Prime Minister calls general election for July 4

Rishi Sunak was challenged over rumours that he could imminently fire the starting gun on an election campaign.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted the general election will take place in the second half of the year
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted the general election will take place in the second half of the year (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Rishi Sunak has called a general election for July 4, as contest polls suggest the Tories are on course to lose to Labour.

The Prime Minister is making a statement in Downing Street.

It comes after the Tory leader declared inflation was “back to normal” in a “major milestone” for the country, following official figures showing inflation slowed to 2.3% in April.

Speculation about an announcement mounted in Westminster as Cabinet ministers were summoned for an unusually timed meeting, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron cutting short foreign trips to attend.

The Prime Minister is reported to be informing ministers of the election plan at the gathering.

The media presence in Downing Street has built up throughout Wednesday as rumours about an imminent announcement swirled on a rainy day in Westminster.

General election in second half of the year - PM’s Questions

Earlier, Rishi Sunak had repeated his insistence that the general election would take place in the second half of the year amid mounting speculation he could have his eye on a summer polling day.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, he declined to rule out a summer vote – which some believe could take place on July 4 – when challenged over the timing.

SNP Westminster Leader Stephen Flynn said: “Speculation is rife, so I think the public deserve a clear answer to a simple question. Does the Prime Minister intend to call a summer general election or is he feart?”

Mr Sunak replied: “There is, Mr Speaker – spoiler alert – there is going to be a general election in the second half of this year.

“At that moment, the British people will in fact see the truth about the honourable gentleman opposite me (Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer), because that will be the choice at the next election, Mr Speaker – a party that is not able to say to the country what they would do, a party that would put at risk our hard-earned economic stability, or the Conservatives that are delivering a secure future for our United Kingdom.”

The rumour mill at Westminster has been thrown into overdrive amid some rare welcome news for the Prime Minister, as official figures showed inflation slowed to 2.3% in April, the lowest level since July 2021.

(Press Association Images)

Cabinet ministers are being summoned to Downing Street for a meeting later on Wednesday, after the usual Tuesday slot was delayed by the Prime Minister’s trip to Austria.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has delayed a trip to the Baltic states for a Nato meeting by a few hours so he can attend the Cabinet meeting.

Downing Street did nothing to quell the speculation, with Mr Sunak’s press secretary telling reporters in Westminster she was “not going to rule anything in or out” when pressed on whether he could call a snap election for July.

She declined to say when the second half of 2024 begins in Mr Sunak’s view, noting it “is quite a wide range”.

July is, just, in the second half of the year.

(PA Graphics/Press Association Images)

The press secretary also highlighted Wednesday’s “good inflation news”, after Mr Sunak earlier declared inflation is “back to normal” in a “major milestone” for the country.

It follows a difficult period for the Conservatives, who have suffered two defections by backbench MPs and a drubbing at the local elections earlier this month.

Polls continue to suggest the Tories are on course to lose the forthcoming national vote, with Labour retaining a double-digit lead.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party urged Mr Sunak to “get on with it” and trigger a general election.

A Labour spokesman said: “We are fully ready to go whenever the Prime Minister calls an election. We have a fully organised and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election so would urge the Prime Minister to get on with it.”

But the spokesman accused Mr Sunak of having “bottled it” in the past.

“We’ve seen the Prime Minister has repeatedly marched us up this hill and then bottled it at the last minute when it comes to calling an election, but when it comes to it, however long he keeps delaying it, he cannot avoid the verdict of the British public, which recognises that this is a Government that has failed over the last 14 years and believes that it’s time for a change,” he said.

No 10 also refused to comment on claims that Mr Sunak might instead be about to announce a reshuffle, or that Jeremy Hunt could step down as Chancellor.

“We don’t comment on reshuffle speculation,” his press secretary said.

She declined to repeat Mr Sunak’s previous pledge that Mr Hunt will stay at the helm of the Treasury until the forthcoming election.

When pressed, she said: “We think the Chancellor’s doing a very good job and it’s very clear that the economy is on the up.”

The latest possible date Mr Sunak could hold the election is January 28 2025.