UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calls July 4 general election

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street in London, Britain, May 22, 2024. 

Hollie Adams | Reuters

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday called for a general election to take place on July 4, after economic data showed a fall in inflation near the British central bank’s 2% target earlier in the day.

“Earlier today I spoke with his majesty the King to ask for the dissolution of Parliament. The King has granted this request, and we will have a general election on the 4th of July.” said Sunak, speaking during a news conference outside Downing Street.

Data from the Office for National Statistics earlier Wednesday showed that U.K. inflation dropped to 2.3% in April.

Sunak’s ruling Conservative Party had been hoping for signs of an improving economic environment, as it lags in the polls ahead of the national election.

“Economic stability is the bedrock of any future success,” said Sunak. “And because of our collective sacrifice and your hard work, we have reached two major milestones in delivering that stability.”

He qualified that the U.K. economy is now growing faster than anyone expected.

“Uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action,” said Sunak, referencing the ongoing war in Ukraine. “I’m guided by doing what is right for our country, not what is easy.”

Sunak, who has held the post of prime minister since October 2022, pledged to earn the the trust of the British people.

“People across the UK are crying out for change, and this election is finally our chance to make it happen,” Liberal Democrats Party leader Ed Davey said on X.

British economy in focus

“We’ve tackled inflation, controlled debt and cut workers’ taxes, increased the state pension by £900, we’ve reduced taxes on investment and seized the opportunities of Brexit to make this the best country in the world to grow a business, put record amounts of funding into our NHS and ensured it’s now training the doctors and nurses it needs for decades to come,” said Sunak.

Keir Starmer, leader of the rival Labour faction, circulated a campaign video on social media platform X urging poll-goers to vote for his party, which pledges “to serve working people as you drive our country forward, with economic stability at the forefront of everything we do.”

The U.K. economy has been convalescing from a period of sky-high inflation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the commercial impacts of the country’s exit from the European Union and elevated energy prices, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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The country entered a shallow recession in the second half of last year, with recent figures indicating slight growth in early 2024.

“With growth recovering faster than expected, the UK economy is approaching a soft landing, following a mild technical recession in 2023,” the International Monetary Fund said Tuesday, as it upgraded its forecast for the British economy to expand by 0.7% this year, from a previous outlook of 0.5% GDP growth in 2024.

Nevertheless, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development earlier this month noted Britain’s “sluggish” growth has put it on track to be the worst-performing economy of all advanced nations next year.

— Jenni Reid contributed to this report.

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