The economy is improving but most people still feel poorer - so why call an election now?

While for most, the cost of living remains stubbornly high, ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hill explains how the latest inflation and growth figures may have influenced Rishi Sunak's decision

The prime minister had until the end of the year to call an election.

The economy was always going to be a key battleground and Rishi Sunak had control over when to fight.

So why now?Rishi Sunak says the economy has “turned a corner,” and that “brighter times lie ahead”.

The strategy seemed to be to wait as long as possible in the hope that low inflation, falling interest rates and rising disposable incomes would combine to leave an increasing number of households and business feeling their prospects were improving.

The government also hoped to be in position to deliver another tax cut before the election campaign kicked off.

Last Friday, Jeremy Hunt repeated his desire to cut taxes in a speech that suggested the election was still months away.

Now Rishi Sunak has decided there’s nothing to be gained by waiting.

Rishi Sunak announcing the election outside No 10. Credit: PA

The prime minister has announced the date of an election on the day we learned that inflation fell back (roughly) to target.

Inflation is now lower in UK than it is in the Eurozone and the United States.

Our economy had the fastest growth faster in the in G7 in the first three months of this year and yesterday the International Monterey Fund upgraded its growth forecast growth for the UK this year.

All of these things are true. The problem, of course, is they don’t tell the whole story.

The reality is the fall in inflation has more to do with large swings in the global market prices of energy and food and higher interest rates than government policy.

The Bank of England expects inflation to rise again by the end of the year and the lived experience of many voters is that everything is more expensive because prices are stabilising at a much higher level than three years ago.

The Bank also forecasts unemployment will rise further in the coming months and although interest rates are expected to fall they are unlikely to do so in a way that will leave mortgages holders feeling materially better off.

The decisive factor may have been the prospect of tax cuts. It’s not clear that the government would have been in an position to do this at the end of the summer.

Worse still, there is always the risk that the Office of Budget Responsibility end as up presenting the chancellor with a forecast at which forced him to put taxes up.

The Tories election battleship is already listing badly, tax rises would capsize it altogether.

The economic pitch may not but not be strong but it may well be as good as it gets in the short term.The conclusion: Go now.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…