Sunak refuses to rule out July general election amid intense speculation

Rishi Sunak did not deny there would be a general election in July, when asked at PMQs. Credit: Parliament

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has twice today refused to quash intense speculation that he will call a general election on July 4, fuelling rumours of an announcement this afternoon.

His senior Number 10 team have also declined to rule out a summer election, while ITV News has spoken to several people in government who believe a snap poll is imminent.

Asked at Prime Minister’s Questions whether the rumours were true, Mr Sunak said the election will be called in the “second half of this year,” leaving open the possibility of a July poll.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said he'd learned the final stages of the finance bill are "being rushed through tomorrow", which would be "consistent with a 4 July General lection".

And ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana said sources had told her "an election is being announced, but they weren’t told the date".

Following PMQs, Mr Sunak's press secretary said: “I know there’s a lot of interest in this, as there has been pretty much every week over the last five months.

“I’ll just say the same thing I’ve always said, which is I’m not going to rule anything in or out. The PM said election – second half of the year.”

She declined to say when the second half of the year begins in Mr Sunak’s view, noting it “is quite a wide range”.

“It’s not my job to stand here and pre-empt any of that.

“Right now, we’re focused on delivering. Just today, we got good inflation news.”

Talk of an early election went into overdrive on Wednesday morning, as Mr Sunak declared inflation had fallen back to “normal levels” during media interviews.

Asked about rumours, the PM said: “I’ve answered this question multiple times and I’ve always given the same answer and that’s that we’ll have an election in the second half of this year.”

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston posted on X: "I think an earlier election is on. I can’t tell you why I now think that. This is not 100% certain but close enough for me to mention to you."

Labour urged the PM to “get on with it” and call a general election this afternoon.

A party spokesman said: “We are fully ready to go whenever the prime minister calls an election. We have a fully organised and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election so would urge the prime minister to get on with it.”

Peston predicts early election

Most Westminster insiders had been predicting November as the most likely time for a general election but a number of developments have led many to reevaluate.

First, his Rwanda deportations scheme was approved by Parliament, a plan he thinks could solve the small boats crisis.

And commentators have suggested the announcement that inflation has fallen to 2.3% would give Mr Sunak confidence that he can overturn Labour's huge lead in the polls in an early election.

Peston added: "I have been saying for some time I thought it was November 14. I'm no longer confident of that."

Explaining why, he went on: "We had a set of economic figures today, borrowing figures and inflation figures, which have persuaded officials at the top of the Treasury, that there is no money in the kitty.

"The idea of a November 14 general election was predicated on the idea that there would be a sort of budget in September in which big tax cuts would be announced.

"If there's no money in the kitty, then tax cuts can't be announced and therefore, at that point, all questions about when the date is going to be change."

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

Peston added that senior people in government are "not steering me away from the idea that we are going to get an announcement of an earlier election, maybe July, maybe even September."

But, with the law stating a maximum period between general elections of five years, he could actually wait until next year.

December 17, 2024 would be exactly five years after Parliament returned following the 2019 general election.

If Mr Sunak had not called an election by then, Parliament would automatically be dissolved and the election would follow 25 working days later.

This means the final date for the next general election is January 28, 2025.

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