Has Rishi Sunak Just Fired The Starting Gun For A Summer Election?

The prime minister says he expects flights to Rwanda to finally take off in July.
Will voters be asked to go to the polls in the summer?
Will voters be asked to go to the polls in the summer?
Ian Forsyth via Getty Images

Rishi Sunak finally confirmed this morning what had appeared obvious since last week.

Deportation flights to Rwanda will not take place in the spring, as the prime minister had initially vowed.

Instead, he said he “expects” them to begin in 10 to 12 weeks, meaning some time in the first half of July.

Within seconds, his announcement had re-started the latest round of Westminster’s favourite parlour game: when will the general election take place?

Since January, Sunak has consistently stuck to the line that his “working assumption” is that it will be in the second half of the year.

Some now believe that he could be tempted to go to the country this summer, just as - he hopes - the Rwanda flights are getting off the ground.

“They’re going to treat it like man landing on the moon, so it would make sense to go straight into an election campaign,” said one Labour source.

“The whole point of the Rwanda scheme is it’s meant to deter small boat crossings, so you have the election before it’s obvious it isn’t working.

“Surely you can’t risk sending some flights and then the number of crossings in the summer being very high? The whole point is it’s a deterrent, but if it’s not deterring the crossings then you’re back to square.”

Others at Westminster, however, point to the fact that Sunak said he wanted to see “a regular rhythm of multiple flights every month over the summer and beyond” as evidence that an autumn election is more likely.

One former Tory cabinet minister said: “I don’t think he’ll go in the summer, given his habitual caution. My instinct is he would prefer to use party conference to set the stage for November.

“What animates him, as we know, is the economic picture and he would far rather fight on that ground if he can present progress in six months.”

One thing is for certain. Until the PM finally does name the date, speculation about when the election will be will continue to dominate conversations at Westminster.


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