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Reform overtake Tories in poll as Sunak continues campaign absence for G7 summit

Nigel Farage hailed his party’s advance in the polls while in Italy the Prime Minister claimed he was not feeling dejected about his prospects.

Reform UK has overtaken the Conservatives in a major opinion poll, as Rishi Sunak continues his absence from the General Election campaign trail to meet world leaders in Italy.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Times newspaper had Nigel Farage’s party at 19% to the Conservatives 18% in voting intention, in a crossover moment which is the latest blow to Tory hopes of returning to government.

Mr Farage hailed the poll, claiming his party were now the “opposition to Labour”, while in Italy the Prime Minister said he was not feeling dejected about his prospects in the election and would be “back on the campaign trail” as soon as he returned from the G7 summit.

Mr Sunak told reporters in Puglia he was “definitely not” down in the dumps after Wednesday night’s televised leaders’ event, in which a snap poll found Sir Keir Starmer came out on top.

The Prime Minister said there was a “clear” choice between his offer and that of Labour, which launched its manifesto on Thursday.

Mr Sunak added: “I’m energised to make that argument to the country with you here today.

“And then as soon as I’m back… you’re back on the campaign trail as soon as you’re back.”

Asked if he was missing campaigning amid the summit alongside the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, he said: “You have to be able to do both things in this job.”

In the YouGov poll which revealed the Tory-Reform reversal, Labour remains in the lead at 37% of voting intention, with the Liberal Democrats at 14%, the Greens at 7%, the SNP at 3%, Plaid Cymru at 1% and others at 2%.

It was conducted on a sample size of 2,211 adults in Britain between June 12 and 13.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (PA)

During ITV’s seven-way election debate on Thursday night, Mr Farage took aim at Conservative frontbencher Penny Mordaunt, and pointed to rising net migration despite Tory promises to control it.

“Why on earth should anybody believe the fifth manifesto that promises cuts to net migration?” he asked.

Ms Mordaunt was laughed at by the audience as she replied: “Because of the record of this Prime Minister.”

She warned: “Nigel is a Labour enabler. He is enabling no cap, no target, and no plan.”

But Mr Farage flipped the Conservative campaign rhetoric, which has also been used by Mr Sunak while canvassing for votes.

“As for being a Labour enabler, we are now ahead of you in the national polls. A vote for you is actually now a vote for Labour,” the Reform leader said.

“We are now the opposition to Labour,” he told the audience as the programme began, not long after the poll was published.

 Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives on board his election battle bus at a campaign event in Halesowen
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives on board his election battle bus at a campaign event in Halesowen (PA)

The Tory and Labour election battle buses are not expected to take to the road on Friday but campaigning will continue.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting will promote Labour’s mental health offer, after warning there is a crisis in mental illness that is keeping people out of the jobs market and costing the country billions.

He will visit a men’s mental health facility as he seeks to showcase the proposal.

Elsewhere Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper will visit the east of England, as her party promotes its plans for a national food strategy aimed at curtailing household shopping costs.

The proposed strategy, revealed in the Lib Dem manifesto, would be backed up by a plan to boost the farming budget by £1 billion a year and is also aimed at supporting British farmers.

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