UK PM Rishi Sunak calls snap general election on July 4: ‘Now is the moment…’

Announcing the July 4 general elections, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said these uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action to chart a course to a secure future.

Livemint
Updated22 May 2024
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looks on in Downing Street in London after speaking about the latest inflation figures.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak looks on in Downing Street in London after speaking about the latest inflation figures. (via REUTERS)

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a snap general election on July 4 in a statement from Downing Street on Wednesday night. The prime minister confirmed that he spoke with King Charles "earlier today" to request the dissolution of Parliament for a general election on July 4. "The king has granted this request and the general elections will be held on July 4,' the UK PM announced.

Sunak, 44, will be facing the public for the first time as the leader of the party after being chosen as the leader of the largest party in Parliament by a vote within the Conservatives in October 2022. He took office in October 2022, following the scandal-ridden premiership of Boris Johnson and the upheaval of Liz Truss's 49-day tenure.

After his speech late Wednesday, Sunak posted on X, “These uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action to chart a course to a secure future. You must choose in this election who has that plan and who is prepared to take that bold action to secure a better future for our country and our children.”

He, however, acknowledged that he cannot and will not claim that they got everything right while in power. But he said he is proud of what they achieved and what can be done in the future. "We have tackled inflation, controlled debt, cut workers' taxes...we have seized the opportunities in the Brexit to make this country the best in the world to grow a business," he said.

ALSO READ: Rishi Sunak backtracks on plans to restrict UK graduate visas. What this means for Indian students

The UK prime minister said in his speech that his government has a plan, and that his government is prepared to take bold action. He also said the government is working to ensure the next generation can grow up smoke-free.

Rishi Sunak further added that he made a decision to invest in local transport over HS2, immigration is coming down under his government, and mentions that he is stopping the boats with the Rwanda scheme.

Why Rishi Sunak wants to hold snap polls

The UK prime minister was required to hold a vote by January 2025. But "a fall in inflation rates" provided the backdrop for the announcement made outside Downing Street on Wednesday, CNN reported.

Sunak had claimed that inflation was back under control and the economy was improving. UK inflation fell to the lowest level in nearly three years in April as energy prices continued to cool, according to official figures cited by Reuters.

Sources told the Guardian that Sunak had been persuaded that with the economic backdrop unlikely to improve significantly before the autumn and questions over the delivery of his Rwanda deportation scheme, he would be better off going now.

In the UK, elections must be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister can choose the timing within that period. Sunak had until December to call an election, the last one being in December 2019.

What's next for Sunak?

The announcement came as Sunak's Conservative party faces an uphill struggle to extend its 14 years in power. The centre-left Labour Party is strongly favoured to defeat the Conservatives.

According to CNN, opinion polls currently point to outcomes ranging from a comfortable Labour win to a devastating electoral wipeout for the Conservatives.

According to AFP, the latest YouGov/Times voting intention poll has the Conservatives on 20 per cent and Labour on 47 per cent, while an average of major polls collated by The Economist gives Labour a 23-point lead.

The report added that the Conservatives, who have been in power since 2010, have not come out ahead of Labour in the average of polls since 2021.

Meanwhile, many political analysts had anticipated that a fall election would give Conservatives a better chance of maintaining power. “That’s because economic conditions may improve further, voters could feel the effect of recent tax cuts, interest rates may come down and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could take flight,” the Associated Press reported.

Although inflation has fallen, Sunak’s other promises — to grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists to see a doctor at the state-run National Health Service and stop the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel — have seen less success.

He has struggled after entering office following the disastrous tenure of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days after her economic policies rocked financial markets. Truss had been chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals.

(With inputs from agencies)

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