PM Rishi Sunak declares July 4 as UK election date; vows to protect “hard-earned economic stability”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the 2024 general election date
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces the 2024 general election date. Photo courtesy: X/@RishiSunak

Rishi Sunak, the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has announced that the UK’s general election will be held on July 4, 2024, saying it is time for the country to choose its future. He has vowed to protect the country’s “hard-earned economic stability”.

In an address from the lectern on the steps of 10 Downing Street on rainy Wednesday evening, Sunak confirmed a summer poll in six weeks’ time and that the Parliament would soon be dissolved after he formally informed King Charles III of the election timeline.

The announcement comes as the governing Conservative Party is forecast for a general election drubbing by most opinion polls. The Opposition Labour Party is holding a firm lead after a series of recent byelections and local election victories.

Sunak, 44, laid out his track record dating back to his term as UK finance minister during the COVID lockdowns in his pitch to the British electorate.

“…I spoke with His Majesty the King to request the dissolution of Parliament and the King has granted this request, and we will have a general election on the fourth of July,” said the prime minister.

In his election pitch, Sunak, who assumed office in October 2022, pointed to the furlough scheme that he introduced as Chancellor of the Exchequer to protect jobs during the pandemic, and the “economic stability” that he brought as prime minister over the “darkest of days” in the United Kingdom.

“As I did then, I will forever do everything in my power to provide you with the strongest possible protection I can. That is my promise to you,” said Sunak.

This hard-earned economic stability was only ever meant to be the beginning. The question now is: how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country? Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one, with no plan and no certainty.

Rishi Sunak, UK Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader

The leader of the party that wins a majority (326 constituencies) of the UK’s 650 constituencies automatically becomes the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The Opposition Labour Party immediately welcomed the announcement. “It is the moment the country needs and has been waiting for… a vote for Labour is a vote for stability,” said Labour leader Keir Starmer.

UK Opposition leader Keir Starmer with Labour voters
UK Opposition leader Keir Starmer with Labour voters after the July 4 election date announcement. Photo courtesy: X/@Keir_Starmer

Starmer, 61, urged people to “stop the chaos, turn the page, start to rebuild, vote Labour”. He said that the Labour Party had changed over the past few years and asked for a chance to do the same for the country.

Labour would “return Britain to the service of working people” and transform the country, he said.

If the Conservatives got another five years, Starmer said, “they will be entitled to carry on exactly as they are” and “nothing will change”.

Speculation around a UK general election being around the corner had begun earlier as Sunak chaired a Cabinet meeting, for which ministers rather unusually cut short foreign visits and changed their plans to ensure they could attend.

Sunak had stuck to his stance of a general election in the “second half of this year” when asked in the House of Commons during his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

However, UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delayed his flight to attend a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) meeting and Foreign Secretary David Cameron cut short his visit to Albania to be in London for the Cabinet meeting. This was soon directly connected with the prospect of an election date announcement in the offing.

“As I have said repeatedly, there is — spoiler alert — going to be a general election in the second half of this year,” Sunak had told MPs in the Commons.

“At that moment, the British people will, in fact, see the truth… it will be a party [Labour] that is not able to say to the country what it would do, a party that would put at risk our hard-earned economic stability, or the Conservatives who are delivering a secure future for our United Kingdom,” he said.

The election date announcement came on the day of some good news on the UK economy, with inflation figures dropping to 2.3 per cent, the lowest in three years and in line with Sunak’s pledge to cut inflation by more than half from the 11 per cent mark when he took charge in 2022.

“Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone,” he said in response to the welcome statistics.

The repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2022 restored the ability of British prime ministers to set election dates. However, by law, a general election has to take place at least every five years, which made January 2025 the outermost deadline for Sunak to go to the ballot box.