Why UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took a political gamble by announcing early elections

Opinion polls show Conservatives are behind the opposition Labour Party by 20+ points

Britain Election Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing general elections on July 4 outside 10 Downing Street, London | AP

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his country would go to an early elections on July 4, which many observers term a risky strategy considering how the Conservatives are trailing far behind the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls. 

Drenched in rain outside his Downing Street office, Sunak called a surprise general election, stating it was the moment for Britain to choose its future. His voice, almost drowned out by the New Labour anthem D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, Sunak said: "Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future and decide whether it wants to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one and no certainty," he said. 

"Over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote, I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk." 

Sunak also accused Labour leader Keir Starmer of always taking the "easy way out" and of having no plan. "As a result, the future can only be uncertain with them," he said. 

But, Sunak's declaration came as a surprise to even senior Tory leaders, considering the poor shape the ruling party is in, trailing by over 20 points against the Labour Party in opinion polls. According to a poll conducted by the British newspaper The Guardian, the Labour Party led by Starmer is 21.7 points ahead of the Conservatives. While Labour has 44.7% vote, Tories are far behind with just 22.9%. Poll leads of more than 20 points are usually only seen at exceptionally bad moments in the midterm.

In such a context, many Westminster observers hoped Sunak would wait until October or November to call an election so that the party get more time to recover.

Even surprisingly, no one in the Cabinet had any clue that Sunak would do what he did. "To go now would be a death wish," an unnamed cabinet minister was quoted by Spectator on Wednesday morning, ahead of the announcement. "I quite like my job and don’t want to end it," he added. 

It is reported that Sunak insisted on an early election, hoping to ride on the economic good news. Not only did the UK economy grew faster than expected at the start of the year, inflation fell too. This, for Sunak, was a reason enough to call for early elections. 

Then, the Rwanda plan for asylum seekers is set to go off the ground. There are reports that flights carrying asylum seekers could even take off during the election campaign.

However, the Labour Party's message "it’s time for change" is going to be a tough challenge for the Conservatives to surmount considering how evidence hints at fatigue among the public after 14 years in power and five different Tory prime ministers. 

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp