When is the next general election? Rishi Sunak says vote will be in second half of year amid fresh speculation

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The Prime Minister has until January 2025 to call the UK's next general election.

The Prime Minister gets to decide when voters go to the polls, and he has until January 2025 to call an election. SW1 has been awash with rumours that Sunak is set to call a summer election, as bookies slashed odds for a snap poll. In January, a new mega-poll found that 61% of people wanted an early election by at least May.

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What has Rishi Sunak said about the next general election? Here’s everything you need to know.

Rishi Sunak has dropped a major hint about when the next general election will be. Credit: GettyRishi Sunak has dropped a major hint about when the next general election will be. Credit: Getty
Rishi Sunak has dropped a major hint about when the next general election will be. Credit: Getty | Getty Images

When is the next general election?

The official date of the next general election has not yet been announced, however the maximum term of a Parliament is five years from the day on which it first met. The current Parliament met on 17 December 2019, which means it will automatically dissolve on 17 December 2024.

Polling day would be expected to take place 25 days later, not counting any weekends or bank holidays that fall within that period. The latest possible polling date for the next UK general election is 24 January 2025. As Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has the power to call the next election although it is thought unlikely that he would call one in January, as poor weather may put voters off.

In January, the Prime Minister gave a big hint as to when he will call the next election. He said: “So, my working assumption is we’ll have a general election in the second half of this year and in the meantime I’ve got lots that I want to get on with.”

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“I want to keep going, managing the economy well and cutting people’s taxes. But I also want to keep tackling illegal migration,” he said. “So, I’ve got lots to get on with and I’m determined to keep delivering for the British people.”

Sunak did not call a general election to line up with the local and mayoral polls on 2 May. The long-held belief has been that the Prime Minister will wait until October or November, after the Conservative Party Conference, with the hope the economy has improved and the Bank of England has cut interest rates.

Today (22 May), inflation figures were released which showed the Consumer Price Index has come down to 2.3%, which is within touching distance of the Bank of England 2% target. However BoE governor Andrew Bailey is still not expected to cut interest rates until the late summer.

Despite this, Westminster has been awash with rumours of a summer election, with Cabinet ministers reportedly being called back early from trips abroad. When asked in the House of Commons, Rishi Sunak said: “There is, Mr Speaker – spoiler alert – there is going to be a general election in the second half of this year.

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“At that moment, the British people will in fact see the truth about the honourable gentleman opposite me (Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer), because that will be the choice at the next election, Mr Speaker – a party that is not able to say to the country what they would do, a party that would put at risk our hard-earned economic stability, or the Conservatives that are delivering a secure future for our United Kingdom.”

Speaking after PMQs on 22 May, the Prime Minister’s press secretary told reporters, including NationalWorld: “I know there’s a lot of interest in this, as there has been pretty much every week over the last five months. I’ll just say the same thing I’ve always said, which is I’m not going to rule anything in or out. The PM said election – second half of the year.”

If Sunak called an election today (22 May), the earliest it could be held would be 27 June - as that is in 25 working days. However, given the repeated insistence the poll will happen in the second half of the year, it appears the more likely date would be 4 July or 11 July.

Analysis: will Rishi Sunak call a general election?

The general consensus in Westminster for months has been that Rishi Sunak will call an October or November election. The economy is slowly improving, inflation is coming down and that could lead to the Bank of England cutting the base interest rate at the end of summer. 

Tactically it appeared to make sense. A lot can happen in politics in seven months, and you want to give yourself as much opportunity for some unknown factor to potentially affect Labour, like we’ve seen with the Gaza war.

That would give the Tories the chance to hold their conference at the end of September, and get four days of uninterrupted media coverage ahead of calling the general election. However it now appears that Sunak may be on the brink of calling a summer election.

David Cameron has been called back from his trip to Albania early, Jeremy Hunt has cancelled a television interview and Downing Street has done little to halt the Westminster rumour mill. Sunak has just had some (relatively) good news with inflation, although analysts still believe we’re a few months off an interest rate cut by the BoE.

Sunak and Hunt have repeatedly said they want to cut taxes further, and many commentators thought they would use an Autumn Statement to do so in the run up to an election later in the year. The infected blood inquiry may have put a spanner in the works for this. 

It is thought the compensation figure could top £10 billion, and this may have blocked the Chancellor from cutting taxes any more. Another theory is an election which coincides with a successful European Championships football tournament for England could spark some patriotic voters turning back to the Tories.

Either way, it sounds as if a summer election could be on the cards, defying the predictions.

Labour has urged Rishi Sunak to “get on with it” and call a general election. A party spokesman said: “We are fully ready to go whenever the Prime Minister calls an election. We have a fully organised and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election so would urge the prime minister to get on with it.”

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The spokesman said Labour would “be very happy with that” but accused the Prime Minister of having “bottled it” in the past.

“We’ve seen the prime minister has repeatedly marched us up this hill and then bottled it at the last minute when it comes to calling an election, but when it comes to it, however long he keeps delaying it he cannot avoid the verdict of the British public, which recognises that this is a government that has failed over the last 14 years and believes that it’s time for a change,” he said.

“And we look forward to having the opportunity to put our case to the public that this changed Labour Party represents the change that the country needs so that we can hopefully have the privilege of serving in government.”

Voters wanted a snap election in May

A mega-poll of more than 10,000 people has found a majority of voters wanted a general election by May. The survey, carried out by Focaldata on behalf of Best for Britain, revealed that 61% of respondents want a poll by the spring and 36% demanded an election as soon as possible.

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Only 17% think the Prime Minister should wait until the autumn with fewer than one in 10 in favour of waiting until the last possible moment in January 2025. When asked who would make the best Prime Minister, Starmer came top in 390 constituencies with Sunak only favoured in four. There is some hope for the PM as 238 had don't know as the biggest response.

Naomi Smith, chief executive of Best for Britain, said: “The message in our polling from voters is clear - they want an election, they think Brexit has hurt them in their pockets, and they’re prepared to vote tactically for change. Labour may be on course for a victory, but under our broken electoral system nothing can be taken for granted."

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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