Sunak to take a day at home after hapless election campaign start | General election 2024

Rishi Sunak will retreat from the campaign trail on Saturday, spending the day at home in his constituency and in London after a difficult first few days of the general election campaign.

Three sources have said the prime minister is taking the unusual step of a day away from public events on the first Saturday of the campaign and instead will spend it in discussion with his closest advisers.

Conservatives aides said the move was not part of an attempt to reset his campaign after a first week plagued by missteps and high-level resignation announcements.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is in contrast planning to use the day at public events designed to focus on his argument that the Conservatives have damaged the economy and raised living costs. He is understood not to be planning any days off the campaign trail for the next six weeks before polling day.

Sunak’s decision to take a day away from public campaigning comes after an error-strewn start to the campaign for the prime minister.

He began by announcing the election in the pouring rain to the booming sounds of the 1997 Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better, played by a nearby protester.

He then attended a public question-and-answer session at a factory at which it was revealed that two of the questioners were Tory councillors, before asking workers in Wales whether they were looking forward to the Euro 2024 football tournament, for which Wales has not qualified.

On Friday, the prime minister travelled to Belfast where he visited the Titanic Quarter and was asked by a journalist whether he was captaining a sinking ship.

He was also hit by the announcements of two senior Tory ministers – Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom – that they were standing down and will not contest the election. Leadsom is reported to have been so unhappy at the decision to call a July election that she considered submitting a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.

Conservative jitters about the campaign were distilled on Friday afternoon in a searing article by Fraser Nelson, the editor of the right-leaning magazine the Spectator, in which he argued Sunak was making a mistake by trying to make himself the sole focus of the campaign.

“A popular leader may run a personal campaign, but Sunak’s approval ratings are worse than almost any prime minister in postwar history,” Nelson wrote in the Telegraph.

A Conservative source called the idea that Sunak was hoping to reset his campaign “ridiculous”. But another campaign operative added: “Prime ministers don’t normally spend the first weekend of the campaign at home talking to their advisers.”

A Conservative spokesperson did not respond to a request to comment.

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