Home » U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date as his Conservative party faces cratering support

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date as his Conservative party faces cratering support

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set July 4 as the date for a national election that will determine who governs the U.K., choosing a day of good economic news to urge voters to give his governing Conservatives another chance.

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said.

Sunak’s center-right party has seen its support dwindle steadily after 14 years in power. It has struggled to overcome a series of crises including an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders in the past two years.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issues a statement on May 22, 2024, outside 10 Downing Street in London, calling a general election for July 4.

Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images


The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party.

Speculation about an imminent election mounted after Sunak called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday afternoon — rather than the usual Tuesday — and Foreign Secretary David Cameron flew back early from a trip to Albania to attend.

“This election will take place at a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War,” Sunak said in his announcement, standing at a lectern in the rain outside 10 Downing Street in London. “Putin’s Russia is waging a brutal war in Ukraine, and he won’t stop there if he succeeds. That war has also made it all too clear the risks to our energy security. In the Middle East, the forces of Islamist extremism threaten regional and ultimately global stability. … China is looking to dominate the 21st century by stealing a lead in technology.”

“These uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action. To chart a course to a secure future,” he said.

The election will be held against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and deep divisions over how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers making risky English Channel crossings from Europe.

The announcement came the same day official figures showed inflation in the U.K. had fallen sharply to 2.3%, its lowest level in nearly three years on the back of big declines in domestic bills.

The drop in April marks the greatest progress to date on five pledges Sunak made in January 2023, including halving inflation, which had climbed to above 11% at the end of 2022. Sunak hailed the new figure as a sign his plan was working.

“Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” Sunak said Wednesday. “Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.”

Voters across the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next government and its leader will be prime minister.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, is the current favorite. The party’s momentum has built since it dealt the Conservatives heavy losses in local elections earlier this month.

The Conservatives have also lost a series of special elections for seats in Parliament this year, and two of its lawmakers recently defected to Labour.

Following on his party’s successes in the local elections, Starmer, 61, last week announced a platform focused on economic stability after years of soaring inflation as he tries to win over disillusioned voters.

He also pledged to improve border security, recruit more teachers and police and reduce lengthy waiting lists at hospitals and doctors′ clinics across the country.

Elections in the U.K. have to be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister can choose the timing within that period. Sunak, 44, had until December to call an election. The last one was in December 2019.

Many political analysts had anticipated that a fall election would give Conservatives a better chance of maintaining power. That’s because economic conditions may improve further, voters could feel the effect of recent tax cuts, interest rates may come down and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could take flight.

Sunak had been noncommittal about the election date, repeatedly saying — as late as lunchtime on Wednesday — that he expected it would be in the second half of the year.

Although inflation has fallen, Sunak’s other promises — to grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists to see a doctor at the state-run National Health Service and stop the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel — have seen less success.

He has struggled after entering office following the disastrous tenure of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days after her economic policies rocked financial markets. Truss had been chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals.