Politics & News

Tough Challenge: Sunak Calls UK Election for July 4

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set the date of national election on July 4, several months earlier than expected.

Sunak’s announcement comes at a time when his Conservative Party is facing its biggest challenge to its 14-year rule, as it is lagging far behind Labour Party in opinion polls.

Risky Announcement

Addressing the nation outside Downing Street in pouring rain, the British Prime Minister said: “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future and decide whether it wants to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one and no certainty.”

Tough Challenge: Sunak Calls UK Election for July 4
Sunak delivering his speech under heavy rain

Sunak’s announcement was drowned out by protesters playing “Things Can Only Get Better,” a rival Labour campaign anthem from the Tony Blair era. Almost shouting to make his voice heard, he listed what he described as his “achievements” in government, as prime minister and a former finance minister.

He said: “Over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote, I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk.”

The UK Prime Minister accused his main rival, Labour leader Keir Starmer, of always taking the “easy way out” and of having no plan, reported Reuters. “As a result, the future can only be uncertain with them,” he said.

Starmer responded with a statement, saying: “On July 4 you (voters) have the choice and together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country.”

Favorable Timing

The UK Prime Minister determines the date of the election based on his calculation of the date most advantageous to Conservatives. It was widely expected that the election will be held in the autumn, when the ruling party’s chances will have been improved by a number of economic factors.

However, official figures on Wednesday showed inflation in Britain had fallen to 2.3%, the lowest level in nearly three years, according to the Associated Press (AP). This good economic news may have prompted Sunak to make the risky decision and announce his agenda for a new term.

Tough Challenge

Voters throughout the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a 5-year term. The party that secures a majority in the Commons, either alone or in a coalition, will form the next government, with its leader serving as prime minister.

The election comes against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and deep divisions over Britain’s approach towards migrants and asylum seekers crossing the English Channel.

Sunak heads to the election trailing far behind Starmer in opinion polls and relatively isolated from some of his party’s members. He told a rally in east London hours after the announcement: “Labour wants you to think that this election is over before it has even begun. The British people are going to show Labour that they don’t take too kindly to being taken for granted.”

What’s at Stake?

After the formal announcement, Sunak and Starmer will kick off their election campaigns on Thursday, six weeks before voters go to the polls. Both parties face an array of issues. Britain has grappled with high inflation and slow economic growth, making most people feel poorer.

Tough Challenge: British Prime Minister Calls Election for July 4
Labour leader Keir Starmer

Immigration has been a controversial issue in the UK, with thousands of migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats. The government enacted a plan to deport some of migrants to Rwanda, but the plan faced criticism for violating international law and being inhumane.

With regard to health care, Britain’s National Health Service is struggling with long waiting lists for all medical services, putting patients’ lives at risk. Then comes the environment, where Sunak has backtracked on his commitments. As the world is combating climate change, he postponed the deadline for ending the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger vehicles and approved new oil drilling in the North Sea.

Securing Votes

Labour is heading to the election 20% points ahead of the Conservatives. However, some Labour officials fear that many voters remain undecided. Furthermore, the party needs a record swing in votes to win a parliamentary majority.

Both parties have focused their election campaigns on the economy. Sunak and his government accuse Labour of getting ready to increase taxes if they win and that they lack a plan, making them unreliable amid the growing instability worldwide.

On the other hand, Labour accuses the government of economic mismanagement throughout its 14-year rule, leaving people worse off and undermining economic growth.

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