‘Himalayan mountain to climb’ and a ‘suicide mission’: How the world’s press reacted to Sunak’s election call

The front page of the New York Times' website
The front page of the New York Times' website - The New York Times

Rishi Sunak has called a snap general election for July – sparking surprise at home and around the world.

With the Tories about 20 points behind Labour in the polls, most of the world’s media are expecting a new party in No 10 for the first time in 14 years.

Here is how the world’s newspapers reacted to the news.

United States

American newspapers expressed scepticism about Mr Sunak’s decision to call an election, with all outlets dwelling on his low poll scores and persistent problems with the UK economy.

The New York Times said the British public “appears eager for change after 14 years of Conservative government,” noting that the Tories have “led Britain since Barack Obama was America’s president”.

“With the opposition Labour Party ahead in most polls by double digits for the last 18 months, a Conservative defeat has come to assume an air of inevitability,” the newspaper said.

It added that the “electoral mountain [Mr Sunak] must climb is Himalayan”.

Rishi Sunak's early election decision described as 'suicide mission' by Fox News
Rishi Sunak's early election decision described as 'suicide mission' by Fox News - Fox News

The Wall Street Journal, a conservative-leaning broadsheet, said that the Prime Minister was “attempting one of the biggest turnarounds in recent British political history” but that “many pollsters, and even members of the Conservative Party, have written off the Tories’ chances of securing a fifth successive term”.

Sunak ‘eyeing a job in California’

It warned that the election “could be a cataclysm for the Conservative Party,” and described its “main legacy” of Brexit as “unpopular”.

The Washington Post, which is considered to be centre-Left, said that Mr Sunak had a “high probability” of “ushering in a new era of Labour Party leadership”, pointing to “rumours that he was eyeing a job in California for his life after office”.

The newspaper said that Sir Keir Starmer was “maybe not as solidly centrist as former Prime Minister Tony Blair”, but “close”.

CNN, the Left-leaning broadcaster, said voters were asking Mr Sunak one question: “Why should you be given another go?”

Fox News quoted an analyst describing the election as a “suicide mission” and Labour as a “far-Left” party that would herald “the final sunset for the Mighty British Empire”.


Australian news outlets were surprised by Mr Sunak calling a “snap election” - a decision that caught most Australians off guard as they woke to the news.

The Sydney Morning Herald poked fun at Mr Sunak, calling him an almost “comical figure” for standing in the pouring rain, “drenched” to make the announcement, while protesters blared the song Things Can Only Get Better.

The paper said the Tories faced a “thrashing” by the Labour Party, pointing out that after years of scandals, a fallout from the Brexit referendum and a “revolving door of leaders”, many had no faith in the government securing another term.

The Sydney Morning Herald's website on Thursday morning
The Sydney Morning Herald's website on Thursday morning - Sydney Morning Herald

Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun described the Prime Minister’s move as a “gamble for his political life”.

The Australian shared similar sentiments, saying Mr Sunak’s “surprise move” to have an election before the summer break, with a short campaign period, was a “huge gamble”.

‘Never has an election begun with such a whimper’

The paper reported that the Prime Minister was banking that the current polling, which “shows an almost existential crisis for the Tories”, can be turned around in record time.

Meanwhile, an Australian Financial Review (AFR) opinion article said: “There is no Blair-mania about UK Labour leader Keir Starmer.”

The opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review
The opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review - Australian Financial Review

“The Conservative government – now on its fifth Prime Minister since 2010 – has been a pointless charade for months now. What exactly a Labour government will mean is much less clear, ” the piece by Bloomberg columnist Adrian Wooldridge, said.

The piece said the Tories have been “bleeding out in public for months” and Mr Sunak calling the election has finally put the government “out of its misery”. It added that the general election on July 4 “almost certainly means the end of 14 years of Tory rule”.

News site The Conversation said Mr Sunak fired the election gun with a “damp whimper” - adding to the plethora of headlines and puns circulating in the media about the Prime Minister standing in the rain.

'Damp whimper' - The Conversation
'Damp whimper' - The Conversation - The Conversation

“He did it in the pouring rain, and was thoroughly soaked before he’d even got to the point,” the report said.

“The sound of New Labour’s anthem Things Can Only Get Better blasting out in the background from a nearby protester’s speaker only added to the sense of the bizarre. Never has the starting gun for an election been fired with such a whimper.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said Labour was the “clear frontrunner”, but progress on the Rwanda deportation scheme in recent weeks meant that the Tories had “something to highlight” in their campaign.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Herald said a “desperate” Mr Sunak had played his “last card” by calling a “surprise election”.

An opinion piece by UK chief political commentator, Robert Shrimsley, said the move was a “product of his political weakness”.

“It is the play of a man who has run out of ideas, run out of options and sees no reason why his prospects might improve,” the piece read.

The New Zealand Herald's website featured an opinion piece stating the surprise election was the PM's 'last card'
The New Zealand Herald's website featured an opinion piece stating the surprise election was the PM's 'last card' - New Zealand Herald

RNZ, New Zealand’s public broadcaster, described the early election decision as a “risky strategy” considering the Tories are “far behind Labour in the opinion polls”.

“Sunak heads into the election not only far behind the Labour Party in the polls but also somewhat isolated from some in his party, increasingly dependent on a small team of advisers to steer him through what is set to be an ugly campaign,” it said.


El Mundo, one of Spain’s largest newspapers, reported that the announcement “caused astonishment” in the ranks of the Conservative Party given recent polling. Citing the latest Savanta poll, it said the Tories are at a 17-point disadvantage over the Labour Party.

Under the sub-heading “Uncertain times are coming”, the paper reported on Mr Sunak’s warnings on migration and ongoing conflicts that he said threatened “global security”.

“The early call for elections, however, leaves the plan to deport immigrants pending asylum to Rwandan up in the air,” the newspaper reported.

‘PM’s popularity at rock bottom’

The decision to bring forward the election has caused particular “discomfort” in the hard right faction of the Conservative Party, El Mundo reported, describing recent local elections in which the Tories lost half their councillors as a “debacle”.

“The popularity of the Prime Minister actually hit rock bottom in April, with 70 per cent of Britons describing his work as ‘unsatisfactory’, rivalling John Major’s worst numbers in 1994,” the report said.

“The election on July 4, Independence Day in the United States, at least removes possible interference between the two electoral processes, with the US presidential elections scheduled for November 5.”

The front page of a Swedish newspaper, which reads: 'Pressured Sunak calls UK election'
The front page of a Swedish newspaper, which reads: 'Pressured Sunak calls UK election'