The Labour Party has released a second advert attacking Rishi Sunak just hours after being accused of “gutter politics” for targeting the prime minister personally.
The party has come under fire after releasing an advert that claimed Mr Sunak did not think child sex abusers should go to prison – something critics branded a “dog whistle”.
It faced mounting calls from across the political spectrum to delete the post, with some comparing its language to Boris Johnson’s accusation that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Savile when he was director of public prosecutions.
The ad read: “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”
It cited data from the Ministry of Justice showing that 4,500 adults convicted of sex acts on children avoided a prison sentence since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
But despite the backlash, the party issued a second tweet on Friday afternoon with a similar theme – this time accusing Mr Sunak of being soft on gun crime.
The ad asked: “Do you think an adult convicted of possessing a gun with intent to harm should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”
Again it referred to data from the Ministry of Justice which found that 937 adults convicted of possession of a firearm with intent to harm served no prison time.
Conservative peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was one of a number of high-profile politicians to condemn Labour’s first tweet last night, while also hitting out at her own party for triggering an “appalling fight into the gutter”.
Last week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed Labour-run areas failed to stop child grooming gangs over fears they would be called “racist”.
The tweet also drew criticism from Labour’s own MPs, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who said: “This is not the sort of politics a Labour Party, confident of its own values and preparing to govern, should be engaged in.
“I say to the people who have taken the decision to publish this ad, please withdraw it. We, the Labour Party, are better than this.”
However, this morning the attack was defended by Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell, who said that while the tweet might not be to “everyone’s taste”, it was part and parcel of “political campaigning” and served to highlight an issue the party felt the government had failed on.
Asked whether she was “comfortable with pointing the finger at Rishi Sunak”, Ms Powell told Sky News: “I’m comfortable with taking a sort of standardised graphic that the prime minister used himself many, many times in recent months and years, to highlight how one of his own policies isn’t working.”
She added: “It’s political campaigning. I’m comfortable to be on your programme this morning defending what we’re talking about, which is some really serious issues around the criminal justice system and how this country is just not dealing with that.”