Sunak and Starmer kick off poll campaigns


Sunak attended a campaign rally in east London on Wednesday evening flanked by most of the cabinet…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have kicked off their election campaigns on Thursday, six weeks before the country goes to the polls.

The prime minister toured broadcast studios before embarking on a two-day whistle-stop trip taking in all four nations of the UK. Starmer spoke at a campaign event in Gillingham, Kent in a sign he wants to make inroads in Tory heartlands.

In a high-stakes gamble, Sunak on Wednesday called a surprise general election for 4 July, when Starmer will try to win power for Labour after 14 years of Conservative-led government.

Addressing the nation outside Downing Street, Sunak said it was “the moment for Britain to choose its future”, claiming the Tories could be trusted to lead the country during a time of global instability. The rain-soaked prime minister was almost drowned out by the New Labour anthem, D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, blasted out by the anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray.

Sunak’s words were met with alarm by senior Tories who are concerned that their party, trailing 20 percentage points behind Labour in the polls, could face electoral wipeout, with some MPs even considering submitting letters of no confidence.

Starmer is widely expected to become the next prime minister after transforming Labour since its historic election defeat almost five years ago.

In a televised address in front of union flags, the Labour leader said the election gave voters the opportunity to bring about change. “Here it is. The future of the country in your hands,” he said.

“On 4 July you have the choice and together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country.”

Sunak finally decided to name the date after claiming the economy was improving. Earlier, he told his cabinet that falling inflation and net migration figures would reinforce the Tories’ election message of “sticking to the plan”.

However, two cabinet ministers – Esther McVey and Chris Heaton-Harris – reportedly expressed reservations about the date amid concerns that voters were not feeling better off despite the improved economic outlook.

Michael Gove, meanwhile, backed the prime minister’s decision by channelling the SAS. “Who dares wins,” he is said to have told colleagues. “And you have dared, PM, and will win.”

Speaking outside the door to No 10, Sunak said: “I hope that my work since I became prime minister shows that we have a plan and are prepared to take bold action necessary for our country to flourish.

“Now I’ve stuck with that plan and always been honest with you about what is needed even when that’s been difficult. I cannot and will not claim that we have got everything right. No government should, but I am proud of what we have achieved together, the bold actions we have taken. I’m confident about what we can do in the future. 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.”

Sunak’s speech gave a sense of how he plans to fight the election, focusing on the issue of who the country should trust in difficult times and warning that the British people cannot believe any promise made by Starmer.

“This election will take place at time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the cold war,” he said. “These uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action to chart a course to a secure future. You must choose in this election who has that plan.”

The Conservative party chair, Richard Holden, and strategist Isaac Levido later hosted a call for Tory MPs, in which they said the party needed to hold on to as much of its 2019 coalition of voters as it could, arguing they were the best choice during a time of global instability and stressing to potential Reform UK voters that they risked letting in Starmer.

Sunak attended a campaign rally in east London on Wednesday evening flanked by most of the cabinet. Taking to a small stage in a back room of the ExCel Centre in front of about 100 Tory party members, he sought to evoke an underdog status by suggesting that Labour already believed it had won.

“The British people are going to show that they don’t take too kindly to being taken for granted,” Sunak said.

His 5pm announcement followed a day of febrile speculation in Westminster, triggered by rare good economic news for the government and an unusually timed cabinet meeting, with senior ministers including David Cameron changing plans to attend.

The prime minister, who has long said his “working assumption” was that the election would be held in the second half of the year, had been expected to wait until the autumn and a further tax-cutting budget before holding a contest, given his party’s lag in the polls.

However, government insiders suggested Sunak had been convinced that, with the economic backdrop unlikely to improve significantly before the autumn, and questions over the delivery of his Rwanda deportation scheme, he would be better off announcing an election now.

It will be the first July election since 1945, when the then Labour leader, Clement Attlee, won a majority of 145 seats. The campaign will also be fought during the Euro 2024 football tournament, with polling day falling just before the quarter-finals.

Labour will hope to capitalise on a nationwide feeling of hope, if England and Scotland progress through the tournament, of the kind engendered during the 1996 Euros in the run-up to Tony Blair’s election the following year.

After Sunak’s announcement, Starmer posted a video on X, saying it was “time for change” and warning that five more years of Tory rule would mean things getting worse, including NHS waiting times, rising food prices and sewage-hit waters. “Stop the chaos, turn the page, start to rebuild,” he said

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