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UK PM Sunak calls general election for July 4

UK PM Sunak calls general election for July 4

International Desk

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set a general election date for July 4, ending months of speculation but not doom-laden forecasts about the size of the government's expected defeat.

The poll will be the first time Sunak, 44, faces the public while in charge, after he was appointed leader of the largest party in parliament by Conservative MPs in October 2022.

The vote -- the third since the Brexit referendum in 2016 -- comes as Sunak seeks to capitalise on better economic data to woo voters hit by cost-of-living rises.

Halving inflation within a year from historic highs of above 11 percent at the end of 2022 was one of the former financier's five key pledges. That happened last year and on Wednesday rates slowed to a near three-year low at 2.3 percent in March, prompting finance minister Jeremy Hunt to declare: "This is proof that the plan is working."

Sunak, in a Downing Street statement made in driving rain after he gathered his top ministers, said he had spoken to head of state King Charles III and requested the dissolution of parliament. "The king has granted this request and we will have a general election on July 4," he said, adding: "Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future."

Political commentators have increasingly suggested that Sunak, trailing badly in the polls to the main opposition Labour party, could try to seek a bounce from the healthier outlook.

But critics point out that is more to do with changes in the global economy than government policy. Sunak had previously batted back all efforts to name a date, saying only that he would go to the country in the second half of this year.

Speculation mounted again after Sunak and his top officials on Wednesday refused to deny fresh talk that he was about to call an election on the back of the more positive data.

Rumours went into overdrive when Foreign Secretary David Cameron was recalled from a trip to Albania and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps delayed a trip to eastern Europe to attend a cabinet meeting. Hunt also cancelled a scheduled television interview for Wednesday evening, ITV's political editor said, as journalists, photographers and camera crews flocked to Downing Street.

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