Labour has sparked a backlash from the left and right over an attack advert against the Tories. The party’s official Twitter account shared a post claiming that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak did not think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison.
Labour used the tweet to pitch itself as “the party of law and order”.
But the poster has prompted widespread criticism from across the political spectrum.
Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson said: “This is vile and desperate.”
Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “This is not the sort of politics a Labour Party, confident of its own values and preparing to govern, should be engaged in.
“I say to the people who have taken the decision to publish this ad, please withdraw it. We, the Labour Party, are better than this.”
Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood described the ad as “appalling” and said it threatened to undermine the democratic process.
He added: “We should be better than this. I’ve called it out on my own side for stooping low and do so again now.”
SNP MP John Nicolson said: “This is absolutely nauseating. Politics cheapened and debased. The Labour Party wants to win, of course, but like this?”
Tory MP Robert Largan said: “I’m not going to quote tweet it. But that Labour Party post about the Prime Minister is in the gutter. Really shameful stuff.”
A Tory source said: “Labour HQ have highlighted Sir Keir’s appalling record at keeping children safe.
“During Sir Keir’s controversial tenure as director of public prosecutions, less than 30 percent of child pornographers saw the inside of a prison cell.
“It’s no wonder only 12 percent of his staff thought he was any good and criminals want a Labour government.”
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “Survivors of childhood sexual abuse deserve better from the criminal justice system and from their elected representatives.
“This ad is ill-judged. Those of us who want a Labour government deserve campaign materials we can be proud to take into our communities.”
Left-wing commentator Owen Jones said: “This is an absolute shocker of a political ad.”
And left-wing activist Ash Sarkar said: “Next time the right hit Keir Starmer with the Jimmy Savile smears, Labour will not have a leg to stand on re: playing fair.”
Former Conservative minister Rory Stewart said: “I saw, as a justice minister, the horror and damage created in the criminal justice system by this kind of bile.
“It’s bad policy and nasty politics. Labour can and must do much better than this.”
LBC presenter Iain Dale said: “A new low in British political attack ads. Just as I criticised Rishi Sunak for saying Keir Starmer was the ‘friend of people traffickers’, I think this is a disgrace too. I assume these people who didn’t get sent to prison wouldn’t have done under Blair and Brown either.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray added: “Is this really the right thing to say? Not long ago Labour were quite rightly complaining when Starmer was accused of ignoring Savile.”
Boris Johnson last year falsely claimed Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute paedophile Jimmy Savile.
The then PM’s comments during Prime Minister’s Questions drew strong condemnation from his own and opposition MPs.
It comes amid heightened efforts by Labour and the Tories to pitch themselves as the party of law and order in the run-up to local elections on May 4.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Conservatives have left dangerous convicted criminals free to roam the streets. Labour is the party of law and order, and we will implement tougher sentences for dangerous criminals.”