The date was at the heart of speculation in the British political microcosm, it is now known. The British general election, which aims to elect members of the House of Commons, will take place on July 4, 2024, Rishi Sunak, the British Conservative Prime Minister, announced on Wednesday May 22. The head of government had until January 2025 to call these elections but ultimately opted for an early vote.

On the steps of 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak opened his address by declaring that the United Kingdom had, over the past five years, gone through “[its] most difficult period” since the Second World War, recalling the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic difficulties faced by the British and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Then to rule that “the time has come for the United Kingdom to choose its future” and to announce the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of the general election on July 4.

Mr Sunak also attacked the Labor opposition, which is leading in the polls. “I am guided by what is good for our country, not what is easy. “I can’t say the same about the Labor Party because I don’t know what they’re proposing,” before targeting its leader, Keir Starmer, who “has shown time and time again that he’s taking the easy way out and he would do anything to get into power,” according to the British prime minister. At the same time, Mr Starmer posted a video on X criticizing the record of Conservative governments and using the slogan “Change”.

Until now, Rishi Sunak had limited himself to talking about elections “in the second half”, but faced with disastrous polls for the Tories, pressure was growing on the head of government to call voters to the polls.

The polls give Labour, positioned on the center left, around 45% of voting intentions, far ahead of the conservatives – who have 344 elected officials for a majority of 326 seats –, relegated to between 20% and 25%, and the anti -immigration and anti-climate policies Reform UK (12%). With a simple first-past-the-post voting system in the UK’s 650 constituencies, such results would translate into a large majority for Labour.

For the Tories, whom Boris Johnson led to a historic victory in 2019, the predictions are cataclysmic. More than 60 Conservative MPs out of 344 have already given up on running, including party heavyweights. Even in Scotland, the separatists, all powerful in recent years, are now left behind in the polls by Labor.

A mandate marked by a series of crises

Chosen by his party’s MPs in October 2022, Rishi Sunak was supposed to embody with his past as an investment banker and hard-working finance minister the return of seriousness after the scandals of the Boris Johnson era and the quasi-financial crisis caused by Liz Truss’s 49 days in power.

But his mandate has turned into a cross, with the British seeming exhausted by the decline in purchasing power over the last two years, the decline of public services – especially the health system, which is running out of steam – and the rise in unemployment rates. interest or even the housing crisis. Not to mention the rifts in the majority, where internal struggles were openly displayed.

Rishi Sunak has shown himself incapable of redressing the situation despite his repeated attempts to revive himself, to display his authority or to seduce his base with projects such as that aimed at sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. In mid-May, he tried to pose as a security guard in a very electoral speech, saying he was “convinced that the next few years will be among the most dangerous”, without convincing.

For his part, Keir Starmer, elected head of his party in 2020 following the very left-wing Jeremy Corbyn, has methodically refocused Labor. He worked to build an image of a competent and serious leader, prudent on the economic and financial level, and firm on security and migration issues. This strategy seems to have paid off: a YouGov poll shows Rishi Sunak at rock bottom with 71% unfavorable opinions and voters seeing him as incompetent, weak, indecisive.

Failure of the Tories in local elections

Keir Starmer, with 51% unfavorable views, is the least unpopular politician in the UK, Labor is seen by respondents as being better placed than the Tories to handle all issues except defence, including taxation, immigration or security which are traditionally the favorite areas of conservatives. “End the chaos with Labor,” summarized Keir Starmer, launching his priorities for the elections in mid-May.

The last electoral test before this major vote was not favorable to the Tories. The results of the local elections, which took place in early May in England, demonstrated the Conservatives’ loss of momentum, as reflected in the polls, by losing nearly 500 municipal councilor positions across the country. The result has been all the more alarming for the party that has been in power for fourteen years as it is in decline everywhere, even in the traditionally “blue” lands of southern England.

Rishi Sunak was unable to avoid the disintegration of the British Conservatives despite his efforts to regain credibility, after the scandals of the Boris Johnson era and the failed mandate of Liz Truss.