Rishi Sunak calls surprise general election ‘seeking to exploit Labour tensions on Gaza’

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Rishi Sunak calls surprise general election ‘seeking to exploit Labour tensions on Gaza’

Rishi Sunak has confirmed the general election will take place on July 4th

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Rishi Sunak calls July 4 general election
Rishi Sunak calls July 4 general election

Rishi Sunak has called an election on July 4 in a surprise bid to prevent Keir Starmer from taking power for Labour after 14 years of Conservative government.

Confirming the election from outside Downing Street at 5.10 pm on Wednesday, Westminster sources told Jewish News that the Prime Minister was hoping to exploit tensions in Labour on Gaza to make in-roads into a large opinion poll lead for Labour going into the election.

Speaking in front of the famous lecturn outside of No.10 as rain continued to fall, and pointing to war in Ukraine, and in the Middle East, the Prime Minister said: “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.”

He added:“In the last five years our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War.

“As I stand here as your Prime Minister, I can’t help but reflect that my first proper introduction to you was just over four years ago. I stood behind one of the podiums upstairs in the building behind me.

“I told you that we faced a generation-defining moment and that we as a society could not be judged by some Government action, but by the small acts of kindness we showed one another.

“You met that challenge and then some, and I had never been prouder to be British.”

Sunak spoke of the threat of “Islamist extremism” to this country as a result of conflict in the Middle East.

He confirmed he had spoken to King Charles earlier in the afternoon about the dissolution of parliament and confirmed a July 4 election.

Sunak will also claim that inflation is back under control and that the economy was improving as he seeks to convince voters to give him another chance as PM.But Starmer will argue that he has proven he can turn the fortunes of the Labour Party around, with his fight to root out the antisemitism that flourished under Jeremy Corbyn a sign of his ability to lead.

Starmer later said a vote for Labour would be a “vote for stability” before repeating his “country first, party second” pledge.

He added:”Britain is a great and proud country. But after 14 years under the Tories, nothing seems to work anymore.

“Public services crumbling, ambulances that don’t come, families weighed down by higher mortgage rates, antisocial behaviour on our high streets. The list goes on and on.

“Political chaos feeding decline, feeding chaos, feeding decline. The answer is not five more years of the Tories. They have failed.

“Give the Tories five more years and things will only get worse. Britain deserves better than that.”

One senior peer confirmed Sunak and the Conservatives planned to “exploit tensions in the party over Gaza” as the election campaign begun.

Calling the summer election is a huge gamble for Sunak, with recent local elections across England and Wales also showing Labour could continue to poll well, despite obvious support for independent candidates standing on anti-Israel platforms.

Labour will also hope to capitalise on nearly won support both within the Jewish community, and elsewhere in the country since the disastrous 2019 election result.Starmer will also hope to convince the community that a Labour government holds very different views on Israel than those of backbench MPs like Zarah Sultana and Richard Burgon, who hold little or no overall sway in policy decisions.

They can also point to failed Tory promises to the community over issues such as anti-BDS legislation, and to pass legislation on the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre near Westminster.

Keir Starmer at JLM conference at JW3 (pic Ian Vogler)

The Liberal Democrats will also hope to pick up support from voters in the community, while the Greens will have to shrug off allegations they have become a dumping ground for activists booted out of Labour.

Opinion polls have put Labour around 20 points clear of the Tories for months now.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey giving his keynote address at One Canada Square in east London, to his party’s annual Lib Dem conference which is being held virtually this year.

But sources told Jewish News that alongside Gaza, the PM would seek to portray himself as someone who would stand up to the judges and and the European Court of Human Rights over his controversial Rwanda policy.

Labour will seek to make sure the agenda remains firmly around the Tory failure on the economy, and will also seek to exploit Starmer’s increasingly popularity with voters.

The recent local elections across England and Wales also showed Labour could continue to poll well, despite support for independent candidates standing on anti-Israel platforms.

Earlier, with intense speculation that an election was about to be called a Labour 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.”

The Lib Dem’s stand they were “fired up” to contest seats across the country in the election.

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