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Thursday, May 23, 2024

UK PM Sunak calls snap general election

The leader of the Tory party has set a polling date of July 4

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a surprise early general election for July. Wednesday’s announcement sets the scene for a contest that will see Labour’s Keir Starmer attempt to take power after 14 years of Conservative-led government.

Sunak announced the election outside his Downing Street residence on Wednesday. The prime minister said that his decision to call a vote was primarily motivated by economic factors, stating that “things are not easy” for many Britons.

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“For so many of us it is easy to forget the scale of what we have been through,” he said, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict as reasons for Britain’s stubbornly high inflation rate and rising cost of living.

Sunak had previously said that his “working assumption” was that an election would be held in the second half of the year. British pundits had reported that the vote would likely be held in autumn, after an expected boost from tax cuts in the forthcoming budget.

However, government sources told The Guardian that Sunak was persuaded to press ahead with a July election as the country’s economic condition is unlikely to improve over the coming months. Earlier on Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics revealed that inflation had fallen from 3.2% in March to 2.3% in April, missing the Bank of England’s target of 2%.

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Sunak’s Conservative Party has been in power since 2010, with Sunak leading the country since October 2022, when he won a leadership contest to succeed Liz Truss. However, the Conservatives have trailed the Labour Party in opinion polls since late 2021, and earlier this month suffered their worst local election defeat in 40 years.

The vote saw the Conservatives lose 474 of their 985 council seats, while Labour picked up 186 and the Liberal Democrats 104. “We think the country is crying out for a general election so I would urge the prime minister to get on with it,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said before Sunak’s announcement.