Rishi Sunak calls 2024 UK general election

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Rishi Sunak today called a general election for Thursday, July 4, despite his party still lagging 20 points behind Labour in the polls.

The Prime Minister made the announcement from a lectern outside Number Ten shortly after 5pm. He said he had come to office to restore economic stability and the economy was now growing faster than anyone had predicted.

Rishi Sunak stood at a lectern in the pouring rain to call the general election for July 4.  Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireRishi Sunak stood at a lectern in the pouring rain to call the general election for July 4.  Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak stood at a lectern in the pouring rain to call the general election for July 4. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire | PA

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Firing the starting gun six weeks before polling day, he said: “Now is the time for Britain to choose its future - whether to build on the progress it has made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty.”

The Tories have been in power since 2010 when David Cameron, without an overall majority, formed a coalition with the Lib Dems. He quit after the 2016 EU referendum and Theresa May succeeded him, only to quit in 2019 after failing to get the Brexit legislation through the Commons. Boris Johnson took over and won a big majority at the 2019 general election, but was forced out in the wake of the Partygate scandal, making way for the disastrous 49-day premiership of Liz Truss. She was replaced by Mr Sunak in October 2022.

But despite repeated efforts to restore his party’s fortunes, Mr Sunak has failed to make any significant dent in Labour’s poll lead.

An Ipsos survey earlier this week put Labour on 41 per cent and the Conservatives on 20 per cent. And earlier this month, two Tory MPs defected to Labour in as many weeks.

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Another poll last week gave Labour 44 per cent support with the Tories trailing on 24 per cent. A seat predictor by Electoral Calculus suggested that would translate into 469 seats for Labour, leaving the Tories with just 102, giving Keir Starmer a 288-seat overall majority.

The election announcement came after official figures showed inflation dropped to 2.3 per cent in April, the lowest level since July 2021.  The Prime Minister hailed it as a "major milestone" for the country and claimed inflation was "back to normal".  But the decline was smaller than expected by some economists, who had predicted a figure of 2.1 per cent.

Ministers were summoned to Downing Street for a Wednesday afternoon Cabinet meeting, after the usual Tuesday slot was cancelled because of trip to Austria by Mr Sunak.

Earlier, at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, Mr Sunak refused to rule out a summer election.  SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn asked: "Speculation is rife, so I think the public deserve a clear answer to a simple question. Does the Prime Minister intend to call a summer general election or is he feart?"

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Mr Sunak replied: "There is, Mr Speaker - spoiler alert - there is going to be a general election in the second half of this year."

Many had expected the election to be called in the autumn, but when Mr Sunak's press secretary was asked today whether he could call a snap election for July, she told reporters she was "not going to rule anything in or out".

And speculation was fuelled when it emerged Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron was cutting short a visit to Albania to return for the Cabinet meeting and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delayed a trip to the Baltic states so could also attend.  

Ahead of the announcement, a spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer said: "We are fully ready to go whenever the Prime Minister calls an election. We have a fully organised and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election so would urge the Prime Minister to get on with it."

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