Election campaign: National service row as parties trade Awol accusations

Rishi Sunak’s announcement that he would introduce mandatory national service for 18-year-olds if he returns to Number 10 dominated the fourth day of campaigning for the General Election.

Meanwhile, Labour and the Tories accused each other of absenteeism on the campaign trail.

Here are the key moments:

No jail for youngsters who defy service programme

James Cleverly clarified that 18-year-olds who refuse to comply with the Tories’ proposed “mandatory” national service would not face prison, after questions arose as to whether youngsters would be punished for not taking part.

Opposition critics have dismissed the plans as unserious, with Labour branding them a “gimmick”.

Going South 

The Prime Minister did not attend Southampton FC’s Championship play-off final against Leeds at Wembley Stadium because he was out campaigning, the PA news agency understands.

However Mr Sunak, a keen Saints fan, was keeping a close eye on the score as he met voters in the South East on Sunday, sources said.

(PA Graphics)

Going Awol?

Labour and the Tories traded personal insults about their leaders over the weekend as each party accused the other of shunning the doorstep.

A Conservative campaign source suggested Sir Keir Starmer lacked the “stamina” to campaign after the Labour leader was not widely seen on Sunday, though pictures later emerged of him out meeting voters in Brighton.

Meanwhile, Labour said Mr Sunak was “holed up with his aides” and “hiding away in his mansion” after the PM returned to his constituency to meet local veterans on Saturday following a two-day tour of the UK.

Reeves reveals new Labour tax commitment

Labour would not raise income tax or national insurance, Rachel Reeves said on Sunday.

Picture of the day

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (centre), his wife Akshata Murty (right) and Conservative MP Bob Blackman (second right), in Stanmore in north west London (Chris J Ratcliffe/PA)

Both Sir Keir and Mr Sunak are understood to be heading out to campaign in battleground areas across the South East on Monday.

The Labour leader will make a “keynote” speech setting the party tone in the run-up to the vote, which will feature promises to put economic security, border security and national security at the heart of the manifesto.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Sir Ed Davey will be north of the border kickstarting the Scottish Lib Dem campaign with Scottish party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

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