The Week in Review

Joshua Opeaye – Political Consultant for Health, Life Sciences, and Trade

With less than a week to go until polling day, anticipation of what looks to be a new Government is brewing. This week was dominated by news surrounding party candidates losing backing, allegations of racism, and the final televised showdown between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.

Monday saw the release of three more manifestos as the DUP, Scottish Conservatives, and Welsh Liberal Democrats published their agendas. DUP’s manifesto saw them advocate for liberalising legal migration to tackle labour shortages and oppose assisted dying. The Scottish Conservatives placed significant focus on public service issues such as cutting waiting lists by recruiting 1,000 GPs and hiring 1,000 police officers. They also pledged to reduce NI and abolish the intermediate income rate. The Welsh Liberal Democrats pledged to tackle environmental and health issues such as reducing sewage pollution and increasing annual funding for the Welsh NHS by £260m by 2028-29. Their funding commitments did not stop there, as they also promised £50m toward the agricultural sector.

Tuesday saw the Conservatives take a stand against the actions of two of their candidates due to their involvement in the highly-publicised betting scandal. The party withdrew their support for Craig Williams (Montgomeryshire and Glyndŵr) and Laura Saunders (Bristol North West) meaning they will not have the Conservative whip if elected.

Wednesday night saw the last televised debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer as they went head-to-head in one of the last attempts to make the other look less capable of occupying Number 10. The debate did not get off to the smoothest of starts with a group of pro-Palestinian protesters making themselves heard in the beginning. After that, the two battled over contentious issues such as immigration, taxes, and the rights of women and transgender people in single sex spaces. Sunak, learning from past debates, aggressively interrupted the Labour leader, particularly on immigration, dominating early sections. He challenged Starmer on Labour's plan for dealing with small boats, accusing him of not being straightforward. Despite trying to stay composed, Starmer’s frustration showed. He received the first applause of the night with a pointed reply to Sunak's interruptions, suggesting the Prime Minister was out of touch with the public.

On Thursday, Labour Councillor Sabina Akhtar quit the party after Keir Starmer mentioned deporting illegal migrants from Bangladesh in an interview, which she found insulting to her Bangladeshi identity. Labour claimed the remarks were misconstrued and videos were edited, stating the criticism was directed at the government's handling of illegal migration. The incident resurfaced Labour’s difficult relationship with the Muslim community, which has been exacerbated over the party’s stance on Gaza.

On Friday, Reform UK faced fresh allegations of racism and sexism as a campaigner for leader, Nigel Farage, told voters that illegal migrants should be used for army “target practice” and mosques should be turned into Weatherspoon pubs. Undercover reporters in Clacton, where the Reform leader hopes to win, captured an activist suggesting that migrants arriving by boat should be shot and using a racial slur against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. An aide to Farage was also filmed making derogatory remarks about LGBTQ+ people. These incidents come amid allegations of widespread sexist and racist behaviour among Reform Party candidates. Furthermore, the party disowned its candidate in Basingstoke, Raymond Saint, after it was revealed he had been a member of the BNP, which he tried to downplay.

The BBC’s voting intention poll tracker has Labour on 40 percent, the Conservatives on 20 percent, Reform UK on 16 percent, and the Liberal Democrats on 12 percent. YouGov’s latest MRP – which shows projections for individual seats – has Labour on course to win 425 and the Conservatives to win 108, which would mean a whopping loss of 257 seats. Noticeably the Lib Dems and Reform are projected to gain 56 and 5 respectively, which would leave them on 67 and 5, whilst the SNP are projected to win 20 a loss of 28 seats.

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