General election LIVE: Rishi Sunak gives speech at Tory rally after calling snap summer election on July 4

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a snap summer general election.

Speaking in the rain outside Downing Street, Mr Sunak said “now is the moment for Britain to choose its future” and confirmed the election will take place on Thursday July 4.

In a seven-minute speech in heavy rain he described how he “came to office above all to restore economic stability” and vowed he has "never and will never leave the people of this country to face the darkest of days alone".

Mr Sunak also said the UK economy is recovering with inflation “back to normal”.

He explained that he had spoken to the King on Wednesday, who had granted his request to dissolve Parliament.

Making the announcement while getting soaked in heavy rain, Mr Sunak attacked the Labour Party and Sir Keir Starmer, saying they lacked a plan for the country.

He said: "I hope that my work since I became Prime Minister shows that we have a plan and are prepared to take bold action necessary for our country to flourish.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Give the Tories five more years and things will only get worse. Britain deserves better than that."

Mr Sunak later spoke at a Conservative Party a campaign event in east London. Follow the latest updates below...

Key Points

  • What we know so far

Sunak says party activists are 'up for this general election'

Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:35 , Matt Watts

Rishi Sunak hailed Conservative activists as “the life blood of our incredible party” who were “up for this general election” at a rally in London’s ExCel Centre.

Flanked by Cabinet colleagues and introduced by Home Secretary James Cleverly, the Prime Minister spoke in shirtsleeves following his appearance in the rain in Downing Street earlier on Wednesday.

Referring to news that inflation had fallen to 2.3%, he said he had delivered on his first pledge to the British people, adding: “We have shown the country that it is only this Conservative Party that can deliver the economic stability, the foundation of our national success.”

He also repeated warnings that Labour would take the country “back to square one”, adding: “We know the only certainty with Labour is they will run out of money and raise your taxes.”

Sir Keir Starmer’s name was met with a series of grunts from the audience.

As the Prime Minister launched an attack on the opposition leader, the crowd whistled, cheered and hooted.


Sunak addresses campaign rally in east London

Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:27 , Matt Watts

Rishi Sunak is addressing supporters at the Conservative’s first campaign rally in east London.

He tells the crowd: “We are going to fight everyday for our values and our vision and the British people are going to show Labour they don’t take too kindly to being taken forgranted .”

The Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative campaign rally was met with around of applause.

Those in attendance held up Vote Conservative placards as he greeted members of his Cabinet.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Cleverly address Tory activists in east London ahead of Sunak speech

Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:16 , Matt Watts

James Cleverly is addressing Tory supporters at a rally in east London where Rishi Sunak is due to speak shortly.

The Home Secretary told supporters: “At a time of turbulence when there danger across the globe we need a leader who is willing to make the right choices.”

He also attacked Sir Keir Starmer calling him “weak” and “indecisive”.

Pregnant Labour MP Holly Lynch to stand down at general election

Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:04 , Anthony France

Labour MP for Halifax Holly Lynch is the first to announce she won’t be standing in the general election.

The opposition Deputy Chief Whip said the July 4 announcement had come much sooner than she anticipated.

But she said: “Whilst I have the most amazing husband and family, as the mother of a young son with another on the way, I have found balancing requirements of this very special job, with those responsibilities, increasingly difficult.”

Can Sir Keir Starmer achieve a bigger swing for Labour than Tony Blair in 1997

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:53 , Anthony France

Sir Keir Starmer has promised to “stop the chaos” in his first speech of the General Election campaign, saying a vote for Labour would be “a vote for stability”.

Labour begins the campaign in a strong position, with a 20-point lead over the Conservatives, but with a stiff challenge after suffering its worst defeat in decades in 2019.

Boundary changes have added to that challenge, with Labour needing a bigger swing than Tony Blair achieved in 1997 if the party is to win a majority.

Health boss: NHS to be a key battleground in the race for Number 10

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:45 , Anthony France

The long-term future of the NHS will likely be a key battleground in the run up to the general election.

Commenting on the July 4 announcement, Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, said: “Public satisfaction with the NHS is at an all-time low, reflecting many people’s experiences of the relentless pressure on GPs, hospitals, ambulances and mental health and community health services.

“But public support for the fundamental principles of the NHS remains rock solid.

“Demand for health and social care services is increasing and getting more complex as providers and staff work flat out in tough conditions to give patients safe, first-class care.

“The next government and the NHS must work hand in hand to create the picture of health for the nation we all want to see.”

