Berliner Tageblatt - Rain-soaked Sunak makes UK election gamble

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Rain-soaked Sunak makes UK election gamble
Rain-soaked Sunak makes UK election gamble / Photo: © AFP

Rain-soaked Sunak makes UK election gamble

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak emerged from 10 Downing Street into the grey English drizzle late on Wednesday afternoon and finally announced what Britons have long wanted to know.

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Informing the country that a general election will be held on July 4, the rain got heavier and heavier and soon the Conservative leader was completely drenched.

From down the street, a prominent anti-government campaigner provided a further ominous backdrop: he blared out the D:Ream song "Things Can Only Get Better," an anthem associated with Labour's 1997 landslide election defeat of the Conservatives.

The music meant reporters, huddled under umbrellas, had to strain to hear Sunak as he told voters why they should vote for him and not Keir Starmer's Labour party, which is around 20 points ahead in opinion polls.

"This election will take place at a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War," said Sunak, making security a key battleground in the campaign.

The former finance minister also touted his economic credentials, insisting he had restored "hard-earned economic stability" following the chaos of his predecessor Liz Truss's short premiership.

"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, as Number 10 staff peered through the curtains at Sunak below.

Earlier, cabinet members arrived at Sunak's official residence to be informed that he had asked head of state King Charles III to dissolve parliament so an election can be held in around six weeks' time.

As they arrived one by one, the campaigner chanted into his microphone "Tories out, Tories out," while curious onlookers and tourists gathered outside the gates to Britain's most famous street.

- Rumour mill -

Sunak's announcement confirmed fevered speculation that grew all day in Westminster that he was about to call a summer election, and not wait until October or November as expected.

The rumours started after the Office for National Statistics said early Wednesday that inflation slowed to 2.3 percent in April, near to the Bank of England's target and well down from a high of 11 percent in October 2022.

The speculation increased when Sunak's spokespeople refused to deny the rumours during a briefing with reporters early in the afternoon.

Sunak, 44, had insisted during Prime Minister's Questions just minutes before that Britain would go to the polls in the "second half of the year", which July 4 is -- just.

The rumour mill intensified further when it emerged that Defence Secretary Grant Shapps had delayed a trip to the Baltic states by a few hours and Foreign Secretary David Cameron returned early from Albania to attend the cabinet meeting.

Shortly after the meeting broke up, Sunak confirmed his gamble to go to the country much earlier than he needs to, betting that now is his best chance to secure the Conservatives, in power since 2010, a fifth consecutive term.

"Over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote, I will earn your trust," added Sunak, an internal Conservative party appointment to succeed Truss as PM almost two years ago.