Image: Flickr / The Conservative Party

UK general election called for 4 July, as Sunak rolls dice on summer poll

The United Kingdom will face an unexpected summer general election, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called one for 4 July, in an audacious bid to retain power against the odds.

At 5pm on Wednesday 22 May, Mr Sunak announced that he had sought the King’s permission to dissolve Parliament, triggering a six-week campaign period. Surprisingly, the general election will take place in the summer, rather than in the autumn as had been widely expected.

Sunak’s reflective speech, delivered in the pouring rain, referred to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine War as episodes in the most challenging period in British history. He suggested that Britain can “build on the future”, on the path created by his governing Conservative Party.

I will prove to you a Conservative government led by me will not put our economic stability at risk

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister

Sunak called on Britons to choose a “clear plan and bold action” for the future, declaring: “I will prove to you a Conservative government led by me will not put our economic stability at risk.” As rain soaked the lapels of his jacket, the Prime Minister poured his own cold water on the Labour Party, and their leader Sir Keir Starmer, stating he was unsure of their true aims for the country.

The scene surrounding Sunak’s speech was quickly ridiculed by pundits and political opponents alike. Newspaper front-pages almost uniformly depicted the rain-sodden Sunak, with the Daily Mirror‘s headline quipping “Drown and out”. The Daily Telegraph splashed with “Things can only get wetter”, referencing the end of Sunak’s speech which was largely drowned out by protestors playing the D:Ream song of a similar name, synonymous with Tony Blair’s election win in 1997. As it stands, in opinion polls the Labour Party leads over the Conservatives by 21 points, heightening the risks of an early election for the government.

Sunak’s statement was the culmination of a day of swirling speculation for a general election announcement, with Sunak having hailed the return of inflation “back to normal” levels in earlier Prime Minister’s Question (PMQs), and refused to rule out an announcement. Analysts suggested the move represented a “do it now or it could get worse” scenario, with previous hoped-for positive economic forecasts disappearing.

July elections have been a rarity in British political history, with the last having taken place in 1945, when Clement Attlee’s Labour won election at the close of the Second World War. Summer elections can be beneficial in terms of political strategy: the upcoming Euros football season and the better weather are expected to create an overall more positive atmosphere.

We will be putting all of our efforts into campaigning to bring socialist, working-class, progressive politics […] back to the UK

Warwick Labour

Warwick’s political societies were bullish following the announcement. A spokesperson for Warwick Labour said the society was “more than ready to fight another election”, following the victory of Westwood’s Grace Lewis at the local elections in May.

They said: “We will be putting all of our efforts into campaigning to bring socialist, working-class, progressive politics, like that of Zarah Sultana, back to the UK after 14 years of destructive Tory rule.”

Ms Sultana, the MP for Coventry South, which includes most of the University, told The Boar that: “This is our chance to finally boot the Conservatives out of Downing Street.”

“They’ve slashed funding for public services, run our schools and hospitals into the ground, overseen an unprecedented fall in living standards, scapegoated minorities, cut support for the poorest, and helped the super-rich get even richer.

“Students and young people are amongst the worst affected: Rents are sky-high, student debt is soaring, insecure work is rife, and our future is threatened by climate chaos. It is little wonder young people are facing a mental health crisis.”

MP for the neighbouring constituency of Warwick and Leamington, Matt Western, sought to emphasise his own personal ties to students. He said: “For the past two years, I have served as the Shadow Minister for Higher Education. From engaging with students around the country and particularly students at the University of Warwick, I know just how important it is that we have a Government that will engage with students rather than pick political fights with them.”

His main challenger, the Conservative’s James Uffindell, praised the circumstances of the election: “A time where the economy has seen the fastest growth in years and inflation has fallen to 2.3%.”

He added: “It is clear that Rishi Sunak’s plan for the economy is working and having led us through a nationwide recovery after the pandemic and a war in Europe, he is the right person to lead this country into a brighter future.”

The Warwick Tories were approached for comment. A post on their Instagram following the announcement simply declared: “Bring it on.”

Both Sunak and Starmer will continue to decimate our public services

Warwick Liberal Democrats

The Warwick Liberal Democrats were scathing of both main parties. While they said they welcomed “any and every opportunity to remove this catastrophic Conservative government, whose countless prime ministers have ruined so much and improved so little”, they made clear their determination to stand up “in the face of a presumptive Labour government with no ambition or compassion.”

“Both Sunak and Starmer will continue to decimate our public services, throw vulnerable minorities under the bus at any opportunity, and offer no real constitutional change to our tired political system,” they added.

The tide of British politics, already uncertain, has been thrown into even more tumultuous circumstances. Britain stands at the cusp of what is sure to be a momentous election, unsure whether Sunak’s electoral gambit will see him succeed, or mark a bitter end to the Conservative Party’s decade in power.

Comments (1)

  • Graham Maitland

    An excellent well-balanced article, well researched and with good analysis.

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