Five things we learned from day five of general election campaigning

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to Chesham United Football Club
-Credit: (Image: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)


We're into the first full week of general election campaigning, with five weeks to go until the big day.

Rishi Sunak ended months of speculation on Wednesday (May 22) and announced that a general election will be held on July 4. In the days since, politicians have begun touring the country on the campaign trail, desperately trying to win enough seats to form the next government.

It's not started wonderfully for Mr Sunak, whose decision to call the election while standing outside Downing Street in torrential rain still hangs over him. Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party is enjoying their comprehensive lead in the polls and has an air of confidence around them.

READ MORE: Labour look to create 'history' as campaign launches in Merseyside seat they've never held

READ MORE: Liverpool's political leaders look ahead to the general election

As campaigning has ramped up, here's five things we've learned from the trail over the bank holiday weekend.

Labour have their eyes trained on Southport

Southport is the one Merseyside parliamentary seat not currently held by Labour. In fact, the seat has never been represented by a Labour MP.

However, the party intends to change that at this election. Candidate Patrick Hurley was joined by West Lancashire MP Ashley Dalton, Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson and Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram at Southport FC's Big Help Stadium on Monday to launch his campaign in the constituency.

Latest polling from Electoral Calculus gives Labour a 96% chance of winning the seat, predicting the party will claim 50.8% of the vote in the Sefton town.

Mr Hurley was confident about his chances as he addressed a crowd of Labour members. Speaking to the ECHO, he revealed his priorities if he gets elected.

He said: "One of my priorities is to make sure that we put more money back into people's pockets locally. We're a rich country but too many people are feeling the pinch. That's due to mortgages and rent going through the roof, energy bills going through the roof and every time you go into a shop, your weekly grocery shop is more expensive than it was the week before.

abour launch Southport campaign with candidate Parick Hurley with support from Steve Rotheram, Bill Esterson, Ashley Dalton
Labour launch Southport campaign with candidate Patrick Hurley with support from Steve Rotheram, Bill Esterson, Ashley Dalton -Credit:Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo

"We need to make sure that we get a grip on the economy, put some proper foundations there to make sure that there's stability, that we can allow small businesses the room and confidence to invest and to give people the opportunity to work.

"We also need to focus on NHS waiting lists. There are almost eight million people across the country on waiting lists. That's for hospitals, GPs and dentistry as well.

"I was speaking to a couple in Southport last week and they were telling me that the only NHS dentist they could register with was in Newton-le-Willows. That's a 50 mile round trip to register with a NHS dentist.

"This is because the Tories have become complacent when it comes to managing the NHS, they haven't invested, they haven't reformed correctly and now we're feeling the effects of that, where people are having to go on a 50 mile round trip just to have their teeth checked up."

National service has not gone down well

The headline political news from the weekend was that the Conservative manifesto will include bringing back a form of national service for teenagers.

Under the Tory plan, due to be fully in place by 2029-30 if Mr Sunak wins the election, all 18-year-olds will be legally required to take up either a 12-month placement in the armed forces or cyber defence or give up the equivalent of one weekend a month to volunteer in their communities.

Around 30,000 full-time military placements will be on offer, with the vast majority of 18-year-olds expected to do the compulsory community roles instead, working with organisations such as charities, the NHS, police or fire services.

It was widely criticised - Sir Keir Starmer called it a "teenage Dad's Army", while others have suggested it is yet another policy that penalises the young. The Guardian reported that Admiral Alan West, a former chief of the naval staff, described the idea as “bonkers”.

Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan suggested that failure to carry out national service could harm people’s job prospects.

She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “This will be encouraged and will become part of the norms.

“Importantly, of course, when you then as a young person apply for a job, there will be a question that employers will want to know how you got involved – either because you were able to achieve one of the 30,000 places (in the armed forces) or because you were volunteering in one or other part of your community.”

The Prime Minister has also backed his policy. Mr Sunak told reporters on a campaign visit in Buckinghamshire: “This modern form of national service will mean that young people get the skills and the opportunities that they need which is going to serve them very well in life.

“It’s going to foster a culture of service which is going to be incredibly powerful for making our society more cohesive and in a more uncertain and dangerous world it’s going to strengthen our country’s security and resilience.

“For all these reasons I think this is absolutely the right thing to do. Yes, it is bold, but that’s the kind of leadership I offer.”

Labour are relishing this campaign

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers a speech to supporters, members and local people during his visit to Lancing in West Sussex,
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer delivers a speech to supporters, members and local people during his visit to Lancing in West Sussex, -Credit:Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The leader of the opposition delivered his first keynote speech of the campaign on Monday. Labour are enjoying a 20-point lead in the polls and the party are in a confident mood.

In recent days, the Conservative Party attack lines toward the 61-year-old have been over his age. Conservatives claimed on Sunday the Labour leader does not have the “stamina” to campaign, saying he had been “resting at home”, although pictures later emerged of Sir Keir meeting voters in Brighton. One Tory aide has reportedly described Sir Keir as “Sir Sleepy”, in contrast to the 44-year-old Rishi Sunak.

Speaking at a campaign event in Lancing, West Sussex, on Monday, Sir Keir dismissed the claims as “desperate”.

He said: “I’ve had a smile on my face since January 1 2024 because I knew this was going to be an election year.

“I’ve wasted nine years of my life in opposition. I’ve worked four-and-a-half years to change this Labour Party, and now I’ve got the chance to take that to the country.

“So we’re doing that not only with energy, but with a smile, with positivity across all of our candidates as we go into this election.”

Sir Keir added: "For a long time now, working people have believed opportunity in Britain is stacked against them.

“But now we are at a dangerous new point, close to crossing a Rubicon of trust, not just in politics but in many of the institutions that are meant to serve and protect the British people.

“A moment where people no longer believe their values or interests carry the respect of those in power.

“When you put that alongside a Government that over 14 years has left living standards in this country worse than when they found them, that has torched any semblance of standards in public life, Westminster parties that broke the rules they put in place to save lives and rules they expected you to follow but ignored themselves, then you get a crisis in nothing less than who we are as a nation.”

The Lib Dems back their chances of gains

Life has not been easy for the Liberal Democrats in recent elections. But they have come out fighting this time around.

Today, leader Sir Ed Davey has said his party intends to take seats from the SNP at the general election.

Launching the Scottish campaign, Sir Ed said seats such as Mid Dunbartonshire and Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire would be target seats for the party. In 2019, the party won just four of the 59 Scottish seats but boundary changes will see just 57 seats up for grabs north of the border.

Speaking at the party’s launch in North Queensferry, Fife, Sir Ed said: “We have got great MPs but I think we also have a great number of candidates who can beat the SNP in places like Dunbartonshire with Susan Murray, in places like Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire with Angus MacDonald.

“I believe we can make gains here in Scotland just as we’re going to make gains against the Conservatives in England.

“I think we can have more liberals in Parliament after this election.”

Rishi Sunak is no footballer

Politicians getting involved with football is often a recipe for disaster, leading to cringeworthy clips as they try to convince you that they're actually fans. On day one of the campaign, Mr Sunak asked Glamorgan brewery workers whether they were looking forward to the football this summer. The only problem was that Wales had not qualified.

There was good news for him this weekend, however, as his hometown team Southampton gained promotion back to the Premier League. That may have given him a spring in his step, but it didn't show on Monday when a clip of him playing football on a campaign visit to Chesham United Football Club taken by ITV journalist Harry Horton circulated on X (formerly Twitter).

His attempt at dribbling saw plenty of stutters and a lack of ability to control the ball. He'd be quite easily tackled.

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