The election moments Starmer and Sunak don’t want you talking about

Claims of promised peerages; a widening gap in the polls; and allegations of election fraud are issues the leaders don't want people talking about

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists at Redcar racecourse as he launches the Conservative campaign bus in Redcar, northeast England, on June 1, 2024 ahead of a general election on July 4. (Photo by Carl Court / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CARL COURT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak will not want to discuss the fact his party is falling further behind in the polls. (Getty)

Election campaigning continues apace, with Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer both keen to unveil more manifesto pledges as they go – but certain issues are continuing to distract voters from the messages they want to stick to.

Labour faced claims on Sunday that it is offering peerages to certain MPs to quit, opening up seats for allies of Starmer, including veteran MP Diane Abbott, who has announced she intends to “run and win” as a Labour candidate after days of speculation over her future.

Meanwhile, the Tories were accused of wasting £130bn of taxpayers' money, according to a report in the Mirror.

But both parties have been trying to promote their policies, including migration and health. As they begin another week of campaigning, Yahoo News UK breaks down what the two leaders want you to be talking about on Monday – and what they don't.

The Conservatives' health campaign

The Tories launched their first major health offer over the weekend, which it said would be funded by slashing the number of NHS managers.

Health secretary Victoria Atkins promoted the Conservatives’ bid to boost community care, insisting it is part of reforms to make the NHS “faster, simpler and fairer”.

The party's proposal has three strands. The first is to expand Pharmacy First, which was launched in England in January and allows patients to be treated for seven common conditions at their local pharmacy without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

The second strand involves building 100 new GP surgeries and modernising 150 more, particularly in those areas experiencing new housing developments. The final part is to build 50 new community diagnostic centres.

The Equality Act

The Conservatives have announced plans to update the Equality Act to make biological sex, rather than gender, a protected characteristic.

Announcing the plans, the Conservatives said the act had “not kept pace with evolving interpretations and is not sufficiently clear on when it means sex and when it means gender”.

Sunak said the move would clear up “current confusion around definitions of sex and gender”.

Cash for towns

Sunak has also pledged to give 30 towns £20m as part of a bid to paint a positive picture of their record on levelling-up.

Some of the towns proposed to be added include: Tamworth, Preston, Corby, Halifax, Bognor Regis, Newtown, Flint, Perth and Newry.

Sunak said: “We, the Conservatives, have a plan for towns because we know they are the beating heart of our country. This bold action will transform 30 more towns – reviving their high streets, growing their local economies and making people feel proud of the place they call home.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 1: Britain's Labour Party launch their election campaign
Labour launched its election campaign 'Battle Bus', campaigning on a plan to 'power up' Britain. (Getty)

Despite the debacle over Abbott’s candidacy, which brought with it criticism of Starmer, Labour saw its lead over the Tories widen to 20 points in an Opinium poll over the weekend.

The poll showed Labour on 45% – up four percentage points since last weekend – while the Conservatives were down two points on 25%.

The Conservatives have been accused of wasting £130bn of taxpayers' money since the last election.

The Mirror reported that the Best for Britain’s Scandalous Spending Tracker – which monitors suspect government spending – suggested that more £6bn of that was in the last two months.

That was said to include £32,000 to cover legal costs after science secretary Michelle Donelan wrongly accused an academic of being a Hamas sympathiser, as well as £33m on delaying the general election by two months.

Police announced a review of Tory candidate Robert Largan's campaign material after receiving allegations of election fraud.

Largan, the candidate for High Peak, Derbyshire, posted a picture of himself on X in front of a red background and the words “Labour for Largan”, and made another post with the same image of himself against a turquoise background with the caption: “Reform for Robert."

He wrote: “So many local Labour voters have told me they’re going to vote for me, because they want to keep me as their local MP. There have been so many that I’m launching a new Labour for Largan club.”

Derbyshire Police said it will review the material after receiving a number of messages in relation to claims of election fraud.

Starmer unveiled a manifesto promise to slash levels of migration to the UK – vowing to “control our borders and make sure British businesses are helped to hire Brits first”.

The Labour leader said last year’s net migration figure of 685,000 has “got to come down”, with a migration plan to include passing laws to ban law-breaking employers from hiring foreign workers and to train more Britons.

But the party has refused to set specific migration targets, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper saying the Conservatives had failed when they did so and arguing that “variations” each year – such as the war in Ukraine – must also be considered.

She said the party wants to see “significant changes” and declined to rule out offshore processing or sending asylum seekers to have their claims processed abroad.

Members of the shadow cabinet said Labour will reform the apprenticeship levy to “tackle the skills gap” and create a “golden age of lifelong learning”.

On Sunday, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper linked plans to reduce net migration, saying Labour would aim to fix the “broken” migration system by enabling skills at home to fill the gap of overseas recruitment.

She told: “Net migration has trebled over the last five years under the Conservatives – that’s been particularly driven by the big increase in work migration and in work visas.

“And we’ve just been talking to engineering apprentices – engineering apprenticeships have halved at the same time as visas have doubled. That shows you’ve got a system that’s broken. That’s why Labour’s setting out a practical plan to make sure that overseas recruitment is actually linked instead to the kind of training and the workforce plans that are needed; that will bring net migration down.”

GILLINGHAM, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Supporters hold
Both parties want to focus on their policies but other issues are dominating the conversation. (Getty)

The Sunday Times claimed a number of former Labour MPs including Abbott had been offered peerages to quit, amid ongoing allegations of a Labour “cull” against left-wing members in its candidate selection.

The conversation dominated interviews on Sunday, with Cooper forced to address it, telling Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “There’s a whole process with the independent committee that will vet nominations, there have to be processes in terms of the numbers of nominations, designated by the prime minister and so on. So, no party can do that or make those sorts of commitments.”

On Sunday evening, the spotlight was back on Abbott as she stepped in, writing on social media: “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.”