British PM Rishi Sunak declares July 4 as UK general election date

PTI, May 23, 2024, 9:13 AM IST

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday ended frenzied speculation by announcing that the country’s general election will be held on July 4.

In an address from the lectern on the steps of 10 Downing Street on a rainy London evening, the country’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage confirmed a summer poll in six weeks’ time and that the Parliament would soon be dissolved after he formally informed King Charles III of the election timeline.

The 44-year-old leader laid out his record in office in his pitch to the British electorate, who will soon give their verdict at the ballot box.

“I will do everything in my power to provide you with the strongest possible protection I can. That is my promise to you… now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” he said.

It comes as the governing Conservative Party is forecast for a general election drubbing by most opinion polls, with the Opposition Labour Party holding a firm lead after a series of recent byelection and local election victories.

A Labour spokesperson said the party is “fully ready to go whenever” and that the country is “crying out for a general election”.

Earlier, speculation around a UK general election being around the corner, possibly in early July, went on overdrive as Sunak chaired a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street for which ministers rather unusually cut short foreign visits and changed their plans to ensure they can attend.

Sunak stuck to his stance of a general election in the “second half of this year” when asked in the House of Commons during his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

However, UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delayed his flight to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) meeting and Foreign Secretary David Cameron cut short his visit to Albania in order to be in London for the Cabinet meeting was soon directly connected with the prospect of an election date announcement in the offing.

“As I have said repeatedly, there is — spoiler alert — going to be a general election in the second half of this year,” Sunak told MPs in the Commons.

“At that moment, the British people will in fact see the truth… it will be a party [Labour] that is not able to say to the country what it would do, a party that would put at risk our hard-earned economic stability, or the Conservatives who are delivering a secure future for our United Kingdom,” he said.

The election date announcement came on the day of some good news on the UK economy with inflation figures dropping to 2.3 per cent, the lowest in three years and in line with Sunak’s pledge to cut inflation by more than half from the 11 per cent mark when he took charge in October 2022.

“Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone,” he said in response to the welcome statistics.

It added further credence to the speculation around an earlier than expected election, which was previously expected in October or November. It transpired that Sunak had in fact called the Cabinet meeting to inform his ministers that he had spoken to the King to dissolve Parliament for a general election on the first Thursday of July – with elections in the UK traditionally held on Thursdays.

The repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2022 restored the ability of British prime ministers to set election dates. However, by law a general election has to take place at least every five years, which made January 2025 the outermost deadline for Sunak to go to the ballot box.

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