Rishi Sunak indicates he wants UK election in second half of year


UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suggested he plans to call a UK general election in the fall, as he sought to silence growing calls from opposition parties for a vote in May.
“My working assumption is we’ll have a general election in the second half of this year, and in the meantime I’ve got lots that I want to get on with,” Sunak told broadcasters on Thursday.Even so, he declined to rule out going to the polls in the spring, meaning speculation is likely to continue in Westminster — especially if ratings improve for the governing Conservative Party.
In theory, Sunak can hold an election as late as January 2025, but most political observers expect it in the fall to allow as much time as possible for the Tories to try to close a gap of about 20 points to the opposition Labour Party.
Yet Sunak’s decision to hold a budget — that is widely expected to include tax cuts — earlier than usual in March had triggered speculation the prime minister was considering a national vote coinciding with local elections May 2. The political chatter posed a political risk to Sunak as opposition parties geared up to present the Tories as running scared of voters if they didn’t follow through with a spring election.
His intervention was designed to fend off the problem — though Labour and the Liberal Democrats still accused Sunak of trying to postpone an electoral reckoning.
“Rishi Sunak has bottled it,” Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said in an emailed statement. Labour’s national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden said: “He needs to stop hiding, stop being so weak, stop squatting in Number 10 without a mandate.” The latter point is politically sensitive for Sunak, who has yet to face the electorate as leader and came to power just over a year ago without grassroots members of his Tory party having a say.
Trailing so far behind Labour, Sunak is trying to calculate the best time to appeal to voters to extend the Tories’ 14 years in office. The economy is likely to be central to that pitch, and forecasts by Bloomberg Economics on Thursday suggest the UK is set for a spring boost as inflation falls below the 2% target and the Bank of England cuts interest rates.
That could give Sunak and Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt more room to cut taxes in the March budget. In theory, allowing enough time for voters to feel the benefit of those tax cuts will benefit the Tories come election time.
The prime minister — also a former chancellor — is trying to present himself as a sound steward of the economy after he helped restore a degree of stability following former premier Liz Truss’s disastrous seven-week premiership in 2022. A year ago, Sunak unveiled core promises including to halve inflation, bring down the national debt, and grow the economy.
But so far it’s only on inflation that the goal has been met. The risk is that by opting for a later election, there could be further economic shocks and it’s far from certain he will make clear progress on his other pledges, including to cut National Health Service waiting times.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer said Thursday he plans to take the fight to Sunak’s Conservatives on the economy during the election campaign, saying his party had “turned the tables” on the Tories.
In a speech in Bristol, southwest England he accused Sunak’s party of “driving down” wages and security for working people, and said its record on the economy showed that “what used to be their strength is now their weakness.”
“We don’t just expect an election on the economy; we want an election on the economy,” Starmer said. “We’re ready for that fight.”
Starmer said the Conservatives’ “boast” about tax cuts was contradicted by the fact that Britain’s tax burden has risen to the highest level since World War II on their watch. Answering questions from reporters later, he did not deny reports that he and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves were considering tax cuts but said the priority was to grow the economy first.
He also referred to Truss’s tenure, saying she had “trashed the economy” by making unfunded tax cuts, and he would “never let a Labour government do that to working people.”
Labour has set out plans to charge private schools value added tax and scrap preferential tax treatment for “non-doms” — rich UK residents whose permanent home is considered to be abroad. Starmer said he did not want to “increase” the tax burden for working families but added: “Any tax cuts have to be fair and affordable, we have to be realistic about that.”
Starmer also said he would be “fundamentally opposed” to any Conservative move to reduce inheritance tax in the budget. More broadly, he referred to policies promoted by the right that benefit wealthier people, saying he’s ready to end the “trickle-down nonsense.”
Britain was “crying out for change” after 14 years of Tory governments, he said, pointing to the “understandable despair of a downtrodden country.” He later told Sky News in an interview he wants an election “as soon as possible.”


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