Sunak says July 4 election is a question of trust as he takes aim at Starmer

Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun for a July 4 General Election, saying Sir Keir Starmer could not be trusted to lead the country through “uncertain” times.

The Prime Minister made the economy and combating the global security threats facing the UK the key elements of his pitch to the nation as he announced the election date.

In response, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told voters: “Together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain.”

A sodden Mr Sunak had to battle both the rain and the sounds of New Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better being blasted from beyond the Downing Street gates, as he said he would “fight for every vote” as he attempts to overturn a 20-point opinion poll deficit.

General Election announcement
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had to contend with the rain as he announced the election date (Lucy North/PA)

Mr Sunak said: “This election will take place at time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War.”

He highlighted Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the tensions in the Middle East relating to the Israel-Hamas conflict, China’s efforts to “dominate the 21st century” and migration “being weaponised by hostile states to threaten the integrity of our borders”.

“These uncertain times call for a clear plan and bold action to chart a course to a secure future,” he said.

“You must choose in this election who has that plan.”

POLITICS Tories
POLITICS Tories

A July election is earlier than many in Westminster had expected, with a contest in October or November widely thought to have been more likely.

Mr Sunak’s announcement came after the Office for National Statistics said Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation slowed to 2.3% in April, down from 3.2% in March.

He said that inflation was now “back to normal”, meaning “the pressure on prices will ease and mortgage rates will come down” – although interest rates are actually a matter for the independent Bank of England.

It was “proof that the plan and priorities I set out are working”, Mr Sunak said, but he acknowledged “for some it might still be hard when you look at your bank balance”.

ECONOMY Inflation
ECONOMY Inflation

One reason for delaying the election might have been to allow Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to deliver another tax-cutting financial statement in the lead-up to the vote.

But official figures revealed borrowing for April overshot forecasts, hitting £20.5 billion, suggesting he would have had limited scope for pre-election giveaways.

But Mr Sunak said he had restored “hard-earned, economic stability”.

“The question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country.”

He added: “On July 5, either Sir Keir Starmer or I will be prime minister. He has shown time and time again that he will take the easy way out and do anything to get power.

“If he was happy to abandon all the promises he made to become Labour leader once he got the job, how can you know that he won’t do exactly the same thing if he were to become prime minister?

“If you don’t have the conviction, to stick to anything you say, if you don’t have the courage to tell people what you want to do and if you don’t have a plan, how can you possibly be trusted to lead our country, especially at this most uncertain of times?”

Later, at a rally with his Cabinet and Tory activists, Mr Sunak – in shirt sleeves having ditched his sodden suit jacket – stepped up his attack on Sir Keir.

“The only certainty with Labour is that they will run out of money,” he said.

Mr Sunak said Labour would scrap the Rwanda policy and “enact a de facto amnesty for asylum seekers, making us a magnet for every illegal immigrant in Europe”.

“In every way, Labour would make our country less secure,” he claimed.

Tacitly acknowledging his opinion poll deficit, he said: “Labour want you to think that this elections is over before it has even begun. But we are going to fight every day for our values and our vision and the British people are going to show Labour that they don’t take too kindly to being taken for granted.”

Labour visit to Essex
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said voters had the chance to end the chaos of the Tory years (Victoria Jones/PA)

But Labour leader Sir Keir said: “If they get another five years they will feel entitled to carry on exactly as they are. Nothing will change.”

He promised a “new spirit of service”, putting the country before party interests.

“I  am 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.”

He added service was the “reason, and the only reason why I am standing here now asking for your vote”.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said:“This Government is out of touch, it’s out of excuses and it’s out of time – and it’s time to get this Conservative Government out of office.

“And if we do, we can transform our politics, we can sort out the crisis in the health and care system, we can get our economy back on track, we can end the sewage scandal and we can get the fair deal people deserve.”

Reform UK leader Richard Tice said: “The electorate have a clear choice – people know that the Tories have broken Britain. Labour and ‘Starmergeddon’ will do what they always do, which is bankrupt Britain.

“It’s only Reform UK’s common sense policies that can now save Britain.”