Why Has Rishi Sunak Called For A Snap Election In July?

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a snap general election on July 4, even as his party trails Starmer's Labour by over 20 points in the polls. The summer general election could very well mark the end of 14 years of Tory rule in the UK.

Why Has Rishi Sunak Called For A Snap Election In July?

As rain fell outside 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday, May 22 that the United Kingdom would hold a snap general election on July 4. The announcement was met by surprise from observers and experts, as the Conservatives are expected to face stiff headwinds in the polls, after 14 years in power.

The six-week election campaign is universally expected to lead to the end of Sunak’s Conservative government. Sunak is likely hoping that an organized campaign could lead to an upset and extend the period of Tory rule that began in 2010. Sunak is the fifth Tory leader to serve during this 14 year period, having taken over from Liz Truss, who only lasted as Prime Minister for six weeks.

While the timing of Sunak’s announcement was questioned, he is constitutionally obligated to announce an election before January 2025 anyway. With things expected to worsen for the Tories in the coming months, Sunak’s announcement looks like a rational decision. Earlier on May 22, inflation statistics showed that it had fallen to 2.3%, down from its 4-decade high of 11% in late 2022. Sunak likely chose the date to announce the elections when the opportunity to chalk up the inflation numbers as a success was still available to him.

Opinion polls however, currently point to a comfortable win for Labour, with the party around 20 points ahead of the Tories. Labour has also led the polls since 2021, and that lead has only gotten wider during Sunak’s premiership.

Voting in the election will take place on July 4, and the party to cross the 326 mark out of Britain’s 650 Parliamentary constituencies will take charge as the government. Voters in the UK do not elect a Prime Minister directly, they only vote to elect a member of Parliament to represent their constituency. The leader of the party that wins a majority becomes Prime Minister.

While announcing the election, Sunak spoke of how the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine posed the biggest challenges since World War 2. He also mentioned illegal immigration, which is expected to be a major focus of his campaign. While Sunak might be hoping for the asylum seekers’ deportation to Rwanda policy to improve his chances at the polls, Amnesty International has called the policy “a stain on this country’s moral reputation” and a “disgrace.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer posted a message celebrating the announcement, claiming that “it is time for change… and that answer is not five more years of the Tories. They have failed.”

Many voters blame the Conservatives for Britain’s suboptimal state of affairs. Real wages have stagnated, healthcare waiting lists and housing prices have increased and the Conservatives’ posterchild – Brexit – is widely recognized as a failure.