Rishi Sunak insists he will fight on as Tories to announce 2p national insurance cut in manifesto

Rishi Sunak has been forced to deny that he will quit before polling day as he seeks to reinvigorate his stalled election campaign with a manifesto focused on tax cuts.

The prime minister said he would carry on “until the last day” as he tried to draw a line under last week’s D-Day row.

And he hoped voters could “find it in their hearts to forgive” him after an outpouring of criticism over his decision to leave the commemoration in Normandy early.

Mr Sunak was accused of going into hiding after the snub, as rumours swirled that he might step down.

But he said he would not stop “fighting for the future of our country”, adding that he was “energised” by the vision his party was putting forward.

He also hit back at Nigel Farage’s claim that the PM does not understand “our culture”, condemning the remarks as not “good for our politics or indeed our country”.

But in an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson, Mr Sunak admitted it had become “harder” to get on the housing ladder under the Conservatives, adding that he wanted to “make sure it gets easier”.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set out Tory plans to recruit 8,000 extra police (PA Archive)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set out Tory plans to recruit 8,000 extra police (PA Archive)

Mr Sunak confirmed his manifesto will include tax cuts, saying: “We’re going to keep cutting people’s taxes. You’ll see that in our manifesto tomorrow [Tuesday].”

“Saddling young people with higher taxes” would make it harder for them to save for a deposit to buy a house, he said, adding he wanted people to “keep more of their money”.

And he doubled down on his claims Labour is preparing a £2,000 tax bombshell, even after the figure was rubbished by the Treasury.

It came as:

  • Labour said the Tory manifesto would be the “most expensive panic attack in history”.

  • George Osborne revealed the Tories were “short of money” to the tune of millions of pounds.

  • Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross announced he was quitting.

  • Four Tory MPs have signed up to the pledges of Laurence Fox’s right-wing Reclaim Party and received campaign donations of £5,000.

  • Former home secretary Suella Braverman added to Mr Sunak’s woes by suggesting that Mr Farage should be “welcomed” into the Conservatives.

Mr Sunak is expected to promise another 2p cut to national insurance, but not to scrap inheritance tax, as he fights for his political life.

He has already pledged not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT and to introduce a “triple lock plus” to prevent pensioners paying income tax on the state pension.

He will draw upon the spirit of Margaret Thatcher as he launches the manifesto. He will say that as the party of Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, the former chancellor, the Tories believe in “sound money” and will ensure “lower welfare so we can lower taxes”.

The package is reported to add up to nearly £20bn of tax cuts and public spending, including another £2.4bn for new training places for doctors and nurses.

Before Monday, Mr Sunak had not done a TV interview since he was asked on Friday about 98-year-old D-Day veteran Ken Hay, who said he had let the country down.

Mr Hay told Sky News: “He lets the country down... It’s not the representation of how we’re trying to weld things together to keep the peace.”

Mr Sunak was accused of effectively going into hiding after he avoided questions from reporters on Saturday.

Back in action on the campaign trail, he was asked about rumours he could stand down. He said: “People are gonna say what they’re gonna say. I am very confident in the actions that we’re putting forward for the British people.”

He added: “There are lots of people who want to write me off, write this off, say this campaign or the election is a foregone conclusion.

“They’ve been saying that, by the way, ever since I’ve got this job, right? Not since this election campaign.”

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has come under fire for his D-Day comments (PA Wire)
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has come under fire for his D-Day comments (PA Wire)

Mr Sunak added: “The reality is I’m not going to stop going, I’m not going to stop fighting for people’s votes, I’m not going to stop fighting for the future of our country.”

Earlier, home secretary James Cleverly said he would have “advised [the PM] to stay” at the D-Day event, while Chris Philp, a Home Office minister, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the snub.

On Friday night former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt condemned it as “completely wrong”.

In a bid to divert attention away from the row, the Tories set out a plan to recruit 8,000 more police officers.

The £810m annual cost would be funded by raising visa fees and removing a student discount on the immigration health surcharge.

The prime minister skipped the international ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the Allied landings, attended by other world leaders, including US president Joe Biden and French president Emmanuel Macron.

He instead returned to the UK and took part in an ITV interview in which he sought to defend his claims of a £2,000 Labour tax bombshell after the figure came under fire from the Treasury and the UK’s statistics watchdog.

The gaffe has caused indignation in Tory circles, with general election candidates claiming the PM is effectively creating a free pass for Labour.

Other policy pledges from the Tories include giving 30 towns £20m, boosting community care by building 100 new GP surgeries, and modernising 150 more and national service for 18-year-olds.

The Conservatives say their ambition is to scrap national insurance when it is financially responsible to do so, a policy Labour says will cost £46bn by 2030.

At his launch, Mr Sunak is expected to say: “We Conservatives have a plan to give you financial security. We will enable working people to keep more of the money you earn because you have earned it and have the right to choose what to spend it on.

“Keir Starmer takes a very different view. He says he’s a socialist, and we know what socialists always do: take more of your money.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, criticised the Conservative manifesto: “Tomorrow you will see a document littered with unfunded commitment after unfunded commitment, a desperate wish list, the most expensive panic attack in history.

“From a weak, desperate prime minister who, in the chaotic scattergun of announcements which he has made in his campaign to date, has not even bothered to make his sums add up.”