No word on King and Queen’s state visit to Japan

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:40 , Anthony France

There is no confirmation as to whether the King and Queen’s upcoming Japanese state visit, which was previously postponed due to the pandemic, will still happen in June.

The sovereign does not vote and is a constitutional monarch who must remain politically neutral.

NHS to be a key battleground in the race for Number 10

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:30 , Tom Davidson

The long-term future of the NHS will likely be a key battleground in the run up to the general election.

Recent polling suggests that the founding principles of the service are still staunchly backed by the British public.

But satisfaction with the NHS has dipped to record lows, indicating that politicians will have to persuade voters that their party will be the most likely to improve care for patients.

Read the full story here.

Sunak takes another stab at it (having dried off...)

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:18 , Tom Davidson

Rishi Sunak has explained just why he’s decided to call a snap summer election, having dried off from his announcement on Downing Street.

Buckingham Palace statement

Wednesday 22 May 2024 19:16 , Tom Davidson

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said:

“Following the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon calling a General Election, the royal family will, in accordance with normal procedure, postpone engagements that may appear to divert attention or distract from the election campaign.

“Their Majesties send their sincere apologies to any of those who may be affected as a result.”

London Lib Dem MP 'ready for months'

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:56 , Tom Davidson

A London Lib Dem MP has said the party has “been ready for months” for a General Election and the public will be “breathing a sigh of relief” after the announcement.

Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham, told ITV News London: “After Rishi Sunak bottled it for May, I think most of us thought it was going to be October, November time but, to be honest, the Liberal Democrats have been ready for months now and we’re ready to go and kick this Conservative government out.

“I think people across the country will breathing a sigh of relief that he’s finally going to dissolve parliament and go to the country.”

Ms Wilson said the Lib Dems would be targeting seats in Esher and Walton and just outside London in Hertfordshire, adding: “We are battle ready and we’ve got an army of activists who are out there desperate to deliver change.”

Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson (PA Archive)
Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson (PA Archive)

Tory campaign event in London tonight

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:50 , Tom Davidson

The Standard understands the Tories are wasting absolutely no time.

There will be a campaign event in London TONIGHT. We’ll have live updates.

Jeremy Hunt confirms he will stand

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:46 , Tom Davidson

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has confirmed he will stand in the General Election, and said on X he would “fight with every bone in my body” to get Rishi Sunak re-elected.

He wrote: “As today’s inflation news confirms, despite massive global shocks our country’s prospects have been transformed under Rishi’s leadership. It will be my honour to fight with every bone in my body to get him re-elected because we need a government that takes the difficult decisions necessary to unlock our nation’s extraordinary potential.

“I will also stand for election in Godalming and Ash where I am proud of my local record and excited that the new boundaries include the town I went to school and the village I grew up in.

“It is a highly marginal seat so I will fight hard for every single vote!”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (PA Wire)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson urges voters to back Tories

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:40 , Rachael Burford

Boris Johnson has urged voters to back the Conservatives at the upcoming general election.

There is speculation the former PM might appear on the campaign trail.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said he was "as always, strongly supporting the Conservatives" and "encourages everybody to do the same" following the announcement that a poll would take place on July 4.

But it remains unclear whether Mr Johnson would join Rishi Sunak or other candidates on the campaign trail, despite months of speculation about his plans for the election period.

On polling day itself, Mr Johnson will hope not to repeat his experience at May's local elections, when he was turned away from a polling station after attempting to vote without a valid photo ID.

A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the former prime minister would be supporting the Conservatives ‘as always’ (PA Wire)
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the former prime minister would be supporting the Conservatives ‘as always’ (PA Wire)

This will feel like 'a long campaign', says Labour

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:05 , Rachael Burford

Sir Keir Starmer: “Tonight the Prime Minister has finally announced the next General Election.

“A moment the country needs – and has been waiting for.

“And where, by the force of our democracy power returns to you.

“A chance to change for the better. Your future. Your community. Your country. It will feel like a long campaign – I’m sure of that.

“But no matter what else is said and done. That opportunity for change is what this election is about.”

Sir Keir Starmer (PA Wire)
Sir Keir Starmer (PA Wire)

Tracey Crouch 'quite emotional' about snap election

Wednesday 22 May 2024 18:00 , Tom Davidson

Tracey Crouch has already announced that she will stand down at the next general election, clearly this July poll is sooner than we expected.

