Speculation mounts as No 10 refuses to rule out general election announcement

No 10 has refused to quash speculation that the prime minister is preparing to announce an imminent general election or to reshuffle his cabinet.

Downing Street said it would not rule anything “in or out” after a morning of feverish speculation among MPs and ministers before a cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson also swerved questions on the future of the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.

The prime minister has previously said that he expects Hunt to stay at the Treasury until the election, though his new Godalming and Ash constituency is under significant pressure from the Lib Dems.

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Asked to deny rumours that Sunak would call the election on Wednesday evening, the spokesperson said: “I know there’s a lot of interest in this, as there has been pretty much every week over the last five months.

“I’ll just say the same thing I’ve always said, which is I’m not going to rule anything in or out. The PM said election – second half of the year.”

David Cameron also had to cut his trip to Albania short so as to be back in London for the cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon. The foreign secretary had been due to meet the Albanian prime minister, Edi Rama, and announce a partnership to train Albanian judges.

Should Sunak call an election on Wednesday evening, a six-week campaign would mean a date of 4 July – though it is possible the prime minister would name a date in the autumn instead.

During exchanges at prime minister’s questions with the SNP leader, Stephen Flynn, Sunak was asked directly whether he was planning to call an election. 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?”

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 [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.”

At the press briefing afterwards, Sunak’s spokesperson was also asked to confirm that there would not be a reshuffle and to reiterate Sunak’s commitment to keeping Hunt in post.

“We don’t comment on reshuffle speculation. We think the chancellor’s doing a very good job and it’s very clear that the economy is on the up. It’s the PM’s decision in terms of the cabinet positions,” she said.

A cabinet meeting is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, postponed from its regular Tuesday slot, because of Sunak’s trip to Vienna on Tuesday.