UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has sounded the general election gong for the year, indicating that he intends to go to the electorate in the second half of 2024. It has raised speculation that he intends to complete two years in office and call an election around Diwali, which falls on October 31. It was on Diwali day 2022 that Britain got its first Prime Minister of Indian heritage.
On a tour of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, this week Sunak said: "My working assumption is we'll have a general election in the second half of this year and in the meantime, I've got lots that I want to get on with.
"We want to keep managing the economy and cutting people’s taxes, and I want to keep tackling illegal migration… I’ve got plenty to get on with and that’s what I am focussed on, delivering for the British people.”
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, making January 2025 the deadline for the next polls.
"Look, 2023, I'll be honest, it wasn't the easiest of years, for any of us, it wasn't an easy year for our country. I know that 2024 is going to be a better year, I want to make sure that all of you believe 2024 is going to be a better year too,” added Sunak, striking an optimistic note for an election year.
On the Opposition side, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer set out the party’s "Project Hope" for the elections and accused the Sunak-led Tories of “squatting in Downing Street” despite the country being ready for an election.
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In a speech in Bristol, he said: “The power this year is with the voters to vote for that change. So I think there is a huge, clear distinction here. We have set out our case in terms. It is very clearly the risk of going on with 14 more years of this decline or turning our face to the task of national renewal.”
The year 2024 is a crucial one from a democratic point of view, with India also due for general elections. It has led to the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations taking on an added urgency, with the aim of wrapping it up before both Sunak and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit the campaign trail.