Rishi Sunak Calls UK General Election For July 4

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Photo: Collected

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Photo: Collected

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a snap general election, choosing July 4 as the date for a vote his governing Conservatives are widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power. Ending months of speculation as to when he would call a new poll, Sunak, 44, stood outside his Downing Street office on Wednesday and announced he was calling the election earlier than some had expected.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” he said, listing what he considers to be the highlights of his time in government, including the introduction of the so-called furlough scheme that helped businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. “We will have a general election on July 4.”

Sunak heads into the election not only far behind the Labour Party in the polls but also somewhat isolated from some in his party, increasingly dependent on a small team of advisers to steer him through what is set to be an ugly campaign.

Sunak took office less than two years ago and since then has struggled to define what he stands for, becoming increasingly frustrated that what he sees as his successes have failed to be appreciated.

Labour’s Starmer calls for ‘change’

Both parties have all but kicked off campaigning for an election, with the attack lines on the economy and on defence already firmly drawn.

Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said the election would give the country an opportunity to end the “chaos” of Sunak’s Conservative government.

“No matter what else is said and done, that opportunity for change is what this election is about,” Starmer told supporters.

 “A vote for Labour is a vote for stability – economic and political, a politics that treads more lightly on all our lives; a vote to stop the chaos. It’s time for change.”

British elections must be held at least every five years, but the timing is the prime minister’s choice.

Sunak’s Conservatives are running way behind Labour in the opinion polls, and despite hailing a decline in inflation and an increase in defence spending, they have failed to make a dent in the opposition party’s lead.

Sunak is the third Conservative prime minister since the last election in 2019. He managed to steady the economy, but without boosting the Conservatives’ popularity with the public.

He may take heart from figures released Wednesday showing inflation in the UK fell sharply to 2.3 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years on the back of big declines in domestic bills.

But Labour has held a lead over the Conservatives of around 20 points in opinion polls since late 2021 – before Sunak took office in October of that year.

Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said the timing of Sunak’s announcement was “curious”.

It is “hugely surprising that he’s decided to press the go button on a general election quite as early as he has,” Hull said.

“The assumption had been that he would going to wait at least until the autumn, giving his party that much longer to bounce back from its pretty awful situation in the polls – polling consistently, on average, about 20 points behind the opposition Labor party,” he added.

“Why would you go to the polls … when your party is riven with internal divisions, and rumoured dissatisfaction with his own leadership? Possibly because you think things are not going to get any better,” he said._Al Jazeera 

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