Labour’s controversial attack ad, which claimed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was failing to ensure child sexual abusers serve prison time, has damaged the party in the polls, it has emerged.
The divisive online ad campaign also saw the party hit out at the Conservative’s record on the justice system and at Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty’s former non-dom tax status.
But an Opinium poll for the Observer newspaper found Labour’s attack ad caused more voters to think negatively about Sir Keir Starmer’s party than a Tory ad branding them soft on crime.
Labour’s attack ad saw 17 per cent of those polled say they felt less favourable about the Tories with 12 per cent feeling less favourable towards Labour.
Meanwhile, the Conservative ad targeting Starmer made nine per cent feel less favourable towards Labour and two per cent feel less positive about the Conservatives.
However, Opinium pollsters – who tend to record lower Labour leads – found, despite the attack ad, Labour still had a six-point lead over the Tories on crime as an issue, with an overall lead of 14 points.
Speaking to Sky News, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting defended the attack ad, which prompted some Labour figures to distance themselves.
“Either he’s [Sunak] got the wrong policies and principles or he’s just incompetent and can’t deliver and either, I think, is a problem for the prime minister of the country,” Streeting said.
“And Labour is absolutely right to take the gloves off and hold the government to account for 13 years of appalling failure on law and order and the economy.
“In our public services, nothing is working properly.”
It comes just three weeks ahead of local elections in England which will see voters required to bring photo ID, such as passports or driving licences, to the ballot box for the first time.
Party chairman Greg Hands has warned the Tories are on course to lose 1,000 seats in the council election on 4 May, with results announced the day before King Charles’ coronation.
In an apparent attempt to manage expectations for England’s local elections, the minister told Sky News: “The independent expectations are that the Conservatives will lose more than 1,000 seats and that Labour need to make big gains.”
Asked by stand-in host Sir Trevor Phillips whether he might be moved on from his job if the results are dire, Hands said: “Well let’s see, Trevor, but what I would say is that those are the independent predictions from the most credible academic sources.”