Rishi Sunak announces July 4 general election in huge gamble which stuns Tory MPs

Rishi Sunak announced a July 4 general election in a huge gamble which stunned Tory MPs.

The Prime Minister made a statement in Downing Street at around 5pm on Wednesday confirming he would go to the country in the summer, with the Tories currently around 20 points behind in the polls.

Mr Sunak said: “ Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future.

Speaking outside No10, he stressed: “Earlier today, I spoke with His Majesty the King to request the dissolution of Parliament. The King has granted this request and we will have a General Election on the Fourth of July.

"Now I cannot and will not claim that we have got everything right. No government should.

"But I am proud of what we have achieved together, the bold actions we have taken, and I'm confident about what we can do in the future.”

He had started by reminding everyone of his most popular days in office, when as Chancellor he announced the launch of massive Government support during the Covid pandemic including furlough packages to protect people’s jobs.

“You met that challenge, and then some, and I have never been prouder to be British,” he said.

He added: "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 will forever do everything in my power to provide you with the strongest possible protection."

But as he did, protesters started playing “Things Can Only Get Better”, and the rain started dampening his sharply cut suit.

Sir Keir Starmer making his speech (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer making his speech (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Labour immediately responded with a slickly produced video on social media that detailed Britain's economic and social ills under 14 years of Tory rule. Sir Keir Starmer delivered a one-word tweet over the video: "Change."

In a formal response, the Labour leader later appealed to people to vote for his party, saying: “Together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country.”

Speaking in central London, and indoors in contrast to Rishi Sunak's rain-drenched speech in Downing Street, Sir Keir said the election was "an opportunity for change".

He said: "Over the course of the last four years, we have changed the Labour Party, returned it once more to the service of working people.

"All we ask now, humbly, is to do exactly the same for our country and return Britain to the service of working people."

He mentioned "change" eight times in his five-minute speech, and repeated "stop the chaos" three times.

After criticising the state of Britain's public services, rivers and economy, Sir Keir warned that a vote for the Conservatives would mean they felt "entitled to carry on exactly as they are" and "nothing will change".

In contrast, he said, Labour offered to "turn the page on all that" and "reset both our economy and our politics".

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

Just hours Conservative MPs were downplaying the prospect of a July election, with one branding such a move as “insane”.

Some Tory MPs reacted furiously to the announcement, as they fear the short timescale will make it harder for them to win their seats, compared to an autumn election.Several Labour MPs were jubilant at the decision.

Mr Sunak was straight out on the campaign trail speaking at his party’s first general election rally at east London’s ExCel Centre on Wednesday night.

Rishi Sunak waved as he arrived to speak at a general election campaign event at the ExCeL in east London (AFP via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak waved as he arrived to speak at a general election campaign event at the ExCeL in east London (AFP via Getty Images)

Joined by his almost his entire cabinet of ministers and about a hundred party members, the PM used it as an opportunity to claim that the Tories are still in with a fighting chance of winning the election.

"Labour want you to think this election is over before it's even begun," he said.

"But we are going to fight. We are going to fight every day for our values and our vision."

Labour begins the campaign in a strong position, with a 20-point lead over the Conservatives, but with a stiff challenge after suffering its worst defeat in decades in 2019.

Mr Sunak claimed that "in every way, Labour would make our country less secure", while arguing that his party have "a clear plan, with bold action, to secure our future".

He also emphasised that the UK was on a positive trajectory economically, saying: "Wages have been rising faster than prices for ten months now. The economy has turned a corner. Friends, our plan is working."

The PM was introduced on stage by Home Secretary James Cleverly, who referred to the news today that inflation, in the year to April, dropped to 2.3 per cent, down from 3.2 per cent in March, and almost reaching the Government's target of two per cent.

"Today, we have fantastic economic figures," said Mr Cleverly. "Inflation is now back where it should be... Not by accident, but because of choices."

In a nod to the war in Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East, he added: "In a time of turbulence, when there is danger across the globe... We need a leader at the head of a Government who is willing to make the right choices."Election fever had gripped Westminster all day.

But bit by bit more signs emerged that a big announcement was coming.

The Cabinet had been summoned for an afternoon meeting, unusual in itself.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron was called back early from a visit to Albania.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delayed flying on a trip to the Baltics.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pulled out of appearing on ITV’s Peston show.

Mr Sunak was challenged at Prime Minister’s Questions by Scottish National Party Westminster leader Stephen Flynn to rule out a summer election.

The premier responded: “Spoiler alert there is going to be a general election in the second half of this year.”

Parliament will be prorogued on Friday 24 May. Dissolution will take place on Thursday 30 May.

The new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday 9 July, when the first business will be the election of the Speaker and the swearing-in of members, and the State Opening will be on Wednesday 17 July.

The election announcement came just hours after official figures showed inflation had fallen from 3.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent, closer to the Bank of England’s two per cent target, but not as big a fall as the City had expected.

This put back the markets’ expectations of a June interest rate cut, possibly to as late as September.

Some Tory MPs had been hoping for two or three interest rate cuts before a general election in the autumn.

Mr Hunt was dealt a blow, possibly making it harder to deliver pre-election tax cuts, as official figures revealed borrowing for April overshot forecasts, hitting £20.5 billion, in the fourth-highest April since records began in 1993.

The summer election also raised fresh doubts over whether the Government will get its flagship Rwanda deportation flights off the ground within months.

Mr Sunak had pledged that the planes, carrying asylum seekers and economic migrants who had arrived in Britain by “small boats” would be taking off by July.

However, the controversial policy faces a string of court challenges, having already suffered a setback by a ruling in Northern Ireland.

So, the Prime Minister’s advisers may have been advocating going to the country early before another summer of migrants risking their lives to cross the Channel in overcrowded unseaworthy inflatable boats.