Election campaign day 11: Swinney attacks Tories and Labour as Sunak and Starmer take day off

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer took the day off on Sunday as they sent members of the front bench out to the front line of the campaign.

In Scotland, SNP leader John Swinney rallied the troops as the party officially launched its campaign for the General Election – which will last longer than Mr Swinney has spent in his current role to date.

On the Sunday media rounds, Labour denied including peerages in MPs’ severance packages and the Tories promised 20 million GP appointments by the end of the next parliament.

Here are the key moments from day 11 of the campaign:

– She’s running

Diane Abbott finally confirmed she will run as a candidate in the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency she has represented since 1987.

Her announcement on social media comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer finally gave the veteran left-winger the green light to stand in the election, after days of questions over her future and party infighting overshadowed his campaign.

Ms Abbott was suspended from Labour last year after she suggested Jewish, Irish and Traveller people experience prejudice, but not racism, sparking a long-running process which saw her sit as an Independent MP.

Writing on social media, Ms Abbott said reports left-wing MPs had been offered peerages to stand down were “factually incorrect”.

She said: “I have never been offered a seat in the Lords, and would not accept one if offered.

“I am the adopted Labour candidate for Hackney North & Stoke Newington. I intend to run and to win as Labour’s candidate.”

– In a hole

After a full morning broadcast round Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper joined shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson in gazing into a hole as they met apprentices at SGN Project in Putney, south-west London, and pitched the party’s “skills-training” approach to tackling migration.

General Election campaign 2024
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson meet apprentices at SGN Project in Putney in south-west London (Lucy North/PA)

– Missing the target

Ms Cooper refused to be drawn into setting a target for decreasing migration.

She said this was because every time the Conservatives set a target on migration figures, “they have just ended up being totally all over the place, ripping it up and discredited the whole system”, and that “variations” such as the war in Ukraine mean there will be fluctuations in numbers.

Despite the party’s fervent criticism of the Rwanda policy, Ms Cooper also declined to rule out off-shore processing or sending asylum seekers to have their claims processed abroad.

Sir Keir used an interview in the Sun on Sunday to say last year’s net migration figure of 685,000 has “got to come down” as he vowed to “control our borders and make sure British businesses are helped to hire Brits first”.

– Bill of health

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins was also on the airwaves defending the Conservatives’ first major health offer of the General Election, a pledge to bring more care services into the community.

Under the plans, the party would build 100 new GP surgeries and modernise a further 150.

Ms Atkins told Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “This is part of my reforms to the NHS to make it faster, simpler and fairer.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins (Lucy North/PA)

“We’re doing this with record numbers of doctors, nurses and staff in the NHS. We’re rolling out technology across the NHS to help both staff and patients.

“But I also want to bring care closer to us as patients and this includes our Pharmacy First programme, which we launched in January and has had a really confident start.”

Asked when the Conservatives wanted to free up 20 million appointments, Ms Atkins said: “By the end of the next parliament.”

– Quote of the day

– Sir Ed Davey ‘wins the week’

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper crowned her party leader the winner of the week, highlighting the policy behind the viral clips which have included him repeatedly falling from a paddleboard and riding down a children’s slide.

General Election campaign 2024
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey falls into Windermere (Peter Byrne/PA)

She told the BBC: “Hands down. Ed Davey has won the week. Not only has he been having a lot of fun, but all of those stunts are designed to deliver a message.

“And so when he was falling into Lake Windermere, he was obviously delivering our message about how we’ve led the campaign to tackle raw sewage dumping. When he was at the water park, he was raising awareness of our pledge to have a mental health practitioner in every single primary and secondary school.

“So, we take our politics very seriously. But we also think that we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously.”

– Swinney in the swing

The only party leader out in force on Sunday was the newest to their post, as Scottish First Minister John Swinney attacked the Tories and Labour at the SNP Westminster campaign launch in Glasgow.

General Election campaign 2024
Scottish National Party leader John Swinney (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking to activists and candidates at a rally in Glasgow on Sunday, Mr Swinney said that Westminster decision-making has meant “austerity, Brexit and a cost-of-living crisis being imposed on Scotland”.

He said he passionately believed independence is the “best opportunity we have to build a more prosperous and fairer country”.

– Social skirmish

Over the second weekend of the General Election campaign, the parties continued to poke fun at each other on TikTok. The official account for the Labour Party focused on the time former prime minister Liz Truss was compared to a lettuce by the Daily Star newspaper during her stint in No 10 with two posts to its platform.

The first, a photo slideshow, unpicked the policies and political moves made by Ms Truss during her time in office, with the final slide showing an image of a lettuce edited in front of the lectern outside Downing Street. A text bubble over the top read: “I’m not the worst PM ever”, referring to a recent Eastern Daily Press article where Ms Truss said the “worst prime minister in recent years is Tony Blair”.

Liz Truss on the front page of The Eastern Daily Press (Eastern Daily Press/PA)
Liz Truss on the front page of The Eastern Daily Press (Eastern Daily Press/PA)

Angela Rayner also jumped on the bandwagon and while giving a tour of the party’s election battle bus in a TikTok video, the Labour deputy leader pulled a lettuce out of the fridge which had two googly eyes stuck on the front. “How did this get in here?” she said during the clip.

The Conservatives followed suit with a photo slideshow on their official TikTok account titled “here are all of Labour’s policies”. The subsequent slides featured titles such as “policies on energy”, accompanied with no text on a blank red background, while circus music played over the top.