The party will unveil a new series of attack ads on Tuesday, accusing the Prime Minister of not wanting to cut taxes on “working people”.
The Leader of the Opposition has decided to continue the controversial tactics despite being accused of inflammatory and unfair rhetoric, including by some of his own colleagues.
Almost half of the Shadow Cabinet’s members have declined to share the attack ads which claim that Mr Sunak does not care about bringing dangerous criminals to justice, while shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, is understood to be uncomfortable with the campaign.
In a letter to his top team sent on Monday evening, Sir Keir insisted it was important to attribute the Government’s failings to the Prime Minister personally.
He wrote: “Rishi Sunak is the chief architect of choices prioritising the wealthiest and of the Government’s failure to get a grip of the economy and get growth going. The Prime Minister is the chancellor who oversaw Britain going into the pandemic so exposed that we suffered the biggest economic hit of major economies. He wasted public money handing over billions to fraudsters at every turn.”
Sir Keir concluded: “The voters must know that Rishi Sunak’s fingerprints are all over their struggling household budgets.”
The party’s new campaign image being distributed on social media from today reads: “Do you think it’s right to raise taxes for working people when your family benefitted from a tax loophole? Rishi Sunak does.”
Diane Abbott is the latest senior Labour figure to criticise the crime ads. She tweeted: “Do people want a party that posts pictures of an Indian heritage PM claiming he does not want sex offenders put in prison?”
Writing in the Daily Mail, Sir Keir defended his approach despite the backlash. He said: “Over the last decade, we have become a country where thugs, gangs and monsters mock our justice system and make decent people’s lives a misery. I refuse to just stand by or avoid calling this what it is.”
Emily Thornberry, the shadow Attorney General, insisted it was right to blame Mr Sunak for unreasonably lenient prison sentences. She told Times Radio: “The Prime Minister in the end is the leader of the Conservative Party that has been in power for 13 years and during that time, the criminal justice system has collapsed. So yes, he is in the end, responsible for it, he is ultimately responsible.
“My view is that if someone is responsible for something, if they could do something about it, and if an attack ad is based on objective facts, then why do we need to apologise for it? I mean, more importantly, is getting something done about it.”
Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, added: “We should be more offended by the Tories’ shocking 13 years of failure to tackle crime than by Labour’s attempts to expose it and end it.”
The controversial Labour attacks on Mr Sunak were drawn up by members of Sir Keir’s inner circle as an attempt to ensure the Prime Minister cannot escape the divisive legacy of 13 years of Conservative Government.
The original social media ad, saying “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t”, is understood to have been designed by some of the Leader of the Opposition’s key aides.
MPs have blamed Morgan McSweeney, Labour’s campaign director, while polling chief Deborah Mattinson is also under fire.
But shadow ministers told i they backed the campaign to tie Mr Sunak to his party’s record even though he did not become an MP until 2015 and has led the Conservatives for just a few months. One said: “With an election, a Tory PM has to answer for 13 years of Tory government.”
Another frontbencher added: “I’m just so sick of their constant searching for headlines approach while everything in justice lies in tatters.”
Sir Keir’s inner circle had long stoked complaints among MPs before Labour started soaring in the polls last autumn. Even now, some party figures believe the leader’s team is too defensive and has not done enough to set out a positive vision to voters.