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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces general election for July 4

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced there will be a general election in July.

He made an announcement outside Downing Street at 5.15pm - revealing that voters will head to the polls on July 4.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a General Election. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a General Election. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

The Tory leader said: “Now is the moment for Britain to choose it’s future, build on the progress it’s made or go back to square one.

“Earlier this day I spoke to the King to dissolve parliament and he’s granted this request and we will have a general election on July 4.”

He continued, talking about the challenges the country has faced with the Covid pandemic and the ongoing Russia/Ukraine war.

“I have never and will never leave the people of this country to face the darkest of days alone, and you know that because you've seen it,” he said.

“As I did then, I will forever do everything in my power to provide you with the strongest possible protection I can. That is my promise to you. Because for so many of us, it's easy to forget the scale of what we've been through.

“We were hit by a pandemic that upended normal life. Who would have thought that the government would ever tell us how many times a day we could leave our homes? Then, just as we were recovering from Covid, war returned to Europe, with Putin's invasion of Ukraine sending your energy bills spirally. I came to office, above all, to restore economic stability."

Mr Sunak, who has been PM since October 22 2022, when he replaced Liz Truss, had a request to the King to dissolve parliament accepted.

It follows a difficult period for the Conservatives, who have suffered two defections by backbench MPs and a drubbing at the local elections earlier this month.

Polls continue to suggest the Tories are on course to lose the forthcoming vote, with Labour retaining a double-digit polling lead.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “I'm well aware of the cynicism people hold towards politicians at the moment. But I came into politics late, having served our country as leader of the Crown Prosecution Service. And I helped the police service in Northern Ireland to gain the consent of all communities.

Labour leader Keir Starmer, pictured with Medway Labour leader Vince Maple in Chatham, has urged people to vote for him and his party in July
Labour leader Keir Starmer, pictured with Medway Labour leader Vince Maple in Chatham, has urged people to vote for him and his party in July

“Service of our country is the reason and the only reason why I am standing here now asking for your vote. And I believe with patience, determination and that commitment to service, there is so much pride and potential we can unlock across our country. So here it is, the future of the country in your hands.

“On the 4th of July you have the choice and together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country. Thank you. Well there you go, the key star and the man who wants to be the Prime Minister, giving his reaction to the general election being called the backdrop to flags of the United Kingdom.”

The latest possible date Mr Sunak could have held the election is January 28, 2025.

At the last election in December 2019, former Tory leader Boris Johnson cemented a Conservative majority.

It was the same for Kent, with the Tories taking the majority of seats apart from Rosie Duffield’s (Lab) Canterbury seat.

Analysis from political editor Paul Francis

With the confirmation there is to be an election, it will be a gamble rather than a carefully calibrated step for the Conservatives.

King Charles has granted a request to dissolved parliament
King Charles has granted a request to dissolved parliament

Inflation may be falling but so too are the poll ratings of the party and the PM’s own approval numbers are among the lowest of any occupant of Downing Street.

So, will a July poll help lift the fortunes of the Tories or will it simply mean the party might just limit its losses rather than go into a severe tailspin and a crash landing?

Ask the bookies - normally a decent barometer - as to the outcome and the odds seem to favour Sir Keir Starmer moving into Downing Street.

For Kent, the parties will be fighting on a political landscape much changed since 2019.

That of course was the Brexit-election which played to the Conservatives’ strengths.

The current political map of Kent
The current political map of Kent

While significant swathes of the county remain true blue Tory, there is a sense their grip is loosening.

For some voters, it is simply a case of giving someone else a try; for others, it will represent an opportunity to punish those they feel have let the country down.

There are some issues which are more pertinent to Kent than others, notably the continuing arrival of boatloads of migrants to our shores.

The PM promised to get a grip on the numbers and made that commitment in a keynote speech in Dover itself.

For a very brief period, the numbers did fall. But soon they were up again.

People will head to the ballot boxes later this year. Picture: Stock
People will head to the ballot boxes later this year. Picture: Stock

As of April 21, 6,265 people had crossed the English Channel in small boats since the start of year.

That is up by nearly a quarter compared to the same period the year before.

This hardline approach to the use of hotels to accommodate migrants similarly failed - having initially cut costs, It was not long before the bill was up again.

In March, it emerged the government spend on hotels was higher than ever, with a £600m year-on-year increase.

As to the question of who will win against this backdrop it should be Labour.

As to the other parties - the Lib Dems, Reform and Greens - all appear to be benefitting but perhaps not on a scale that will deliver them parliamentary seats.

In Tunbridge Wells, the Lib Dems are convinced the seat is ‘in play’ and feel they have a chance of winning - which would be transformational for the party.t

MP Tracey Crouch is standing down
MP Tracey Crouch is standing down

Labour appears to be confident of securing Canterbury again and will be banking on its coastal strengths - particularly Dover where the sitting MP Natalie Elphicke sensationally defected to Labour from the Conservatives.

She is stepping down at the election as are long-serving MPs Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) and Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford).

Speaking about the announcement she said: “I feel quite emotional about all this. I was anticipating an autumn departure from Parliament and still had important issues to raise on behalf of my constituents between now and then. I am sad that I won’t now get to do that.

And the Medway Towns ought to be fertile ground for Labour after winning control of the council for the first time in 20 years.

But as is often said, the only poll that really matters is the one on election day. Roll on July 4.

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