Rishi Sunak rules out general election on 2 May

By John Mercury March 15, 2024

Rishi Sunak has ruled out holding a general election on 2 May following speculation the prime minister could choose to go to the polls early.

Mr Sunak previously said it was his “working assumption” that an election would be held in the second half of this year but he had not previously ruled out a May date – until now.

Asked by ITV whether there would be an election on 2 May – the same day as the local and mayoral ballots – Mr Sunak replied: “There won’t be a general election on that day.

“But when there is a general election, what matters is the choice.”

Politics latest: Rishi Sunak dismisses speculation around general election date

Opposition parties have been clamouring for a May election, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accusing the prime minister of “delaying” the inevitable and “hiding from the public”.

Sky News has also reported on the private calls of some Tory MPs for Mr Sunak to call an early election to prevent the political and economic situation from deteriorating.

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Why don’t we know when the UK election is?

Those agitating for a May election have argued that holding out until the autumn could mean a summer news cycle that is dominated by an increase in small boat crossings in the Channel that will highlight the ongoing difficulties with the prime minister’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

However, others have argued the prime minister must be given more time to try and turn the polls around, where his party is currently lagging 26 points behind Labour.

There is also a chance of improving economic data in the coming weeks after monthly GDP figures on Tuesday pointed to Britain coming out of recession by the time of the next quarterly figures in May.

The latest a general election can be held is by the end of January 2025.

Mr Sunak’s decision to rule out a May election comes after a torrid few weeks in which his Tory party has been engulfed in rows over racism.

Labour’s hopes of an early poll have been dashed


Jon Craig - Chief political correspondent

Jon Craig

Chief political correspondent

@joncraig

Most Conservative MPs will be mightily relieved.

But Labour’s hopes of a race to the polls on 2 May by Rishi Sunak have surely been dashed.

Was a general election on 2 May – the date of local and mayoral elections – ever seriously a runner? Not really, though it remained a possibility.

The prime minister had declared that his “working assumption” was that the election would be in the second half of the year.

But until now the prime minister had refused to rule it out. Now, in the unlikely setting of a regional TV studio during a west country tour, he has done just that, it appears.

For weeks, the Labour Party has been goading Mr Sunak into holding the election on 2 May, so that when he didn’t hold it then it could accuse him of being a bottler.

But in recent days, amid a growing mood of panic among Tory MPs and talk of a new post-budget plot to remove him, there was also talk of a 2 May election among Conservatives.

Why? Two reasons. One, if the Tory backbench mavericks and malcontents who want to drive him out and change leader looked to be on the brink of succeeding, he’d go to the King and call an election, it was claimed.

Second, if a number of Tory MPs followed Lee Anderson and defected to Reform UK – as many as 10, it was claimed – he’d also go for a snap election, according to authoritative sources.

The deadline for dissolving parliament and calling for a 2 May poll is 26 March, the day the Commons rises for the Easter recess.

Although it’s still possible there could be an election in June or July, the autumn – with 14 November or 21 November the dates predicted by many MPs – remains favourite.

Which means that after Mr Sunak’s dramatic statement in a TV studio 120 miles from Westminster we’re in for another eight months of electioneering and campaigning.

A long election campaign indeed!

The prime minister’s authority suffered a setback this week when his former deputy party chairman, Lee Anderson, defected to the rival party Reform saying: “I want my country back.”

Mr Anderson – who was suspended from the Tory Party after saying Islamists had got “control” of London Mayor Sadiq Khan – accused his former party of “stifling free speech”.

Mr Sunak has also come under pressure to return money gifted to his party by Tory donor Frank Hester, who reportedly said MP Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and “should be shot”.

Mr Hester said he was “deeply sorry” for the remarks, but insisted they had “nothing to do with her gender nor colour of skin”.

Read more:
Frank Hester: Tories given further £5m from controversial donor embroiled in race row, claims report

The mood is tense among Tory MPs who think most things ‘weak’ Number 10 touches get worse

Pat McFadden MP, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, said: “After 14 years of Tory failure, the British public have the right to expect an election to be called by 26 March and held on 2 May.”

He added: “Rishi Sunak should stop squatting in Downing Street and give the country what it desperately needs – a chance for change with a Labour government. The prime minister needs to finally come clean with the public and name the date of the election now.”

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, also accused Mr Sunak of “running scared of an election in May”.

“He knows that voters will not put up with this Conservative government’s failures on the NHS and the cost of living crisis any longer,” he said.

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