UK election speculation mounts as Rishi Sunak refuses to deny snap poll

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Speculation that Rishi Sunak is set to call a summer general election intensified on Wednesday, with Downing Street declining to rule one out and some senior Tories saying there is no point in waiting until the autumn.

The prime minister is holding a cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon at which ministers will assess the economic situation, after headline inflation fell to 2.3 per cent.

Sunak at prime minister’s questions did little to quell the speculation, repeating his line that “there is going to be an election in the second half of the year”.

That timeframe could include the month of July. An election would take place 25 working days after parliament is dissolved. Downing Street described talk of an early election as “the rumour mill”.

Senior Tories said Sunak could go to the country claiming that prices were under control and that growth was returning, offering a “narrow path to victory”. Earlier this month the UK recorded its fastest quarterly growth in two years.

One said it was unlikely chancellor Jeremy Hunt would have enough fiscal scope for tax cuts in an Autumn Statement and that neither he nor Sunak would do anything deemed “irresponsible”.

After UK inflation dropped less than forecast to 2.3 per cent in April, investors now believe the Bank of England is unlikely to cut interest rates in June and may not be confident enough to act in August either.

Sunak and his ministers will on Wednesday have to consider whether the economic picture will significantly improve before an autumn election, which had been expected by most MPs.

The Conservatives trail Labour by almost 21 points according to the FT poll tracker, but Tory strategists believe Labour’s lead is fragile and can be eroded during a campaign.

 

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