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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised billions of pounds in tax cuts for working people if re-elected, in a last-ditch attempt to overturn opinion polls that predicted a heavy defeat for him in the British election on July 4.

His Conservative Party is consistently around 20 percentage points behind Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party in the polls. On Tuesday, Sunak again appealed to the country’s carpenters, bricklayers and electricians, as one Conservative MP described it, promising them further tax cuts if they vote for him.

The party manifesto aims to put tax cuts at the heart of the election campaign. Sunak’s team is convinced that this move will put pressure on the Labour Party, which has traditionally been seen as the party of tax increases and government spending.

Starmer has said his party will not raise key taxes.

Sunak, a 44-year-old former investment banker, acknowledged that people were frustrated with him and his party after 14 years in power that were at times marked by political turmoil and scandal and in which many struggled to survive.

The Conservative Party ManifestoThe Conservative Party Manifesto

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative manifesto aims to focus the campaign on tax cuts. (EPA PHOTO)

The twin shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic and energy price spikes have pushed up consumer prices by 21 percent in three years, the tax burden relative to economic output has risen to its highest level since the post-war period, and public service failures have created a sense of unease.

But Sunak argued that the economy was finally recovering and that if re-elected he would cut payroll tax to further stimulate economic growth.

“I am aware of the fact that people are frustrated with our party and with me,” he said at the launch of the Conservative manifesto, which outlined the Conservatives’ policy promises for the future.

“Things have not always been easy and we have not done everything right, but we are the only party in this election with the big ideas to make our country a better place to live.”

As part of the plan, unveiled on Tuesday at the Silverstone Formula One race track in central England, Sunak announced plans to cut taxes by £17.2 billion ($33.2 billion) annually by 2029/30.

This will be financed by annual cuts in social spending of £12 billion and savings of £6 billion a year by combating tax avoidance and evasion.

The largest tax cut (£10 billion of the planned £17 billion) is a two percentage point cut in employee social security contributions, due to come into force in April 2027.

In the past, promises to cut social spending by similar amounts have taken longer than planned.

Labour described the manifesto as “a desperate wish list of unfunded policies” and drew parallels with Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss, whose economic policies had led to higher borrowing costs and rising mortgage rates.

“This is a recipe for five more years of Tory chaos and the British people will pay the price,” said Rachel Reeves, the Labour Party’s incoming finance minister.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, described the tax cuts as “gifts financed by uncertain, unspecified and seemingly sacrificeless savings.”

“Forgive me for my skepticism,” he said.

As part of his pledges, Sunak said he would help the self-employed by abolishing their main social security contribution by the end of the next parliamentary term. This could benefit 4.3 million people, who make up about 13 percent of all employed people.

But so far, Sunak’s message has failed to threaten Labour’s lead.

Some polls show that many voters want change and greater investment in public services rather than tax cuts, from which they have not yet seen any benefits.

Labour will publish its manifesto on Thursday.

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