General Election

General Election: Snap election won't save Rishi Sunak

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Sunak's Conservatives are heading for electoral disaster

A summer election may be a better option for Rishi Sunak than an autumn vote but that doesn't mean the results will be any better for his party says Paul Krishnamurty...

  • Summer election may be PM's least worst option

  • Will it avert Tory collapse?

  • Labour heavy odds-on to win majority

So the betting signals were right after all. Rishi Sunak has called a general election. Following what can only be described as a monster gamble, July was trading at 1.251/4 (an 80 per cent chance ) on the Betfair Exchange at 3pm this Wednesday afternoon, down from a peak of 1000.0999/1. By 5pm it was 1.021/50

July 4 will be the date when Britons go to the polls .

Westminster was awash with July election rumours

Speculation has been rife all day - see below for tweets from impeccably connected lobby journalists. Downing Street hadn't ruled out a summer election and nor did Sunak at PMQs. Given the scale of the gamble and willingness of credible journalists to speculate, it sounded like a done deal and it proved to be so.

When previously analysing the election date betting before the local elections, I was sceptical. I assumed the speculation was part of a tactical ploy to deter plotters in the wake of what were expected to be dire results. Well those elections could barely have been worse for Sunak, yet the plotters apparently gave up. So, what is Sunak's thinking, when it comes to the election date, and does it make sense?

Inflation boost is wishful thinking

In his speech outside Downing Street Sunak reference lower inflation figures - one of his key targets. However that alone is scant reason to call and election. There is no evidence of incumbent governments elsewhere receiving a boost from lower inflation. Current polls do not imply British voters are feeling it.

However in Sunak's defence, there is no magic solution to the government's problems and no obvious date that would benefit them. July may even be the least worst option. Here's why.

A July election may see differential turnout help the Tory cause. Many students will no longer be at university and may not be registered at their home address. Families will be away on holiday. The Tory vote is dominated by pensioners - who are less likely to take their holidays during the school break, when prices are much higher.

Will football make a difference?

I expect there is a view around Sunak that an election during the Euro 2024 football championships will provoke nationalist feeling which favours a nationalist government. That they will benefit from England doing well. This is stretching credulity and that the inevitable attempt by ministers to jump on the bandwagon will backfire, appearing obviously opportunistic. Nevertheless, this may be part of their plan.

Keir Starmer canvassing.jpg

It may be wise to take on Keir Starmer's Labour sooner rather than later. They haven't really laid out much of their election offer and are presumably planning a blitz of popular, headline-grabbing policies.

Given Labour are thriving despite a lack of enthusiasm, such a blitz in the autumn would probably improve their chances. Also, there has been much talk of a 'Gaza election' which would capitalise on Labour division. That was certainly an issue at the locals, yet the Tories received no benefit from it.

Swerving US election clash makes sense

Going early means swerving a clash with the US election. I have seen little indication that this is even in their thoughts as a problem, but it very much should be. The Tory association with Donald Trump is definitely a negative with regards the British electorate. And our voters have barely seen or heard the 2024 version - full-fat fascism, anti-NATO, promising vengeance against his enemies.

Most likely though, going now would signal that the Tories believe things can only get worse for them as the year goes on. Perhaps there is an imminent crisis about which we know little yet. The privatised water industry to collapse, for example.

Interest rate cuts are apparently less likely now. Every month, thousands more households come off fixed rate mortgage deals. With every day that passes, 2019 Tory voters die and are replaced in the electorate by 18 year-olds.

Nothing likely to avert Tory collapse

In short, I can't see much reason to think a snap election will transform Tory prospects. The polls and betting have been remarkably consistent in their dismissal of Sunak's chances of re-election. Labour are on course for an enormous majority and the Tories are facing a potential wipeout and genuine existential crisis. They are 1.4840/85 to lose more than 200 seats.

But I also don't expect those prospects to improve from waiting a few months. The campaigns have effectively begun. Sunak has probably decided to get it over and done with, and who would blame him?

Now read US Election Odds: Donald Trump hits shortest price ever to be next president


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