Sunak rules out polls on May 2

There had been feverish speculation in Westminster that Sunak was preparing to dissolve parliament before the end of March and announce a general election for May 2…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak has ruled out holding a general election on 2 May, when voters are to go to the polls in local elections.

Asked by ITV News West Country whether he was preparing to call a snap election to coincide with the local elections, the prime minister said: “There won’t be a general election on that day.”

There had been feverish speculation in Westminster that Sunak was preparing to dissolve parliament before the end of March and announce a general election for May 2.

Before this week Sunak repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility, even though he said in January his “working assumption” was there would be an election in the second half of the year.

He said on Thursday: “In several weeks’ time we’ve got elections for police and crime commissioners, for local councils, for mayors across the country – they’re important elections.”

‘We’re stuffed’: have Conservatives given up on winning the next general election? Asked whether there would be a general election on the same day, he said: “There won’t be an election on that day.”

He did not rule out an early election in the spring or summer more broadly. Labour has talked up the prospect of a snap election this spring. Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, made a £10 bet live on Sky News that the election would take place in May.

Some Labour and Conservative figures think an early election would largely avoid fallout from a potentially bruising set of local elections and a difficult summer when small boat crossings across the Channel could damage the Tories’ record on immigration further.

Isaac Levido, who is running the Conservatives’ election campaign, wants it to be focused on the government’s record of delivery. Tory strategists believe that by waiting until later in the year Sunak will have more to show from his time in No 10 and the economic picture will have improved.

Pat McFadden MP, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, said: “After 14 years of Tory failure, the British public have the right to expect an election to be called by 26 March and held on 2 May.

“Until the day to call it has passed, we are prepared for the election to take place on the usual day in the election cycle. Rishi Sunak should stop squatting in Downing Street and give the country what it desperately needs – a chance for change with a Labour government.”

The latest Sunak could wait to hold the election is January 2025. Insiders think Labour is talking up the prospect of an earlier election so as to accuse Sunak of cowardice should he decide against one.

This month Keir Starmer urged Sunak to call the election for 2 May. Responding to the budget, the Labour leader said: “It is time to break the habit of 14 years. Stop the dithering, stop the delay, stop the uncertainty and confirm 2 May as the date of the next general election. Because Britain deserves better and Labour are ready.”

When asked earlier on Thursday about the date of the election, the prime minister told reporters: “I said at the start of this year, my working assumption was we’d have an election in the second half of this year. And nothing has changed since I said that.”

Tories fear losing half their seats

Senior Tories are braced for a catastrophic set of local elections that will see a collapse in council seats won at the peak of the “vaccine bounce” enjoyed by Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak’s allies regard the results as the most dangerous moment remaining for the prime minister before the general election. While many of Sunak’s Tory critics have little appetite for removing him, some said they were asking themselves: “What is there to lose?” after a pre-election budget that has failed to increase Conservative support.

Sunak, under pressure to explain how he would pay for his pledge to abolish national insurance contributions by the end of the next parliament, has expanded on the measures in the budget by announcing that he is preparing a new benefits squeeze to fund it.

Thousands of council seats across England will be up for grabs this May, with most of them last returning councillors in 2021. At that point, Johnson’s government was enjoying a boost in popularity as a result of the Covid vaccine rollout, while Keir Starmer was on the verge of resigning after losing the Hartlepool byelection. On the morning after the results, one newspaper front page said Johnson was now eyeing a “decade in power”.

According to an Opinium poll for the Observer, the Tory share of the vote has fallen from 42% then to 25% today. The poll slump means that May’s results are likely to be dire for the Tories, with some experts predicting the party could lose as many as half of its councillors up for re-election.

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