Sunak told to ‘get on with it’ and call election amid rumours of summer vote

Downing Street declined to quell speculation that the Prime Minister could announce a polling day or a reshuffle.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged to call a general election
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been urged to call a general election (Peter Byrne/PA)

Rishi Sunak has been urged to “get on with it” and call a general election as he fuelled speculation that he could have his eye on a summer polling day.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the Conservative Party leader refused to rule out a summer vote as he repeated his mantra that it will happen in the second half of the year – which could be as early as July.

Rumours about an imminent announcement swirled amid some rare welcome news for Mr Sunak, as official figures showed inflation slowed to 2.3% in April, the lowest level since July 2021.

The rumour mill was stoked further as it emerged Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delayed a trip to the Baltic states by a few hours and Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron cut short a visit to Albania so they could attend a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Downing Street did nothing to quell the speculation or some claims that Mr Sunak could instead announce a reshuffle of his top team, with questions over Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s political fate.

Mr Sunak, when challenged over whether he was intending to fire the starting gun on an election campaign, told the Commons: “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.”

(Press Association Images)

Labour urged the Prime Minister to “get on with it” and trigger a general election which Britons are “crying out for”.

A spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer 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 declined to repeat Rishi Sunak’s pledge to keep Jeremy Hunt in post as Chancellor until the election
No 10 declined to repeat Rishi Sunak’s pledge to keep Jeremy Hunt in post as Chancellor until the election (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Sunak’s press secretary told reporters in Westminster she was “not going to rule anything in or out” when pressed on whether he could call an election for July.

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

She also refused to “comment on reshuffle speculation” and ducked questions on Mr Hunt’s future.

Mr Sunak has previously pledged that Mr Hunt would stay at the helm of the Treasury until the forthcoming election, though the Chancellor is at risk of being ousted from his Godalming and Ash seat.

But the press secretary refused to repeat Mr Sunak’s promise, saying only: “We think the Chancellor’s doing a very good job and it’s very clear that the economy is on the up.”

Mr Hunt has pulled out of a planned appearance on ITV’s Peston on Wednesday evening.

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 next election, with Labour retaining a double-digit lead.

(PA Graphics/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.

If Mr Sunak were to call an election afterwards, a six-week campaign could mean a July 4 polling day.

The Prime Minister would need to ask permission from the King to dissolve Parliament.

If granted, dissolution would be timed to allow for the vote to happen on Mr Sunak’s preferred date.

Polling day takes place 25 working days after dissolution, with bank holidays not counted, and is by convention held on a Thursday.

At the point of dissolution, every seat in the Commons would become vacant and Government would enter a pre-election period during which its activity would be restricted.

Mr Sunak could instead on Wednesday name a date for later in the year, with the latest possible option being January 28 2025.