Rishi Sunak just made the biggest political gamble by a sitting PM in decades and it may not pay off - analysis by Christopher Hope

​Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak called a snap general election yesterday evening

Christopher Hope

By Christopher Hope

Published: 23/05/2024

- 07:41

GB News Political Editor gives his take on the start of the 2024 General Election campaign

It is 6am on Thursday morning, and I am on a train which has just left a London station heading north on a pan-UK campaigning tour by Tory leader Rishi Sunak.

Along with most of the country, I am still in shock that the Prime Minister has called a general election six months before he had to.

He had more levers he could have pulled to improve the Tory party's dismal polling rating before a poll had be to be called by mid-January next year.

If he waited, his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt could have had a mini-Budget in September to cut taxes.

If he waited the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee might have cut interest rates to ease the borrowing costs for millions of mortgage holders. If he waited, net migration might have fallen to more manageable levels. If he waited the first flights might have taken off for Rwanda. If he waited, the economy might have continued its strong recovery.

Yet he didn't. Instead Sunak has called an election on the promise of things getting better.

Few outside his close circle of half a dozen friends and advisers saw this coming.One Cabinet minister yesterday lunchtime confidently told me that the election will be in November. A Government whip told her flock of 20 MPs the same at the weekend.

Yet instead of wait to November, Sunak has gambled on a July 4 election. It is a huge risk because if it does not work and the party is annihilated at the polls he will be blamed personally for the calamity.

He could not say - as he could if he had gone long and lost - that he did all he could, waited for as long as he could to improve the party's standing in the polls.
Many MPs in his Parliamentary party is reeling. One former Tory Cabinet minister told me: "This is a disaster. He has condemned the Tory party to election oblivion."

Incredibly there is now a plot to remove Sunak as Tory leader before Parliament is dissolved on Thursday next week.

Another former Conservative minister said “several” more letters of no confidence in Sunak were submitted to 1922 chairman Sir Graham Brady last night.

The senior Conservative MP told me: “The election is not irrevocable; up until the point of the Dissolution of Parliament - when the writs are moved to begin the contests, it can still be aborted.

“In other words, if enough Tory MPs, who are clearly going to lose their seats in this already utterly shambolic campaign, write to Sir Graham Brady, tomorrow , the election could still be revoked.”

The unlikely attempt to unseat Sunak is almost certain to fail. But it is an indication of the cold fury of many Tory MPs that they have been blind sided by their leader.

Sunak has not even turned up for a 1922 meeting of Tory backbenchers to explain the logic of his decision. Instead Conservative MPs are packing their bags.

Tomorrow the 65 (and counting) of them who are quitting as MPs will line up to shake hands and bid a formal farewell to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle as Parliament is prorogued. On Thursday next week the doors of the Palace of Westminster are locked to MPs, as Parliament is dissolved.

It is a sudden and unhappy end for many careers among senior Conservative MPs of decades' service.

Calling a general election from such a dire polling position must represent the biggest political gamble by a sitting Prime Minister in decades. We will know in six weeks if it has paid off.

You may like