Consistent Labour theme - change

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:56 , Tom Davidson

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told voters that on July 4 the future of the UK is in “your hands”, saying “together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain”.

"The future of the country (is) in your hands"

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:50 , Tom Davidson

Keir Starmer says: "Over the last four years, we have changed the Labour Party and we've returned it once more to the service of working people."All we ask now, humbly, is to do exactly the same for our country and return Britain to the service of working people."

Mr Starmer finishes his brief speech by telling the British public that "the future of the country (is) in your hands".

Sir Keir Starmer: Labour will 'change our country'

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:50 , Rachael Burford

Sir Keir Starmer promises a Labour government will “change our country”, bringing down NHS waiting lists and securing economic growth.

From a speech indoors, he says: “A vote for Labour is a vote for stability...a vote to stop the chaos.”

Keir Starmer begins his response

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:45 , Tom Davidson

Keir Starmer’s first live response to the news of a summer general election.

The Labour leader is inside (perhaps wisely), and flanked by two Union Jacks.

Scottish First Minister John Swinney reacts

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:43 , Tom Davidson

The General Election is a chance to “remove” the Tories from power and “put Scotland first”, the country’s First Minister has said.

John Swinney reacted on X, formerly known as Twitter, to confirmation voters will go to the polls on July 4.

Mr Swinney, who only became SNP leader earlier this month, said: “I look forward to leading @theSNP in this election.

“This is the moment to remove the Tory Govt and put Scotland First by voting SNP. People in Scotland know we stand up for them and protect them from the damage done by Westminster.”

Sunak will 'fight for every vote'

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:38 , Tom Davidson

The prime minister concluded by saying only a Conservative government with him in charge would ensure economic stability.

He said:

“Over the next few weeks, I will fight for every vote.

“I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk, can restore pride and confidence in our country, and with a clear plan and bold action will deliver a secure future for you, your family and our United Kingdom.”

Rishi Sunak walks back into 10 Downing Street after his announcement (AP)
Rishi Sunak walks back into 10 Downing Street after his announcement (AP)

Labour respond immediately

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:28 , Tom Davidson

Labour immediately responded with a slickly produced video on social media that detailed Britain's economic and social ills under 14 years of Tory rule.

Sir Keir Starmer delivered a one-word tweet over the video: "Change."

Sunak gets very wet during speech

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:27 , Tom Davidson

Sunak's rain-drenched statement was almost drowned out by protestors playing at full volume Labour's 1997 campaign song, "Things Can Only Get Better."

A Lib Dem source said: "Things can only get wetter."

Parliament to be dissolved

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:22 , Tom Davidson

Announcing a general election, Mr Sunak said: “This hard earned economic stability was only ever meant to be the beginning, the question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family, and our country?

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty.

“Earlier today I spoke with His Majesty the King to request the dissolution of Parliament.

“The King has granted this request and we will have a general election on July 4.”

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Sunak reflects on the pandemic

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:19 , Tom Davidson

Mr Sunak began his address by reflecting on the Covid pandemic.

He said: “In the last five years our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War.

“As I stand here as your Prime Minister, I can’t help but reflect that my first proper introduction to you was just over four years ago. I stood behind one of the podiums upstairs in the building behind me.

“I told you that we faced a generation-defining moment and that we as a society could not be judged by some Government action, but by the small acts of kindness we showed one another.

“You met that challenge and then some, and I had never been prouder to be British.”

Sunak's speech begins

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:17 , Tom Davidson

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed he has “never and will never leave the people of this country to face the darkest of days alone” as he began a statement in Downing Street in which he is expected to trigger a July election.

The lectern is out!

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:12 , Tom Davidson

The lectern has been brought out.

Rishi Sunak is due out any moment, he’s going to call a general election with his party 20 points down in the polls.

A high stakes gamble from the prime minister.

Lib Dems 'fired up and ready to beat Conservative MPs'

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:06 , Rachael Burford

A Liberal Democrat Spokesperson said:

"We are fired up and ready to beat Conservative MPs across the country and get rid of this appalling and out-of-touch government.

"Ed Davey is on his way now to Michael Gove's true blue Surrey seat. Cabinet ministers in former Conservative heartlands will be looking nervously over their shoulders at the Liberal Democrats."

Statement running late

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:05 , Tom Davidson

The expected statement from Rishi Sunak is running a few minutes late. Perhaps he’s waiting/hoping the miserable Westminster weather will clear up.

There’s something very British about calling a ‘summer’ election in the pouring rain.

