British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Schedules July 4 Election for UK Governance

Rishi Sunak Attends PMQs

(LONDON) — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak designated July 4 as the date for a general election to determine the leadership of the U.K., choosing a day of positive economic news to urge voters to grant his governing Conservatives another election term.

“It is time for the United Kingdom to select its future,” Sunak declared.

Sunak’s center-right party has faced declining support after 14 years in power. It has struggled to overcome a series of challenges, including an economic downturn, ethical controversies, and a revolving door of leaders in the past two years.

The center-left Labour Party is heavily favored to defeat Sunak’s party.

Speculation about an imminent election grew when Sunak called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday afternoon – instead of the customary Tuesday – and Foreign Secretary David Cameron returned early from a trip to Albania to attend.

The election will take place amidst a cost-of-living crisis and intense debate over how to address the issue of migrants and asylum seekers making perilous English Channel crossings from Europe.

The announcement coincided with official figures showing a significant decline in U.K. inflation to 2.3%, its lowest level in almost three years, largely due to lower household energy costs.

The April drop represents the most significant progress to date on Sunak’s five pledges made in January 2023, including halving inflation, which had reached over 11% at the end of 2022. Sunak hailed the latest figures as evidence of his plan’s effectiveness.

“Today marks a significant milestone for the economy, with inflation returning to normal levels,” stated Wednesday. “Brighter days lie ahead, but only if we adhere to the plan to enhance economic security and opportunities for all.”

Voters across the United Kingdom will elect all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that secures a majority in the Commons, either independently or through a coalition, will form the next government, with its leader serving as prime minister.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, is the current frontrunner. The party’s momentum has increased since its significant victories in local elections earlier this month.

The Conservatives have also lost a series of special elections for seats in Parliament this year, and two of its lawmakers recently defected to Labour.

Following his party’s successes in the local elections, 61-year-old Starmer announced a platform focused on economic stability after years of rising inflation, aiming to win over disenchanted voters.

He also pledged to enhance border security, increase the number of teachers and police, and reduce wait times at hospitals and clinics.

Elections in the U.K. must be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister has discretion to select the timing within that period. Sunak, 44, had until December to schedule an election. The most recent election was held in December 2019.

Many political experts believed that a fall election would provide the Conservatives with a better chance of retaining power. This is because economic conditions could improve further, voters could benefit from recent tax cuts, interest rates might decrease, and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could be implemented.

Sunak had been evasive about the election date, repeatedly stating — even as late as Wednesday lunchtime — that he expected it to be held in the latter half of the year.

Despite the decline in inflation, Sunak’s other promises — to boost economic growth, reduce debt, shorten wait times for National Health Service appointments, and curb migrant crossings across the English Channel — have had less success.

He has faced challenges after taking office following the tumultuous tenure of Liz Truss, who stepped down after her economic policies caused turmoil in financial markets. Truss was chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted due to a series of ethical scandals.