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Election 2024: Can an F1-style launch ‘rev up’ Rishi Sunak’s stalling campaign?

Rishi Sunak launched the Conservatives’ manifesto at Silverstone race track, ahead of the July 4 general election. Photo: PA
Rishi Sunak launched the Conservatives’ manifesto at Silverstone race track, ahead of the July 4 general election. Photo: PA

‘Revved up & raring to go!’ ‘More than a race.’ Inspirational slogans cover the walls at Silverstone race track, home to the British Grand Prix.

And with just over three weeks to go ahead of polling day, the Prime Minister’s team will be hoping their choice of location for the Conservative manifesto launch injects some much-needed oomph into the remainder of the campaign.

Rishi Sunak was accompanied by most of his cabinet, with former leadership rival Penny Mordaunt a notable absentee, and his wife, Akshata Murty, dressed in yellow.

Taking to the stage, following introductions from education secretary Gillian Keegan and Tory mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen, Sunak joked about Brad Pitt filming on the race track outside, with the roar of tyres on tarmac featured in a slick Tory campaign ad.

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But journalists hoping the PM might take a lead from Pitt’s (or Ed Davey’s) book and get behind the wheel himself were left disappointed.

The speech and document themselves contained little in the way of surprises – or rabbits, as we’re contractually obliged to refer to them – other than plans to slash/cut/abolish various levels of National Insurance.

House-building promises also appeared to be based on numbers chosen simply because they were higher than Labour’s.

And Labour leader Keir Starmer was quite a feature of Rishi Sunak’s words, in a manner unusual for a man boasting all the trappings of office.

Don’t “hand him a blank cheque”, the Prime Minister urged, claiming: “If Labour win this time, they’ll change the rules so that they are in power for a very long time.”

Cabinet faces popped up post-speech as journalists rifled through copies of the manifesto to quiz them on policy details. Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, Transport Secretary Mark Harper, and Home Secretary James Cleverly were among those spinning to broadcasters.

Prodded on Keir Starmer’s take—that Sunak’s slate resembled a Corbynite wish list lacking funding detail—or suggestions it held echoes of Trussite tax cuts, a demob-happy Michael Gove hit back, branding Labour’s energy security plans “fantasy proposals.”

Rishi Sunak may have avoided any more wheels coming off at his pit stop in Milton Keynes today.

But with more laps before the finish line, will he suffer a collision or lose control of the car—or could promises of future tax cuts see him pick up speed?