Starmer accuses Sunak of lying about Labour tax plans

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Good morning. Our top story today: Sir Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of “resorting to lies” over Labour’s tax plans, in an escalating election dispute that has put the UK prime minister at odds with the chief civil servant at the Treasury.

Sunak’s claim that Labour would put up household taxes by £2,000 if it won power on July 4 suffered a serious blow when the figure was undermined by James Bowler, the finance ministry’s permanent secretary.

Bowler poured cold water on Sunak’s assertion, made in a fiery television debate with the Labour leader on Tuesday evening, that the number was based on independent analysis of the main opposition party’s plans by civil servants.

Bowler wrote to Darren Jones, Labour’s shadow Treasury chief secretary, to say the figures Sunak used “include costs beyond those provided by the civil service and published online by HM Treasury”.

He added in the letter dated June 3: “I agree that any costings derived from other sources or produced by other organisations should not be presented as having been produced by the civil service. I have reminded ministers and advisers that this should be the case.” Here’s more on the latest development on the campaign trail.

  • ‘Rabbit in the headlights’: Observers questioned why Starmer did not quash Sunak’s £2,000 claim for more than 50 minutes during Tuesday’s hour-long debate.

  • Labour’s tax plans: Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has “no plans” to revive her previous call for a tax increase on the pension savings of higher earners but has refused to categorically rule out such a move.

  • Great British Energy: Labour has promised to turn Britain into an “energy superpower” with a state-owned company that would create jobs and cut bills, but critics have called the idea a gimmick.

With less than a month to go until voting, get the latest updates by signing up for our new UK election WhatsApp channel. And here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • EU elections: The bloc’s parliamentary polls start today, with 370mn eligible voters casting their votes over the next few days. Here’s what to look out for.

  • Eurozone rates: The European Central Bank is expected to start cutting interest rates for the first time in almost five years, after Canada yesterday became the first G7 country to do so in this cycle.

  • Economic data: S&P Global has its construction purchasing managers’ indices for the EU, France, Germany, Italy and the UK, while the Bank of England releases data from its Decision Maker Panel, largely made up of UK chief financial officers.

  • D-Day: US President Joe Biden and other leaders will be in France to mark 80 years since the Allied landings on the coast of Normandy.

How will elections over the next four days change the EU? Join the discussion hosted by FT journalists in our subscriber-only webinar next Wednesday. Sign up here.

Five more top stories

1. UK institutional investors will “struggle to support” Shein’s potential flotation in London over concerns about its alleged treatment of workers, fund managers have warned. Human rights groups have claimed ethnic minorities are being subjected to forced labour in the online fashion group’s cotton supply from Xinjiang, which Shein has denied. Here’s what fund managers told the Financial Times.

2. Nvidia’s market value rose past $3tn yesterday to overtake Apple as the world’s second-most valuable company, following a year of incredible growth driven by demand for its artificial intelligence chips. Investors have flocked to Nvidia’s stock as tech groups spend billions of dollars on its chips, with no indication that their spending spree will slow. Read the full story.

  • ‘Most exciting’ thing since WiFi: Nvidia, Intel, AMD and other chip industry giants have hailed an “AI PC revolution” at the annual Computex conference in Taiwan this week.

3. Exclusive: Rishi Sunak put forward Jamie Dimon and former Google chair Eric Schmidt for UK honours, with officials instructed to start the process last month. One of Sunak’s ministers said JPMorgan Chase chief Dimon, who like Schmidt is a US citizen, would “be a strong candidate” for a knighthood. Lucy Fisher has more details.

4. Global investors have pulled a net $40bn from sustainability-focused stock funds, a blow to a much-hyped sector that has attracted trillions of dollars of assets. Research from Barclays shows this is the first year that flows for environmental, social and governance equity funds have trended negative, with redemptions widespread across all main regions. Here’s why enthusiasm for ESG has waned.

5. Exclusive: Regional UK news start-up Mill Media said it would launch a London operation just days after the capital’s Evening Standard said it would scale back its daily newspaper to a weekly edition. The group, using funds raised last year from investors including CNN boss Mark Thompson and economist Diane Coyle, is aiming to double the size of its operations by the end of the year.

The Big Read

Remains of the Old Gang lead smelt mill complex on the Meeth Gill, a tributary of the River Swale in England
Remains of the Old Gang lead smelt mill complex on the Meeth Gill, a tributary of the River Swale in England © Charlie Bibby/FT

About 8,500 old metal mines across the UK continue to disperse toxic metals including lead into the environment every year. They accumulate in waterways, soil and floodplains where they can be consumed by animals or seep silently into agricultural food production and then be passed on to humans. While this harmful legacy of Britain’s industrial past poses risks just as severe as other pressing environmental issues, experts warn that metal contamination receives comparatively little public attention.

We’re also reading . . . 

  • UK trade: A post-election government attempting to treat Britain’s ailing trade policy should take up the doctor’s oath, “first, do no harm”, writes Alan Beattie.

  • Robots and rice bowls: Technological strides have given automata hands soft and sensitive enough to pack bento boxes — and they are coming for your lunch, writes Leo Lewis.

  • BHP’s Anglo bid: The failed takeover attempt has invigorated the mining industry. The challenge now is turning that attention into investment for a sector critical to decarbonisation, writes Tom Wilson.

  • Food security: Increased conflict and extreme weather events are intensifying food crises, with more than one in four children facing severe hunger, according to Unicef.

Chart of the day

Satisfaction with public services in the UK has collapsed over the past three years, according to a new poll that shows hospitals, train companies and schools are held in significantly lower esteem.

Take a break from the news

When it comes to clothes, what is truly worth the money? For men, the consensus answer is shoes. “You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes”, the saying goes. But Robert Armstrong argues that a killer jacket is what really makes a man look and feel his best.

Miles Davis in a brown suede jacket
Miles Davis in a brown suede jacket in 1955 © Alamy

Additional contributions from Benjamin Wilhelm and Gordon Smith

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