Daily Mail

Sunak draws pre-election battle lines in King’s Speech

- By Jason Groves and Harriet Line

RISHI SUNAK went on the attack over labour’s ‘dangerous’ plans for government yesterday as he set out the battle lines for next year’s election.

laying out his agenda for the next 12 months in the King’s Speech, the Prime Minister said the country had ‘turned the corner’ after a volatile period – and pledged to build a ‘brighter future’.

He put law and order at the heart of the Government’s legislativ­e programme, with tougher sentences for violent criminals and powers to force killers to face their victims in court.

But, with labour riding high in the opinion polls, he focused much of his fire on Keir Starmer.

in an unusually combative speech, the PM branded the labour leader an ‘eco-zealot’ whose plans for a massive borrowing binge would drive up inflation and interest rates, leaving the British people to ‘pay the price’.

A labour government would bring ‘higher inflation, more strikes, more immigratio­n and higher borrowing,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘the labour Party’s plan to unnecessar­ily borrow £28billion more every year and give in to inflation-busting pay demands from its union paymasters is dangerous, inflationa­ry, and the British people would pay the price in higher interest rates and higher taxes,’ he said.

He warned that Sir Keir’s ‘ naive’ plan to ban new exploratio­n for oil and gas would leave the UK ‘ more dependent on Putin’s russia’, adding: ‘What’s even more absurd is that

‘Labour don’t want the scrutiny’

he is not against all oil and gas – he’s just against British oil and gas.

‘they want to pursue net Zero with ideologica­l zeal – we are cutting the cost of net Zero for working people.’

A tory source defended the PM’s decision to use the state opening of Parliament to ‘compare and contrast’ his programme with labour’s, saying: ‘they want to be seen as a government in waiting but they don’t want the scrutiny that comes with that. it’s time for that to end.’

Sir Keir described the King’s Speech package as a ‘missed opportunit­y’ and said that Mr Sunak’s bid to present himself as the candidate of change was ‘desperate’.

Some tory MPs warned privately that the speech lacked a big, voterfrien­dly proposal – and said it would increase pressure on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to bring in tax cuts before the election. One minister said: ‘it’s all right as far as it goes, but where are the big ideas?

We are miles behind [in the polls] – we should be throwing everything at it. it sometimes feels like no 10 has given up.’

One former cabinet minister said: ‘it was a routine speech which was passable, but in no way had anything eye-catching with a view to winning the next election.’

the King’s Speech included measures on crime and sentencing, as well as plans to phase out smoking, new protection­s for consumers and proposals paving the way for the introducti­on of driverless cars. in other developmen­ts on one of the last big political set pieces before the election:

▪ the Government floated plans for a new tax on vapes, despite warnings it could discourage smokers from using the devices to quit cigarettes;

▪ Whitehall sources said the flagship criminal Justice Bill could be delayed by a cabinet row over Suella Braverman’s plan to fine charities offering tents to the homeless;

▪ Mr Sunak ditched contentiou­s measures including a ban on so-called gay conversion therapy and a ban on the import of hunting trophies;

▪ David Davis and Jacob reesMogg warned against plans to give the police powers to search properties for stolen goods without a warrant;

▪ Downing Street said that users of driverless cars would not be liable if their vehicles caused accidents;

▪ Probation officers will have enhanced powers to use lie detectors when assessing paedophile­s, domestic abusers and terrorists;

▪ A promised ban on new leasehold properties excluded flats, which make up 70 per cent of the market.

Mr Sunak also pressed ahead with plans to mandate ministers to consider new north Sea oil licences every year.

Former business secretary Mr rees-Mogg welcomed the moves to slow the rush to net Zero. But, in a sign of tory divisions over the issue, theresa May urged Mr Sunak to ‘press the accelerato­r’ on the transition to the target.

THEY were up before dawn at the palace to prepare for the big day. The carriages were polished, the horses groomed, the sovereign’s regalia laid out.

The State Opening of Parliament symbolises constituti­onal continuity and that was felt keenly yesterday, this being Charles’s first King’s Speech as monarch.

Not that a stranger would have known. He looked thoroughly at home.

But at the beginning he struck a deeply personal note, paying tribute to his ‘beloved mother’, the late Queen, who performed this important duty so impeccably for so long.

This is the parliament­ary occasion that sets out the Government’s legislativ­e vision for the coming year. With all eyes turning to a general election, it is vital Rishi Sunak shows voters the Tories haven’t run out of steam.

To that end, there were welcome measures, including tougher sentences for the worst criminals, bolstering energy security, and stopping hard-Left unions causing strike chaos. These laws aim to draw battle lines between the Conservati­ves and Labour. But the question is, will any see the light of day before Britain goes to the polls?

And too many proposals are either insubstant­ial, trivial or narrowly technocrat­ic. A crackdown on London’s rickshaws is surely the least of the country’s worries.

Most troubling is the lack of anything to quicken the pulse on the economy. If the Government is to extend its reign beyond the next election, it must do more to help hard-pressed families and businesses.

The Chancellor has been reluctant to ease their financial burden, despite the Treasury raking in record revenues. It’s surely time to give some of that money back to them.

In a fortnight, Jeremy Hunt will set out his growth and spending plans in the autumn statement. It must be a bold declaratio­n of tax-cutting intent. No more timidity.

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