UK's Sunak Makes Surprise Election Move

With his party far behind in the polls, prime minister calls an election
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2024 11:50 AM CDT
UK PM Calls Surprise Election
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, Wednesday, May 22, 2024.   (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

With his Conservative Party far behind the opposition Labour Party in the polls, Prime Minister has surprised Britain by calling an election for July 4. The latest possible election date would have been January 28 and a fall election had been widely expected. In a statement outside 10 Downing Street, Sunak confirmed the election date and said King Charles III had granted the dissolution of Parliament, the Guardian reports. "Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future," said Sunak, whose party has been in power for 14 years.

  • Sunak is the third prime minister since Boris Johnson led the party to a landslide win in the December 2019 general election. After Johnson resigned, Liz Truss was in office for just 49 days. In his remarks outside Downing Street, Sunak said that since the last election, the country has been through its most challenging time since World War II.

  • Deadline reports that there were "farcical scenes" at the announcement. Sunak was drenched by heavy rain and he had to fight to be heard over a protester playing D:Ream's "Things Can Only Get Better," Labour's anthem from the 1997 election, when Tony Blair led the party to victory.
  • The AP reports that the election announcement came as figures showed inflation in the UK has fallen to 2.3%, the lowest level in around three years. "Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal," Sunak said. "Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone."
  • Sources tell the BBC that rebel Conservative MPs, stunned and angered by the move, are considering a challenge to Sunak's leadership. One MP says it would be "madness" to hold a general election when the party is 20 points behind in the polls.
  • Earlier Wednesday, during Prime Minister's Questions, Scottish National Party MP Stephen Flynn used a Scottish word for frightened when he asked Sunak about election rumors. "Speculation is rife, so I think the public deserves a clear answer to a simple question," Flynn said, per the BBC. "Does the prime minister intend to call a summer general election or is he feart?" Sunak said there would be a general election "in the second half of this year."
(More British elections stories.)

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