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U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Calls Shock General Election

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Calls Shock General Election

The British prime minister and leader of the U.K. Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak, has officially called a general election in what is set to be a historical year for global politics.

Britons will take to the polls on Thursday, July 4 after ministers had been assured a summer election will not take place. But off the back of good economic news for Sunak’s government as they hit a tricky inflation target, senior politicians frantically changed schedules to capitalize on the welcomed development.

“I have never been prouder to be British,” Sunak began in his statement outside London’s Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon. “I recognize that it has not always been easy. Some of you will only just be feeling the benefits (of inflation coming down)… Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future. Earlier today, I spoke to His Majesty the King to request a dissolution of Parliament.” (This is the official term for the end of a Parliament so an election can take place.)

Soon rain-soaked, he went on to reference the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on energy bills, and the migration of asylum seekers across the English channel which has become a divisive subject in British politics.

Sunak hopes his party’s sinking ship can survive, or at least not plummet to the political ocean floor, in this election. Rival party Labour, led by Keir Starmer, is about 20 points ahead in the polls. The barrister is widely expected to become the next prime minister after revitalizing the party since its last election defeat five years ago.

Labour was last in power in the U.K. from 1997-2010, but fell out of favor after the country’s financial crisis in 2008. The Tories have since been led by David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and now Sunak, but have suffered catastrophic defeats in local elections due to the public’s sharply declining confidence in the party.

The U.K.’s economic turmoil aside, the Conservative Party has been rocked by scandal after scandal in recent years. Boris Johnson and Sunak were both fined for holding parties in government offices while thousands of Britons were unable to visit dying loved ones during Covid-19 lockdowns in a saga nicknamed “Partygate.” During the pandemic, the party’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was forced to resign when security footage leaked of him having an affair with one of his staff members.

In 2021, a former Tory minister called Owen Paterson was found by Parliament’s standards watchdog to have committed an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules –  he repeatedly lobbied the government on behalf of two companies that were paying him more than 100,000 pounds ($127,300) a year, the watchdog found. 

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In 2022, a Conservative minister for Wakefield, England, Imran Ahmad Khan, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy after plying him with alcohol at a party in 2008. He resigned as an MP and his Labour rival soon won his seat in a local election afterwards.

Later in the summer of 2022, Chris Pincher, the Conservative deputy chief whip – someone who ensures that members of the party attend and vote in British Parliament as the party leadership desires – “embarrassed myself and other people” following reports that he drunkenly groped two men at a private club.

Labour has repeatedly won U.K. by-elections (when a Parliament seat becomes vacant in between general elections) in the last few years – the chance to regain power in the British government has never been stronger.

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