Conservatives Face Uphill Battle as Sunak Schedules Summer Elections

Amidst pouring rain and nearby protests, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK will hold parliamentary elections on July 4th, seeking to end months of speculation and hoping to regain support for the struggling Conservative Party

by Sededin Dedovic
Conservatives Face Uphill Battle as Sunak Schedules Summer Elections
© Pool / Getty Images

The scene could not have looked more unfortunate: it was raining, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was standing without an umbrella, behind a hastily assembled podium, in front of the famous black door of 10 Downing Street. Soaked, he was trying to speak over the noise coming from nearby demonstrations.

He asked the King to dissolve Parliament so that elections could be held on July 4th. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced yesterday that parliamentary elections will be held on July 4th, ending months of speculation about the election date.

"During the day, I spoke with His Majesty the King to request the dissolution of Parliament. The King approved the request, and the parliamentary elections will be held on July 4th," said Sunak, the Conservative Party leader.

According to earlier polls, the favorite is the opposition Labour Party. Labour could win about 45 percent of the vote, far ahead of the Conservatives, who might secure between 20 and 25 percent. Sunak looked like a drenched poodle.

His Conservative Party could look similarly after the elections. Many among his Tories are shocked that the elections are being held on such short notice. Nearly 70 MPs have announced in recent weeks that they will not run again in the parliamentary elections for fear of losing their seats.

According to the polls, the Conservative Party is trailing the Labour opposition by about 20 points. Going into the election campaign at this moment takes courage, political observers comment.

Sunak's hope: Inflation decline

What might give Sunak hope is the drop in inflation.

When he took office, it was over eleven percent—in April, it was only 2.3 percent. Nevertheless, this decision is a risk for Sunak, says Faisal Islam, an economic expert from the BBC. The Prime Minister is counting on people feeling the decrease in prices in their wallets and hoping that this will benefit the current government.

Britains PM Rishi Sunak (L) and Leader of the Scottish Conservative party Douglas Ross visit the Port of Nigg on May© Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Sunak is grasping at straws, says journalist Jenny Kleeman, because his situation could actually worsen over the summer: "During the summer, more refugees in boats might again arrive across the Channel, which would be a disaster for Sunak's policy.

At the party conference in October, the party might want to hit back at him; there could be more defections to Labour, and Nigel Farage, a right-wing populist, could take on an important role in the Reform UK party, which could cost the Conservatives votes.

And if Sunak reckoned that this is his best chance now, then the odds for the Conservatives are actually quite bleak," says Kleeman.

Sharp Labour criticism

The Labour opposition has been calling for new elections for months, and party leader Keir Starmer says it is time for a change after 14 years of Conservative government.

It seems that nothing is working in the country anymore, Starmer criticizes: "Public services are collapsing, ambulances are not arriving, families are burdened with higher mortgage interest rates, antisocial behavior on our streets...

The list goes on endlessly."

Britains Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak (2L) arrives with Britains Wales Secretary David TC Davies (L)© WPA Pool / Getty Images

Although the new leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), John Swinney, also welcomed the election announcement, he also expressed anger because Sunak scheduled the elections during the school holidays in Scotland.

He called it "yet another disrespect" from the Conservatives. In Scotland, the Conservatives traditionally perform poorly. The news of the July elections caused great approval on the streets of the country: "Thank God. Finally.

The sooner, the better," says one woman. However, some people have lost faith in politics: "I haven't voted in a long time," says another.

Prime Minister sets the election date

In the UK, the government is allowed to set the election date within the legislative period.

Thus, it can schedule elections when it deems the situation most favorable for it. The latest possible date for elections in the UK would be the end of January 2025. Rishi Sunak is already the third Conservative Prime Minister since the last elections in 2019, following Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

The Tories have been accused of several scandals in recent years, including the "Partygate" affair related to parties at Downing Street when gatherings were banned due to the pandemic. Several Conservatives have been expelled from the parliamentary group for misconduct.

Recently, two of their politicians also defected to Labour. Despite all this, the Conservatives recently lost hundreds of seats in local elections in England, as well as a key mayoral position. The right-wing populist Reform UK party, formerly the Brexit Party, is also putting increasing pressure on the Tories, reports DW.