Rishi Sunak stuns Westminster by calling snap election for July 4th

British prime minister, whose Conservative party trails Labour by 20 points in polls, says vote will take place on July 4th

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has stunned Westminster by calling a snap election for July 4th, four months earlier than had been predicted.

Mr Sunak made the announcement outside 10 Downing Street late on Wednesday afternoon in the pouring rain, as anti-Brexit campaigners gathered nearby tried to drown him out with a loudspeaker blaring D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, the election anthem for Labour’s 1997 landslide.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” said Mr Sunak, as the damp seeped into his suit jacket and the protesters turned up the volume.

The Labour Party, currently 20 points ahead of the Tories in polls, wasted no time responding to the news. Labour leader Keir Starmer released his party’s first campaign video on social media while Mr Sunak was still at the lectern addressing the British people. The video was tweeted under a one-word headline: “Change.”


Mr Sunak told the British public he had already been to see King Charles earlier on Wednesday to request the dissolution of parliament, ahead of a 4.15pm cabinet meeting at which he confirmed to ministers his plan to go to the country.

The House of Commons will be dissolved on May 30th, giving MPs one week to do the “washing up”, the tidying up of the legislative agenda and the rushing through of last minute votes on matters that are already at an advanced stage.

Most MPs had assumed until recently the election would not be held until late in the autumn or early winter, with November 14th previously seen as the most likely date. However, economic data appears to have been crucial in Mr Sunak’s decision to go early.

UK inflation data released on Wednesday morning showed a drop in the rate to 2.3 per cent in April, down from 3.2 per cent in March. Although this allowed Mr Sunak to claim that one of his key promises to the public – bringing inflation under control – had been met, the rate was still slightly higher than many economists had predicted.

This led to speculation the Bank of England may delay interest rate cuts, reducing the advantage in holding out for longer if Mr Sunak’s aim was to fight a campaign based on his economic stewardship. Official data also suggested there might be no fiscal room for tax cuts later in the year, which also helped to crystallise arguments for going earlier.

The early election date also means Mr Sunak will have to fight the campaign without getting his flagship Rwanda immigration policy off the ground. However, his speech at Number 10 suggested he will fight the campaign more on themes related to the economy and national security.

Mr Starmer, meanwhile gave a speech in central London minutes after Mr Sunak’s in which he laid out the battle lines upon which his party’s campaign will be fought.

“We can stop the chaos. We can turn the page. We can start to rebuild Britain,” said Mr Starmer

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times