Labour has continued its personal attacks on Rishi Sunak with an advert targeting his wife’s previous non-dom tax status.
Sir Keir Starmer told his shadow cabinet that he makes “no apologies at all” for the controversial campaign, and that the focus will move this week from the Prime Minister’s record on crime to the cost of living.
The latest social media ad, featuring a picture of Mr Sunak in the same style as the earlier ones, says: “Do you think it’s right to raise taxes for working people when your family benefitted from a tax loophole? Rishi Sunak does.”
It says the Conservatives “have raised taxes 24 times since 2019” while refusing to “close the non-dom tax loophole” for foreign residents in the UK.
Mr Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, was revealed last year to hold the special tax status, reportedly saving her millions, but has since said she will pay UK taxes on all her worldwide income.
A Tory source hit back, calling the ad “the height of hypocrisy from a party which has already made £90 billion of unfunded spending commitments and whose leader stands to benefit from a bespoke, tax-unregistered pension scheme unavailable to others.
“Rishi Sunak has a plan to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt. Sir Keir only has a plan to play politics on Twitter.”
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves defended the ads, saying: “I’m not going to make any apology for highlighting the dire record of this Conservative Government and this Conservative Prime Minister.”
“And as an opposition party, we’ve got to highlight that and put forward our alternative.”
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden said “these are legitimate areas for public debate”, and declined to say whether any subject is off limits when challenged over the inclusion of the Prime Minister’s wife.
The first ad in the campaign, which accused Mr Sunak of not wanting child sex abusers to go to prison, drew criticism from across the political spectrum and unease among the shadow cabinet.
But Sir Keir has refused to back down, urging his frontbenchers to “continue to focus relentlessly on exposing the failures” of the Tory Government in the run-up to May’s local elections.
“Rishi Sunak is the chief architect of choices prioritising the wealthiest and of the Government’s failure to get a grip of the economy and get growth going,” the Labour leader wrote in a letter to his colleagues.
He accused Mr Sunak of “supplying the touchpaper for another Conservative Government to blow up the economy” as chancellor and then continuing in No 10 to “make choices which loaded the costs on to working people”.
“The voters must know that Rishi Sunak’s fingerprints are all over their struggling household budgets.”
Further scheduled ads will include one suggesting Mr Sunak thinks it is right that the public is paying for the “Conservatives crashing the economy” through higher housing costs.
Labour is hoping to benefit in England’s May 4 local elections as the Tories continue to lag far behind in national polls.
On a campaign visit to Brighton on Tuesday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves was to repeat the party’s pledge to help more first-time buyers on to the housing ladder.
They faced a nearly £500-a-month increase in mortgage bills from January to December last year due to rates soaring under Liz Truss’s government, according to Labour analysis.