General election: Economy takes centre stage after big-name Tory MPs quit

25 May 2024, 00:14 | Updated: 25 May 2024, 15:36

Rishi Sunak's Conservatives and Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party battled over the economy on Saturday after a bruising day for the Conservative leader that saw two senior party figures quit as MPs.

Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom both announced on Friday they would not stand in the 4 July general election, bringing the total number of sitting Tories quitting to 78. This beats the previous record of 75 Tory MPs stepping down before Tony Blair's landslide in the 1997 election.

General election latest:
Reaction as Gove and Leadsom standing down

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves feature in Saturday's editions of The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail respectively touting their economic promises should their parties win the election.

In his interview, Mr Hunt hints at tax breaks for high earners and brands inheritance tax "profoundly anti-Conservative".

"If you look at the distortions in the tax system between £50,000 and £125,000, they are bad economically because they disincentivise people from doing what we need, which is to work, work harder. And we are the party of hard work," he tells the paper.

Meanwhile, Ms Reeves vows to deliver financial stability with a Thatcher-style commitment to "sound money".

She met supermarket workers in London on Saturday to talk about the cost of living crisis, where she attacked the Conservative record on the economy and pitched Labour as the party of "stability and tough spending".

Speaking to reporters, she also suggested she wanted to cut taxes for "working people," saying they should be "lower," but insisted that "unlike the Tories" she would not make pledges she cannot keep.

The prime minister met local veterans for breakfast in Northallerton before being pictured hundreds of miles south in Wimbledon later in the day.

Sir Keir said Labour could be trusted to deliver "economic stability" on a visit to the West Midlands.

Repeating his mantra that "stability is change", the Labour leader told reporters: "The number one mission is to focus on the economy and grow the economy, and the first step towards that is to stabilise the economy."

He also confirmed his party would seek to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote if it wins on 4 July, saying anyone old enough to work should "have a say" in how their taxes are spent.

Their comments come as Mr Gove quit his almost two-decade career in politics, saying it was time to let "a new generation lead".

He was quickly followed by Ms Leadsom who unsuccessfully stood against Theresa May to lead the Conservatives after the Brexit referendum.

In her resignation letter, Ms Leadsom said it had been "the greatest honour to serve the people of South Northamptonshire as their MP for the last 14 years".

Ms Leadsom, who is currently a junior health minister, was business secretary under Mrs May.