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Rishi Sunak rules out General Election on May 2 following speculation

Rishi Sunak has ruled out calling a General Election for May 2 amid mounting speculation that he could take the country to the polls in the Spring.

Rumours had swirled that the Prime Minister would call a general election for the same day that the country votes in the local elections.

But the Prime Minister told ITV on Thursday that no vote would take place, adding: “In several weeks time, we've got elections for police and crime commissioners, for local councils, for mayors across the country. They're important elections and that's what I'm focused on.

"There won't be a general election on that day," he added.

Mr Sunak made the announcement during a visit to Gloucester Rugby, where he was questioned by the broadcaster on whether he would call a vote on March 26.

Asked whether he had the support needed to call an election imminently, he responded: “When we get to the election, the choice is clear. Because look, if you stick with our plan we can deliver the change people want to see.”

The statement will put an end to mounting speculation in Westminster that the Prime Minister was preparing to call a general election to coincide with the local elections, seeking to reap an advantage at the ballot box from the national insurance cut announced at the Budget.

Labour has been particularly keen to talk up the prospect of a general election in May, with shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth betting Sky News presenter Kay Burley £10 that the election would take place then.

Mr Sunak could wait until January 2025 to hold the election, but has previously said that 2024 will be an election year.

When asked earlier on Thursday about the date of the election, he told reporters: “I said at the start of this year, my working assumption was we’d have an election in the second half of this year.

“And nothing has changed since I said that.”

On Wednesday, Mr Sunak insisted that the Conservative Party was “united” after a former Tory minister said some Tory MPs, herself included, believe a new leader should take over before the nation goes to the polls.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns told the Today programme: “I personally want a new leader before the election.”

Asked about Dame Andrea’s comments, the Prime Minister told reporters during a visit to Gloucestershire: “I think actually the party is united in wanting to make sure that we don’t have the Labour government, because our plan is the right one for the country.

“And actually, we’ve been through a difficult couple of years. Of course that’s the case, whether it’s with Covid, recovering from that, the impact of the war in Ukraine.

“But the start of this year, we really have turned a corner and we’re now pointing in the right direction. You can see that most clearly with the economy.”

Labour’s national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden said the British people had “the right” to expect a general election on May 2.

He said: “Until the day to call it has passed, we are prepared for the election to take place on the usual day in the election cycle.

“Rishi Sunak should stop squatting in Downing Street and give the country what it desperately needs – a chance for change with a Labour government. The Prime Minister needs to finally come clean with the public and name the date of the election now.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the comments showed the Prime Minister was “running scared” of a May election.

He said: “He knows that voters will not put up with this Conservative government’s failure on the NHS and the cost of living crisis any longer.

“That is why lifelong Conservative voters have switched to the Liberal Democrats in their droves and will vote for a hardworking local champion, rather than another Conservative MP who will take them for granted once again.”

Mr Sunak’s comments came as former cabinet minister Sir Brandon Lewis became the latest Conservative MP to say he will leave Parliament at the next election.

The Great Yarmouth MP’s decision to stand down means there are 61 Tories who have said they will not fight their current seat at the next election, although a small number are thought to be looking for different constituencies.

A total of 97 MPs have now said they will not fight their current seats, more than at any election since 2010 when 149 MPs stood down from the Commons.