Sunak Rules Out May 2 UK Election, Vote Likely Later in Year

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ruled out a UK general election on May 2, signaling that a public vote would take place later this year instead.

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“In several weeks on May 2 we have elections on local issues, police and crime commissioners, mayors. There won’t be a general election on that day,” Sunak said in an interview with ITV on Thursday evening.

His remarks end weeks of speculation in Westminster that the premier could seek an early general election. A vote has to be held in Britain before the end of January 2025.

Though Sunak had repeatedly said his “working assumption” was that he would call it in the “second half” of 2024, his previous failure to explicitly rule out a May vote saw rumors build that he was considering a snap election if he judged that his political position was coming under threat.

The prime minister has been under particular pressure in recent days after a series of controversies that provoked mounting criticism from within his own governing Conservative Party, including over racist remarks allegedly said by a top Tory donor.

On Thursday morning, before Sunak sought to put an end to the speculation, Bloomberg reported that some Cabinet ministers were holding private discussions about whether Sunak might have to be replaced before the election.

That was a sign of the level of concern at the top of the party about its current fortunes. The Tories have trailed Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party by around 20 points in opinion polls for months, and a small group of Tory right-wingers have called for him to be ousted.

Sunak’s aides are most likely looking at calling the election in the autumn, Bloomberg has previously reported, although some lawmakers in the Tory party have speculated that July could be another possible date.

The premier’s decision to reject a May 2 election means he will face local elections on that day in which the Tories are widely expected to perform poorly — presenting another moment of danger for Sunak in the days after those votes.

Other flashpoints coming up include questions over whether he will be able to enact his flagship migration policy, which intends to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda by the spring, before the flow of migrants crossing the English Channel picks up again in the summer as the weather improves.

(Adds PM comment in fourth, fifth; analysis in eighth, ninth paragraphs)

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