Last July election was in 1945

Wednesday 22 May 2024 17:01 , Tom Davidson

Not the best omen for the Conservative Party but Rishi Sunak must see a path to victory for this roll of the dice.

(Also, the speakers and lectern are being brought out for the Prime Minister’s statement, which is imminent)

David Cameron's former comms chief weighs in

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:49 , Tom Davidson

David Cameron’s No10 director of communications Craig Oliver says: “The hot take is @RishiSunak knows it will only get worse, so he’s calling an election…

“But another take is: If we are going to lose, disrupt things, put @UKLabour under pressure, try to expose how empty their cupboard is. It’s high-risk - but you can see why he’s done it.”

Rishi Sunak to make statement at 5pm

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:46 , Tom Davidson

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will make a statement in Downing Street at 5pm, No 10 has said, amid speculation he will call a July 4 general election.

Prepare the lectern!

BBC One interrupts programming

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:42 , Tom Davidson

BBC One has interrupted their regular scheduled programming to run BBC News live.

It appears as though it’s all systems go for a summer election.

Election to be held on July 4 - reports

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:27 , Tom Davidson

It is being reported in some outlets that Rishi Sunak is to bite the bullet and call for a summer general election, with voting to be held on July 4.

This would mean most of the campaigning would be done in June. No confirmation yet.

Johnny Mercer and Andrew Mitchell arrive

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:13 , Tom Davidson

Andrew Mitchell and Johnny Mercer have arrived at Downing Street. (Mr Mercer is, importantly, wearing shoes...)

The ministers are attending a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Watch live as Cabinet ministers arrive at Downing Street for a meeting with Prime Minister

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:09 , Anthony France

Cabinet ministers are arriving at Downing Street for a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Watch live.

Northern Ireland Secretary arrives at Downing Street amid mounting speculation

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:06 , Anthony France

Chris Heaton-Harris has arrived at Downing Street amid mounting speculation that the Prime Minister may call a general election.

The Northern Ireland Secretary joined other cabinet colleagues in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Northern Ireland Secretary also at Downing Street

Wednesday 22 May 2024 16:06 , Tom Davidson

Chris Heaton-Harris has arrived at Downing Street amid mounting speculation that the Prime Minister may call a general election.

The Northern Ireland Secretary joined other cabinet colleagues in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Grant Shapps arrives at Number 10

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:52 , Rachael Burford

The Defence Secretary has arrived for the cabinet meeting having delayed a trip abroad.

He did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether there will be a summer election.

More Tory MPs cancel interviews

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:50 , Rachael Burford

Energy minster Andrew Bowie was set to be speaking with the BBC Radio Wales Drive programme today, but has cancelled the interview.

Home Office ministers have reportedly had their diaries cleared.

Why are cabinet ministers delaying trips?

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:32 , Rachael Burford

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has delayed a trip to the Baltic states by a few hours and Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron has cut short a visit to Albania to attend a Cabinet meeting this afternoon.

This is unusual because ministers are often allowed to miss the meeting when they have other business.

Jeremy Hunt has also cancelled an appearance on ITV’s Peston show later today, where he was due to talk about falling inflation.

What we know so far

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:20 , Rachael Burford

General election fever has erupted in Westminster.

Here’s what we know so far:

- The government has failed to knock down speculation that the PM is about to call a general election

- Rishi Sunak has called a cabinet meeting for 4.15pm, with rumours there could be a statement in Downing Street at 5pm

- Grant Shapps and David Cameron have delayed or cut short foreign trips to be in London this afternoon

- Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has cancelled an appearance on ITV’s Peston later today

Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street earlier today (REUTERS)
Rishi Sunak outside Downing Street earlier today (REUTERS)

Labour 'ready for election'

Wednesday 22 May 2024 15:19 , Rachael Burford

Labour has urged the Prime Minister to "get on with it" and trigger a general election.

A spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer said: "We are fully ready to go whenever the Prime Minister calls an election.

“We have a fully organised and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election so would urge the Prime Minister to get on with it."

The party, which is about 20 points ahead in the polls, accused Mr Sunak of having "bottled it" in the past.

Sir Keir’s spokesman added: "We've seen the Prime Minister has repeatedly marched us up this hill and then bottled it at the last minute when it comes to calling an election, but when it comes to it, however long he keeps delaying it, he cannot avoid the verdict of the British public, which recognises that this is a Government that has failed over the last 14 years and believes that it's time for a change.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (PA)