Keir Starmer is facing criticism for an advert on social media, which suggests the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has sympathies with child abusers. The graphic was condemned on both sides of the political spectrum and by a number of high-profile Labour supporters. Shadow cabinet members are said to be uneasy about the tactic. The Labour Party has doubled down on the advert, releasing a second version which suggests that Boris Johnson does not think those found guilty of carrying a gun with intent to harm should be jailed. Critics have urged Starmer to withdraw the accusations.
The advert features an image of Rishi Sunak accompanied by the words: “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.” The ad has been criticised for being distasteful and descending into “gutter” politics. Critics have also disputed the accuracy of the claim. The numbers used to come up with the “4500” figure apply to a period before Sunak became an MP.
The Labour Party insists it stands by the graphic. Shadow Culture Secretary, Lucy Powell refused to endorse the ad when asked. However, she also declined to say whether it should be withdrawn. She did argue that too many serious criminals are not serving long enough sentences due to a lack of capacity in the justice system. She said that the graphic was in response to that problem.
Former Tory Cabinet Minister, Sayeeda Warsi, criticised not just the Labour graphic but also comments made by the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, which she characterized as a “dog whistle”. The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, described the accusation as “disgraceful”. The controversy is regarded as damaging to Labour’s local election campaign, which is focusing on its credentials on issues of law and order.