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Can Rishi Sunak secure another term as UK prime minister?

Rayhan Ahmed Tapader

Rayhan Ahmed Tapader

Sat, 22 Jun 24

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced an early general election at least six months before the end of the current government's term in Britain. After much speculation, on May 22nd, from 10 Downing Street, the announcement was made that the national election would be held on July 4th. But why is Rishi Sunak suddenly calling for an early election? Many had hoped the national election would be held in the fall as scheduled, allowing Prime Minister Sunak to remain in office for two years and providing him with a significant opportunity for economic progress. However, that expectation remains unfulfilled. It is clear that the decision was hanging by a thread.

PM Sunak was under pressure. Among those pressuring him for an early election was Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden himself. The argument from those in favor of an early election was that the situation might not improve compared to now. Therefore, the longer the delay, the more voter confidence in the Conservative government might wane. Voters might change their minds, increasing the risk for the ruling party. The prevailing opinion was: hold the election now or wait for a worse situation. Notably, by holding an early election, Prime Minister Sunak would have the opportunity to highlight some of his apparent successes, one of which is the current inflation rate. He could present this as a success, even though it is not entirely dependent on the government's actions. However, if inflation were to soar, the government would be blamed. It is expected that the government will take swift and effective measures to curb inflation, which would paint a slightly brighter picture of the broader economy.

Another issue concerns immigration. The UK government plans to send several asylum seekers to Rwanda. This process has not yet begun, but it may start soon. The plan might even be implemented amidst the election campaign. However, it is said that this plan could become a hindrance in the electoral battle. Therefore, the government might reconsider this during the election turmoil. Before and after the start of the campaign, the Labour Party and others have repeatedly stated that change is needed, and now is the right time for it. In contrast, the Conservatives have been reiterating one message to the voters. The local government elections on May 2nd saw a significant defeat for Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party, boosting the Labour Party's confidence. In this situation, the outcome of an early election could be the confirmation of public opinion polls leading to a change in government, proving the Conservatives wrong. This could become one of the biggest disasters in recent years, as the Conservative Party under Sunak has not faced such a crisis in the last 40 years.

After taking office as the Prime Minister of Britain, Rishi Sunak faced attacks from the leader of the opposition Labour Party during his first question session in Parliament. There were strong criticisms of the ruling party for the economic crisis, along with demands for a new general election right from the start. In response, Sunak stated that his party had won the election and therefore had the mandate to govern, and that as the leader of the Conservative Party, he had the right to serve as Prime Minister. He emphasized that he would always work to protect the people. Following nearly five years of political instability, Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister with the support of the ruling Conservative Party MPs.

Before completing his five-year term, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced an early election under a kind of compulsion. As a result, a national election is on the horizon for the UK, and the campaign is in full swing. As part of this campaign, Prime Minister Sunak was scheduled to participate in a television interview. He left early from an event commemorating D-Day of the Second World War to attend the interview, which backfired, leading to criticism and a subsequent apology from him.

On June 6, 1944, during World War II, Allied forces launched an attack on Normandy in France, known as D-Day. The Allied forces fiercely battled the German-led Axis powers on the island. Within a few weeks, the Allies gained a favorable position, turning the tide of the war. A year later, Germany admitted defeat. After returning from Normandy, Sunak participated in an interview with British television channel ITV. ITV confirmed the recording of his interview.

Analysts say that despite Sunak’s apology, distrust had already grown among the public. The incident angered many, marking a major mistake in his election campaign. Regarding this, Labour Party leader Jonathan Ashworth said, "The D-Day event was organized to honor the bravery of those who served our country. Rishi Sunak prioritized his television appearance over our veteran soldiers. This shows what he considers more important, which is a disgrace for the UK, and the general public did not expect this."

On the other hand, a well-known name in British politics is Nigel Farage. He gained significant attention for his unwavering support and assistance in the Brexit process, which led to Britain's exit from the European Union (EU). Farage, now 60 years old, is currently hosting a TV show and has recently announced that he will be running in next month's general election. He will lead the right-wing Reform Party, also known as Reform UK. According to many analysts, Farage's announcement to run could put pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Typically, right-wing voters who do not have a strong candidate tend to vote for the Conservative Party. Right-wing voters are generally reluctant to vote for the Labour Party. If Farage runs in the election, it could split the Conservative vote.

Previously, Farage had said that he would not run in the UK's July election; instead, he planned to help Donald Trump win the US Presidential election in November. However, he has since changed his mind. He explained that he was troubled by the idea of not running for office, considering the long-standing support he received from his political supporters. At a press conference, Farage said, "We are going to be the opposition voice. I have said it before, I will say it again, and I will always say it, I will surprise everyone." He further stated that the Labour Party is likely to win the upcoming July election, but he will continue to fight to make the right-wing Reform Party the main opposition. According to Farage, no government service in the UK is functioning properly anymore.

Even essential services like healthcare and road transportation are plagued with various problems. Farage is keen on bringing about political reform in the UK. Having once been involved in Conservative Party politics, he remains one of the most influential British politicians of his generation. He has consistently pressured UK Prime Ministers to adopt stricter policies on immigration and the EU. The UK's national election will be held on July 4. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the early election at least six months before the current government's term ends. Following the announcement, Sunak immediately began his campaign.

On the other hand, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is also actively campaigning. Both leaders are urging voters to support their respective parties. However, by announcing an early election, Rishi Sunak has found himself in a bit of a predicament. After the election date was announced, 78 Conservative Party MPs declared that they would not participate in the election, preferring a postponement. This has caused internal strife within the party. Analysts believe this internal conflict, which has persisted for the past eight years, presents a significant opportunity for the Labour Party. Prime Minister Sunak has called for an election at a time when the Conservative Party's popularity is at an all-time low. Conversely, the Labour Party believes that an election is necessary now. The 61-year-old leftist leader Starmer is seen as a capable leader who can win the election.

Over the past four years, Starmer has served as an opposition leader. His message to voters remains consistent: a Labour government will bring about change and alleviate the country from its current economic and political instability. Polls in the UK indicate that the Labour Party, led by Starmer, lags behind the Conservative Party by nearly 20 points. To attain power, they would need 326 seats. Conversely, according to a Guardian poll, the Labour Party could secure at least 472 seats, with the Conservative Party potentially holding around 85 seats. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party could secure around 50 and 19 seats respectively, while smaller parties might collectively garner about 24 seats.

Under UK rules, the general election process for 2025 must conclude by January. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the early election at least six months before the current government's term ends. Now, the question looms as to who will be the next Prime Minister. While it's too early to say definitively, factors such as party popularity, internal party unity, and polling dynamics raise questions: can Sunak retain his position as Prime Minister, or will Starmer secure the victory this time? Answers to these questions will unfold in the coming weeks, defining who will be Britain's next Prime Minister.

Author: Researcher and Columnist

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