22 MAY 2024 | NEWS

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a General Election to be held on 4 July this year. The election will therefore take place six weeks from tomorrow.

While there had been widespread speculation in Westminster from around noon that this announcement would be made, it had previously been anticipated that the election would not take place until the autumn of this year. The PM had said previously that an election was likely to be held “in the second half of this year”, but with nothing more specific than that.

Speaking to the nation from a lectern outside Number 10 Downing Street, as is customary, the PM said: “In the last five years, our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War.”

Referring to the “small acts of kindness” that people have shown each other throughout this period, he added in reference to his introduction of the furlough scheme during Covid: “I have never, and will never, leave the people of this country to face the darkest of days alone – and you know that, because you’ve seen it.”

“I came to office, above all, to restore economic stability. Economic stability is the bedrock for any future success,” he added, saying that “our economy is now growing faster than anyone predicted, outpacing Germany, France and the United States”, also highlighting that “inflation is back to normal”, with price rises and mortgage rates now set to soften.

He challenged the electorate as to: “Who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country?”

The Prime Minister sought an audience with the King earlier today in order to request the dissolution of this Parliament, which was granted. He further highlighted the dangers faced by the Western world, calling for “a clear plan, and bold action, to chart a course to a secure future”.

After listing what he considered to be his Government’s major achievements, Mr Sunak went on to warn voters in respect of the main Opposition party (Labour) that “I don’t know what they offer, and in truth, I don’t think you know either”, adding that “the future can only be uncertain with them” and that “over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote”.

The PM’s speech took place to the backdrop of rainfall and loud protests from just outside the Downing Street secure zone, with protesters blaring the song “Things Can Only Get Better”. This was the victory song used by the Labour Party just after their 1997 landslide victory, and could also be heard from CCHQ when the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority in the 2019 General Election.

The full address can be watched here:

The Prime Minister has since addressed a group of Conservative activists at an event at the ExCel Exhibition Centre in London this evening, where he was introduced by Home Secretary James Cleverly.

Immediately after his announcement, Mr Sunak published this short video on X to explain more concisely why he had called the election at this time, saying that “our plan and our priorities are working”, adding that these were “only ever meant to be the beginning”, and that the choice was between “whether we want to build on the progress that we’ve made, or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty”:

Responding, Labour’s Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, gave a speech in which he highlighted the extent to which the Labour Party had “changed” under his leadership in the past four years, asking “humbly” for people’s votes for “returning Britain to the service of working people”. This was “a moment the country needs and has been waiting for,” he said, while adding that his party would “stop the chaos”, which he attributed to “the Tory chaos in Westminster”. The single word on his lectern was “change”.

He added that “a vote for Labour is a vote to turn the page on all that”, saying Labour did have a plan that was “fully costed and fully funded”. He also set out his intention to reduce energy bills by founding a new publicly owned overarching energy firm – Great British Energy – and to recruit 6,500 additional teachers to ease the pressure on the education system.

Sir Keir’s full response can be watched here:

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said that this election was a “chance to kick Rishi Sunak’s appalling Conservative government out of office and deliver the change the public is crying out for”.

He added: “The NHS has been brought to its knees, people’s mortgages and rents have soared by hundreds of pounds a month and water companies have got away with pumping filthy sewage into our rivers and beaches.

“All because this Conservative government is more interested in fighting between themselves than standing up for the needs of the country.”

Reform UK party leader Richard Tice has since stated simply that “we’re ready”. The party has been assembling a candidate list for 630 out of 650 constituencies over the past couple of years. It will hold a press conference at 11am tomorrow to set out its plans for the General Election campaign. Mr Tice himself will be standing in the constituency of Boston and Skegness.

Parliament will now be dissolved as of next Thursday 30 May. It thus has scant days to complete the ‘wash-up period’, in which the incumbent Government will attempt to get any legislation through the House that was due to pass prior to its dissolution quickly.

It is understood in Westminster that many candidates from all parties are now preparing for an election they were not anticipating this early. One Campaign Manager for the Conservative Party told Wolves that, while they had been preparing, they were “nowhere near ready for that date”.

Further developments will unfold over the coming days, as all the major and minor parties ready themselves to be on an election footing.

Patrick Timms
Patrick is a freelance translator and political journalist who makes regular media appearances, with a background in educational IT. In 2019, he stood as a Conservative Councillor candidate in Crewe West.


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