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May we know the date, Prime Minister?

As the sun set on SW1 on Friday evening, the nation's attention turned to Downing Street, where Rishi Sunak stood poised to address the public. The rumour mill churned, fuelling speculation of an impending general election.

Labour's excitement was palpable, contrasting starkly with the apprehension from Tory MPs. But amidst the buzz, questions lingered: Is an election imminent? And if so, when might it occur?

Are we going to the polls in eight weeks time, or are we set for a long, drawn out year that leads to a November 14th election, which the bookies have made the likeliest date?

Let’s explore the reasons for a May Election:

Firstly, the winter months typically witness a decline in small boat crossings, offering a window of opportunity for the government to project a positive image regarding immigration control. In the coming weeks they will also persist once again with their Rwanda legislation in the hope they can get planes in the air to Kigali before voters head to the polls.

Then there is the impending release of the COVID inquiry report in the summer, which poses a potential threat to Sunak and the Conservative Party. To pre-emptively mitigate any fallout, calling an election beforehand could be a strategic move.

Financially, the Tories hold the upper hand, boasting greater resources to invest in digital and targeted advertising compared to Labour. Alongisde money issues, Labour hasn’t actually yet selected candidates in every constituency which gives the Tories the opportunity to use the element of surprise and strategically deploy resources where needed.

And as we saw last week, volatile global events, such as those in Gaza, could pose challenges for Labour leader Keir Starmer, potentially eroding public confidence in his leadership. It is also true to say that Labour's policy platform remains somewhat nebulous, leaving voters uncertain about their vision for government.

With that said, the bookies don’t think May is likely. So what about the autumn?

An autumn election could capitalise on unforeseen events that might shift the political landscape in Sunak's favour. Remember in politics it is, “Events, dear boy, events” that often determine the outcome of elections.

With more time at their disposal, media outlets, often leaning towards the Tories, could continue to chip away at public perceptions of Starmer, potentially undermining Labour's standing.

If the Tories perform well in May's local elections and manage to retain key seats such as the Metro Mayoralities in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, Sunak could craft a narrative of stability and continuity, suggesting that as the choice comes into focus, more people are willing to stick with the Tories than the polls suggest.

For lots of his MPs, the chance to earn another £45,000 in salary is also tempting. Stay in parliament for six more months, and that is exactly what they will earn.

Then there is the party conference season which presents an opportunity for the Prime Minister to reset and revitalise the party's image, potentially galvanising support among undecided voters.

Put an UK autumn election amidst more global turmoil and Trump candidacy on the other side of the pond and there is a chance for Sunak to exploit sensationalist narratives on culture wars and wokeism to distract the public and sway opinion in his favour.

The truth is that it is a guessing game. And for me, my bet wouldn’t be on either of these scenarios.

Instead, I believe that we will head to the polls at the end of June or the beginning of July. Why this timeframe? Firstly, May's local elections are poised to deal a significant blow to the Tories. Labour's anticipated gains will solidify their position as the dominant force in local government.

As Tory grassroots activists lose their council seats and the accompanying perks, such as £20k allowances, resentment will brew. Pressure will mount on MPs to act, potentially culminating in demands for a vote of no confidence to the 1922 committee.

Faced with the looming threat of a leadership challenge, Sunak will likely seize the initiative and announce the election date. The principle is simple: if he's going down, he won't go alone.

Opting for an early summer election also strategically avoids the traditional August lull, a period where Labour has, under Starmer, historically excelled in filling the void with their agenda. Moreover, steering clear of the party conference season, which has recently favoured Labour and proven disastrous for the Tories, is a prudent move.

For Sunak, timing is everything. A swift election allows him to jet off to California for the summer season, putting the recent tumultuous years behind him. With the prospect of cementing his place in history as a British Prime Minister, the allure of millions in the process adds an enticing cherry on top.

Whatever the PM is contemplating right now, this surely can’t be good for Britain? Uncertainty is no good for the economy, or for public services with the NHS on its knees and councils running out of cash.

We need to know sooner, rather than later, or the result for Sunak won’t just be bad, it will be catastrophic.

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