Could there be a general election in May?

ITV's Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana explains why so many people are talking about a May election.

Words by Westminster Producer, Maya Bowles

There's been lots of talk in Westminster this week about whether Rishi Sunak could call a May general election, despite consensus that it is most likely to be held in Autumn.

The latest possible date for a general election is January 2025.

The prime minister said in January that his "working assumption" is that the election will be in the second half of the year.

But could he decide to go to the polls sooner? Here's why some people think it's possible.

Extremism speech

Last week the PM gave a rare speech outside Number 10 Downing Street, in which he promised to tackle extremism in the UK.

He warned "democracy itself is a target" for extremists, and said "there are forces here at home trying to tear us apart".

The PM gave a rare speech outside Number 10 Downing Street, on Sunday, Carl Dinnen explains its importance

The surprise speech on Friday evening has been viewed by some as an attempt to draw a dividing line with Labour over tackling extremism.

The PM directly addressed the public in his speech, saying "I need to speak to you all this evening because this situation has gone on long enough," to lay out a government priority ahead of an election.

The economy

The chancellor is delivering his Budget earlier than usual this year, which could be part of a plan to allow people to feel the benefits of tax giveaways in time for a vote.

It's expected Jeremy Hunt will cut National Insurance by 2p on Wednesday.

The government met their target of halving inflation in 2023, as it fell from more than 10 per cent at the start of the year, to 3.9 per cent in November.

There is also the argument that the PM will want to wait as long as possible for inflation and interest rates to fall further, to allow people to feel better off before going to the polls.

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The government's Rwanda Bill is expected to finally pass on March 20, six days before the PM would need to dissolve parliament if he wanted an election on May 2.

Sunak's plan to send migrants who come to the UK illegally to the African nation has faced a number of legal challenges.

When the bill passes, the government could use the fact they're a significant step closer to getting flights off the ground to show voters they're delivering on their flagship immigration policy.

The most important thing for the government is actually starting the flights - even though very few people would be sent to Rwanda, it would be a visual symbol of the government's success.

However, The Times newspaper reported on Tuesday planes Rwanda are unlikely to take off before April 15, because of events in the country to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the its genocide.

Waiting until the autumn for an election would mean voters are more likely to see flights take off - although that's still far from certain.

Local elections

If a general election were to happen in May, it would likely coincide with the local and mayoral elections on May 2.

The Conservatives suffered significant losses at the local elections in 2023, and it's expected the government will face a similar picture this year.

If both were held on the same day, it could prevent poor local results further damaging public confidence in the Tories, which has plunged to the lowest level since 1978, putting them 27 points behind Labour, according to an Ipsos poll published on Monday.

Local Conservative councillors and activists will also be out campaigning in the lead up to the May local elections, and it's possible that if lots of them lose their seats, they're unlikely to come out and campaign again in the autumn for the Tories.

Voters dying

The Conservatives are typically more popular with older voters, but experts have warned this could put them at greater risk of electoral defeat, as more of their supporters are likely to pass away before a vote.

Dylan Difford, a researcher specialising in elections and voting systems, says 100,000 people who voted Conservative in 2019 die every four months, while Labour gain the same amount of first time voters every eight and a half months.

Put simply, it's been argued that the longer the PM waits to call an election, the more likely it is more of his core voters will pass away.


The Labour Party has been publicly urging the government to call a May election.

Shadow Paymaster General Jonathan Ashworth "challenged Rishi Sunak today to name the date of that May general election" on Tuesday.

Jonathan Ashworth MP Credit: Jordan Pettit/PA

He even made a £10 bet with Sky News presenter Kay Burley on it.

But it's in Labour's interest to put pressure on the government to go to the polls in May, because in the likely case they don't, it could look like Sunak has shied away from giving the public the chance to vote sooner rather than later.

Tory chairman Greg Hands denied a spring election was on the cards, in an interview with Times Radio. When asked if a vote would happen in May, he simply replied "no".

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