election.

The Labour leader said that rather than the “gimmick” of Rwanda, he would prioritise law enforcement and cooperation with European countries to smash people-smuggling gangs.

The PM was forced to concede on Thursday that no Rwanda-bound deportation flights would take off before the election, but he insisted they would happen some time in July.

“You have to ask whether the Prime Minister ever believed in the Rwanda scheme, because it will now not be proven one way or the other,” Sir Keir said, after previous reports indicated that Mr Sunak was sceptical about the scheme when he was Chancellor.

He said many voters would be “fuming” that the Government was committing hundreds of millions of pounds to a plan that has so far resulted in only one migrant being sent voluntarily to Rwanda.

Piers Morgan meanwhile lashed out at reports that No10 does not intend to pay out on his £1,000 bet with Mr Sunak that no migrants will be flown to Rwanda before the next election.

“WHAT?! You can’t be serious @10DowningStreet???” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, over a link to a Daily Telegraph article that said the volunteer’s passage enabled No10 to say Mr Sunak had won the bet.

For his part, Mr Sunak accused Sir Keir of lacking the “courage” to tell voters of his real plans by ducking Tory demands for one TV debate a week during the six-week election campaign.

“That’s the choice of this election. It’s either going to be Keir Starmer or me that’s Prime Minister on July 5, and he should want to debate me,” the PM told reporters in Belfast.

“I want to debate him and I hope that he takes up the offer.”

Sir Keir said there would be head-to-head debates, without specifying a number.

But he insisted: “Whether it’s one debate or 100 debates the argument is going to be exactly the same, because we do them every Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions. He will stand there saying ‘everything is fine’.”

The Labour leader said he looked forward to give his own speech in Downing Street on the morning of July 5, rain or shine.

“But I’ll tell you what, I will have an umbrella,” he said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The image of a man who says ‘I’m the only one with a plan’ standing in the rain without an umbrella is, to put it politely, pretty farcical.”