Rishi Sunak 'not taking day off' as he meets veterans on General Election campaign trail

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meeting veterans at a community breakfast in his constituency in Northallerton
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A minister has dismissed suggestions that Rishi Sunak is "taking the day off" as the Prime Minister campaigned in his constituency on Saturday morning.

Mr Sunak met local veterans in Yorkshire at the start of the weekend after completing a whistlestop two-day tour of the UK on Friday, though his plans for rest of the day had been unclear. Treasury minister Bim Afolami confirmed the PM "will be campaigning" in the day as he was questioned about the weekend agenda on Sky News.

Asked whether the PM was "taking the day off" from the campaign trail, Mr Afolami told Sky News: "It's not right. He's going to be campaigning in Yorkshire." Asked whether Mr Sunak has lots of events planned, he said: "I don't know what he's got planned but I know he's campaigning in Yorkshire today."

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The Prime Minister had a breakfast with local ex-servicemen in a Wetherspoons in Northallerton, in his Richmond constituency, in the morning.

He joked that he avoided catching pneumonia after giving a rain-soaked statement outside 10 Downing Street in which he announced the July 4 election, but admitted he was not sure what state his suit was in.

"That's our tradition, the Prime Minister, in the big moments, they call the election and they go out there. I thought, come rain or shine, it's the right thing to do," he told the veterans.

"But no pneumonia yet, my suit on the other hand... I'm not quite sure what state it will be in when I get back down to London."

The PM said he is "pumped up" and enjoying himself two days into campaigning despite a difficult start that saw him announce the election in the midst of a downpour and encounter several hiccups on his UK-wide tour.

His trip included a visit to the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, which invited undesirable "sinking ship" comparisons with his party's fortunes, as well as a brewery in Wales where he made a footballing gaffe about the Euros.

An admission that flights to Rwanda as part of the Tories' flagship immigration scheme will not take off before the election overshadowed Mr Sunak's initial economy-focused pitch to voters and the final visit of his trip in Staffordshire was delayed by pro-Palestinian protesters outside the venue.

But the PM put on a show of high spirits as he spoke with journalists on the tour, saying he was "up for the fight" despite acknowledging there were "difficult days" as leader.

He said: "I love doing this. I've been doing it since the beginning of the year, I've been out and about pretty much two, three days a week since the beginning of the year and I love it."

"I love talking to people, I love having the debate, I love having the Q&A with people, answering their questions, making sure they know what I'm about and I'm really confident that over the next few weeks we're going to have a really good conversation as a country about the future we want."

Mr Sunak has challenged Sir Keir Starmer to weekly TV debates throughout the campaign and accused the Labour leader of ducking the offer because he "doesn't have a plan".

Labour sources indicated Sir Keir would be willing to take part in the two debates with the largest audiences – BBC and ITV.

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