Labour accused of 'gutter politics' for Rishi Sunak attack ad on jailing child abusers

Labour accused of 'gutter politics' for Rishi Sunak attack ad on jailing child abusers

Related video: Sunak says he is taking 'decisive action' to stomp out 'evil' child abusers


In the UK political arena, ripping apart other political parties’ policies and actions is par for the course, but one attack ad shared by the Labour Party on Thursday has been met with accusations of “gutter politics” for claiming Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, does not want convicted child abusers to go to prison.

Arguing that they are the “party of law and order”, Labour shared a graphic containing a picture of the PM, along with the text: “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”

Citing Ministry of Justice data, the ad continues: “Under the Tories, 4,500 adults convicted of sexually assaulting children under 16 served no prison time. Labour will lock up dangerous child abusers.”

It is not clear how Labour reached the statistic of 4,500 adults, but some outlets have presumed the phrase “under the Tories” means the data goes back to 2010 – a whole five years before Mr Sunak first became an MP for Richmond, in Yorkshire.

The ad comes just days after Mr Sunak unveiled new plans to tackle grooming gangs which target children and young women, with the Conservative Party leader saying “the safety of women and girls is paramount”.

“For too long, political correctness has stopped us from weeding out vile criminals who prey on children and young women. We will stop at nothing to stamp out these dangerous gangs,” he said.

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The advert has received widespread condemnation from social media users and political commentators:

Politicians past and present, from across the political spectrum, have also called out the ad:

Actual lawyers also pointed out the flaws in Labour’s line of attack, too:

And on top of all that, a ‘Community Note’ – a Twitter tool whereby extra context and fact-checks can be added to a tweet – has since appeared underneath the post, pointing out “the current sentencing guidelines for this crime has a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment” and “there is no Conservative Party policy that plans to remove this”.

Nevertheless, despite all the backlash, members of Labour’s shadow cabinet have defended the attack ad:

Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, told Sky News: “There are real deep rooted problems in our criminal justice system at the moment, for which the prime minister – obviously, as the prime minister of the country – is responsible for.

“These are figures not just from 2010, they’re over this whole period of 13 years of Conservative rule.”

When it was pointed out that Mr Sunak had only been prime minister for the last year, Ms Powell added: “But he is the prime minister, he is the current prime minister, he is the prime minister of the Conservative Party, of a Conservative government. We are highlighting their record when it comes to sentencing and what is happening in our criminal justice system.”

She also confirmed she was “comfortable” with Labour using a “standardised graphic” Mr Sunak has used before to highlight the criminal justice system “isn’t working” – but conceded the ad “won’t be to everybody’s taste”.

That’s probably a bit of an understatement, Lucy!

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