Nigel Farage’s Reform UK now only one level behind Tories in one other blow to PM

Rishi Sunak has suffered a fresh blow after bombshell polling showed Reform UK is just one percentage point behind the Tories.

The PM is under growing pressure after unveiling a lacklustre election manifesto that has been torn to shreds by experts. And things have got worse as YouGov figures put the Conservatives on just 18% of votes – down from 19% a week ago.

Reform UK is now within touching distance on 17%, while the Lib Dems – which unveiled their manifesto on Monday, are on 15%. Labour remains ahead on 38%, according to YouGov, but this is down three percentage points in a week.

The Green Party is on 8%, while the SNP is on 2%, according to polling carried out in the past two days. It is the latest setback in a difficult week for Mr Sunak, who was forced to deny that he was on the verge of quitting before the General Election.

Rishi Sunak is under more pressure after his manifesto bombed

Rishi Sunak is under more pressure after his manifesto bombed

The YouGov data is the first released by the pollster since the PM’s D-Day fiasco. He has spent recent days pleading for forgiveness after leaving a commemoration in Normandy ahead of a world leaders’ event in order to film a TV interview.

In an excruciating BBC Panorama interview, he was accused of “bunking off” on Thursday. Host Nick Robinson said many Brits believe it is the “basic duty” of the Prime Minister to have been there. Mr Robinson showed Mr Sunak a photo of David Cameron stepping in and demanded: “How do you feel when you look at that photo of D-Day at Omaha Beach?”

The PM pleaded: “Well, the last thing that I wanted to do was cause anyone any hurt or offence or upset, which is why I apologised unreservedly for the mistake that I made and I can only ask that I hope people can find it within their hearts to forgive me.”

Campaigning in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, alongside Tory defector Lee Anderson, Mr Farage said: “This is not some fringe extreme party. This is a serious political movement with many millions of people supporting it.

“We are now second behind Labour in the whole of the north of England, the East Midlands and West Midlands.”

Mr Farage’s decision to stand in Clacton and take charge of the party has sparked panic within Tory ranks. Home Secretary James Cleverly dismissed him as a “showman” and suggested he’s not a serious politician.

The Reform UK leader shot back: “If I’m not a showman I would be very, very disappointed. The whole point about being in political debate is you have to put on a show to make people listen to what you’ve got to say.”

On a difficult day Mr Sunak unveiled over £17billion of tax cuts in a desperate bid to turn his fortunes around. But experts aren’t convinced he can deliver what he promised.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) economic think tank was sceptical about the Tories’ ability to raise the money needed for the plans. Director Paul Johnson said: “The Conservatives have promised some £17 billion per year of tax cuts, and a big hike in defence spending.

“That is supposedly funded by reducing the projected welfare bill by £12 billion; cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion; and saving billions from cutting civil service numbers, reducing spending on management consultants, and ‘quango efficiencies’. Those are definite giveaways paid for by uncertain, unspecific and apparently victimless savings. Forgive a degree of scepticism.”

YouGov polled 1,650 voters between June 10 and 11