Rishi Sunak finally gives his verdict on an early May election

Rishi Sunak has ruled out holding a general election on May 2, when voters are set to go to the polls for the local elections.

The prime minister has remained vague about the date of the next national poll, saying only that his “working assumption” is that it will take place in the second half of the year.

But in an interview with ITV News West Country, Mr Sunak definitively ruled out a general election on May 2.

He said: “In several weeks’ time we’ve got elections for police and crime commissioners, for local councils, for mayors across the country – they’re important elections.”

Rishi Sunak has said the election will be in ‘the second half of this year’ (ITV News)
Rishi Sunak has said the election will be in ‘the second half of this year’ (ITV News)

Asked whether there would be a general election on the same day, he said: “There won’t be an election on that day.” He did not rule out an early election in the spring or summer more broadly.

The statement comes off the back of mounting speculation in Westminster that the prime minister was preparing to call a general election to coincide with local elections in order to stave off rebel plans to overthrow him and reap an advantage from the spring budget.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt cut a further 2p off national insurance during the spring statement in a last-ditch bid to woo voters.

Labour has been particularly keen to talk up the prospect of a general election in May, with shadow cabinet office minister Jonathan Ashworth betting Sky News presenter Kay Burley £10 that the election would take place then.

Mr Sunak has indicated the election will take place later this year, but has previously said that 2024 will be an election year.

Speaking to ITV, he said: “I said at the start of this year, my working assumption was we’d have an election in the second half of this year.

Pat McFadden told Rishi Sunak to ‘stop squatting in Downing Street’ (PA)
Pat McFadden told Rishi Sunak to ‘stop squatting in Downing Street’ (PA)

“And nothing has changed since I said that.”

Labour’s national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden said the British people had “the right” to expect a general election on May 2.

He said: “Until the day to call it has passed, we are prepared for the election to take place on the usual day in the election cycle.

“Rishi Sunak should stop squatting in Downing Street and give the country what it desperately needs – a chance for change with a Labour government. The prime minister needs to finally come clean with the public and name the date of the election now.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the comments showed the PM was “running scared” of a May election.

He said: “He knows that voters will not put up with this Conservative government’s failure on the NHS and the cost of living crisis any longer.

“That is why lifelong Conservative voters have switched to the Liberal Democrats in their droves and will vote for a hardworking local champion, rather than another Conservative MP who will take them for granted once again.”

Mr Sunak’s comments came as former cabinet minister Sir Brandon Lewis became the latest Conservative MP to say he will leave parliament at the next election.

The Great Yarmouth MP’s decision to stand down means there are 61 Tories who have said they will not fight their current seat at the next election, although a small number are thought to be looking for different constituencies.

A total of 97 MPs have now said they will not fight their current seats, more than at any election since 2010 when 149 MPs stood down from the Commons.