Controversy over Sunak's sentencing policy
Labour's ad about Rishi Sunak's stance on imprisoning convicted child sexual assaulters has created controversy within the party. The ad has faced criticism from several senior party members, with the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, reportedly not being consulted before its release. The ad has been deemed in bad taste by many leading frontbenchers and may make the party vulnerable to accusations of hypocrisy.
The digital poster was produced by the shadow justice secretary, Steve Reed, as part of a policy push to highlight the issue of too many criminals receiving community sentences instead of custodial ones. However, the ad has overshadowed the intended policy message.
It's been reported that Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party, was unaware of a recent controversial poster and wouldn't typically approve individual campaign materials. Despite the party's official stance that it has no regrets about the poster, many within the shadow cabinet, frontbench team, and Labour backbenches are expressing concern. In response, Starmer's office is expected to order an internal review of the party's process for handling announcements and releasing digital and other poster material. Stay tuned for updates on this ongoing situation.
David Blunkett, a former Labour home secretary, criticized the ad as "offensive." He urged Starmer to act and cautioned that unsubstantiated claims and false accusations erode political discourse and threaten democratic principles.
The controversy is already having an impact on Labour's popularity. The latest Opinium poll for The Observer shows that the party's lead has dropped by four points to 11% since last weekend, while Sunak's approval rating has improved from -15% to -6%. It is too early to say whether this is part of a trend, and more polls in the coming weeks will give a clearer picture.
In the run-up to the local elections on 4 May, Labour officials said they would continue to campaign robustly on law and order issues. However, the party may need to re-evaluate its messaging and approach in light of the controversy surrounding the advertisement. A clearer and more cohesive message that resonates with voters will be crucial to the party's success in the upcoming elections and beyond.