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Rishi Sunak Brushes Off Calls to Commit to an ‘Honest’ Election Campaign

The Conservative benches appeared to burst with laughter at the suggestion

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Photo: PAAlamy

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The Prime Minister has ignored pleas for his party to sign up to independent fact-checker Full Fact’s pledge for an honest election campaign – while his MPs appeared to laugh at the suggestion on Wednesday.

At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts called on Rishi Sunak to commit to “honest campaigning” at the upcoming general election. The date of the general election date is unclear but millions of people will vote for mayors and many local councils in England this May. 

Plaid Cymru, Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party, the Green Party, and the SDLP (also NI) have all signed Full Fact’s pledge to commit to standards for honest campaigning during the next election. It is not clear yet whether Labour, the Liberal Democrats or the SNP will sign the pledge.

The non-profit watchdog says it’s a “positive step towards tackling the bad information that damages public debate”. However, the group is concerned that when asked directly to sign Full Fact’s pledge during PMQs, the Prime Minister “brushed off a crucial opportunity to rebuild public trust in our democracy in an election year”.

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Many Conservative MPs openly laughed at the request from Liz Saville Roberts. 

Just 9% of the UK public trust politicians to tell the truth, according to Full Fact. 

Chris Morris, its chief executive, said: “With public trust in politics at its lowest levels for 40 years, the chance to take a stand for honest campaigning was brushed off in Parliament. Party leaders need to take a hard look at their duty to restore trust in our democracy. Full Fact wants to rebuild faith in politics – don’t they?”

Full Fact recently challenged misleading Conservative leaflets that omitted key words from a headline, and a Lib Dem leaflet that misleadingly attributed a quote.

After the exchange, Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts slammed the Conservatives for alleged “egregious misleading campaigning”. 

She said: “Rishi Sunak’s response in PMQs yesterday should worry us all. Given the opportunity to commit to an honest and fair election, he evaded the question. What’s more, his Tory colleagues responded by laughing.

“Our democracy is already in a perilous place after years of unchecked misinformation and dirty campaign tactics by the Tories. For 14 years, they have sown divisions and exploited people’s fears for short-term gain.

“I worry that – given the Tories’ current poor polling ratings – their desperation will lead to the upcoming election being the dirtiest and most divisive yet. This concern was only reinforced by the Prime Minister’s non-answer yesterday.”

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The Welsh pro-independence party, which has a cooperation agreement on some issues with the Welsh Labour Government, says Welsh Conservatives have repeatedly made “dishonest” claims in recent days relating to agriculture and business support in Wales.

Welsh Conservatives have claimed that Plaid Cymru are in coalition with Labour, that Plaid Cymru is cutting the rural affairs budget, and that Plaid Cymru is cutting business support in Wales.

“None of these claims are true,” a spokesperson said. “Plaid Cymru is an opposition party in the Senedd, working with the Labour Welsh Government only on limited policy areas. There are no Plaid Cymru ministers in the Welsh Government.” 

Welsh Conservatives have repeatedly claimed that Plaid Cymru are in coalition with Welsh Labour, tweeting recently that “the Labour Government and their coalition partners in Plaid Cymru are not listening to Welsh farmers” and hitting out at “Labour and Plaid’s Sustainable Farming Scheme” which has faced protests. 

Full Fact is calling on all major parties across the country to:

The PMQs Exchange

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts told Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday: “Plaid Cymru has signed Full Fact’s pledge for an honest general election campaign. 

“One of their asks is to renounce deceptive campaigning tactics. There is evidence of egregious, misleading campaigning in Wales and elsewhere by the Conservatives in recent weeks. We all have a responsibility to campaign honestly, because the alternative is to be complicit in dismantling democracy. Therefore, will the Prime Minister sign Full Fact’s pledge for an honest election?”

His reply appeared to ignore the fact that Saville Roberts doesn’t represent Labour. 

He said: “I was pleased to be in Wales last week and these are the facts on the ground. The Labour-run Welsh NHS is performing the worst in the United Kingdom, small Welsh businesses including restaurants are facing a crippling rise in their business rates. 

“And indeed, Welsh farmers are being decimated by the plans of the Welsh Labour Government. Those are the facts in Wales, and we’re going to continue to point them out at every opportunity.” 

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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