Rishi Sunak hits the campaign trail as he takes his chance with snap general election

Conservative Prime Minister is looking to inflict on Labour one of the biggest shocks in British political history

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was all smiles as he began his campaign on Wednesday, addressing a crowd of about 100 Conservative members hours after announcing a snap general election.

Mr Sunak is trying to pull off a comeback against Labour's current 25-point lead in opinion polls, which would be unprecedented in modern political history.

He has taken an enormous gamble, pollster Prof Sir John Curtis told The Times.

Mr Sunak took his own Cabinet by surprise in announcing the election, on the day a fall in inflation was reported, fearing that if he delayed further the party may face setbacks caused by tax cuts and interest rates.

It has been reported that he told his Cabinet he was calling the election so that he could own the narrative, rather than wait until autumn.

Mr Sunak and his allies made the decision nearly a month ago, but chose to wait until the UK was out of recession and inflation had fallen significantly before making an announcement.

The Times reported that Mr Sunak also went against the advice of Isaac Levido, the Australian strategy consultant who is overseeing the campaign for the Conservative Party.

According to reports, Mr Levido recommended waiting until autumn to give expected interest rates cuts time to create a positive effect on family finances.

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At an emergency Cabinet meeting on Wednesday night, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove backed Mr Sunak's election gamble, telling the Prime Minister: "Who dares, wins. You dared and you will win."

But the decision has caused concern among some Tories who fear the election could lead to electoral wipeout.

Senior Conservative MP David Davis said he was surprised by the timing of the election but added that it might yet prove to be a "smart gamble".

On Wednesday evening, at Mr Sunak's first Conservative campaign rally of the general election, the crowd cheered as his Cabinet entered the room before Home Secretary James Cleverly began with a speech.

Mr Cleverly introduced the Prime Minister to a roar of approval from the audience.

His supporters appeared to be in the mood for celebration, with members holding placards reading "Vote Conservative" and cheering to music as Mr Sunak took to the stage.

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With his jacket ditched and his sleeves rolled up, the Prime Minister’s mood appeared to be one of excitement, although some of his Cabinet looked a little more serious, even nervous.

Supporters cheered every time Mr Sunak praised his government’s record and grunted at every mention of Labour leader Keir Starmer.

But the loudest applause of the evening came as Mr Sunak concluded his speech with a rallying cry, claiming his party would show Labour “the British people will never be taken for granted”.

Updated: May 24, 2024, 7:07 AM