Hunt hints at October date for UK general election

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Jeremy Hunt has hinted that the UK government may hold the next general election in October, which would give the ruling Conservative party less than seven months to turn around its dire position in the opinion polls.

The UK chancellor, speaking to the House of Lords’ economic affairs committee on Tuesday, was asked about the chances of the Treasury carrying out a spending review after the election but before next spring.

He replied: “Of course, if the general election is in October, that will mean it’s very very tight,” he said. “And that is why we’re thinking in advance.”

The Conservatives are around 21 points behind the opposition Labour party in the polls, which if repeated on polling day would mean a landslide for Sir Keir Starmer’s opposition party after 14 years out of government.

Rishi Sunak must hold a general election by January 2025, meaning that the prime minister’s room for manoeuvre over the timing of the contest is running out.

Hunt on Tuesday also suggested there would be one final Budget or Autumn Statement before the election, saying: “I hope there is another fiscal event this parliament.”

A spokesperson for Hunt said the chancellor did not know the precise election date: “He used it as a hypothetical in a question.”

But expectations that the election will not be held until after the summer were reinforced earlier on Tuesday when the UK announced it would host the next European Political Community summit on July 18 at Blenheim Palace.

There had been months of uncertainty around the event, which European diplomats blamed on Sunak’s government keeping open the possibility of a snap general election in the spring.

Several EU ambassadors had complained privately that officials in London had been dragging their feet over agreeing a date for the summit, which was initially expected to take place in March or April.

The row brewing behind the scenes over the delay was first reported by the Financial Times in January.

Last week Sunak ruled out holding a general election on the same day as the local elections on May 2, telling ITV News: “There won’t be a general election on that day.”

At the start of the year Sunak said he was working on an assumption that he would go to the country “in the second half of this year”, without ruling out the possibility of an earlier snap election.

The EPC summit will involve 50 European leaders descending on the birthplace of Winston Churchill in Oxfordshire to discuss topics ranging from “putting our full support behind Ukraine to stopping the scourge of people smuggling and illegal migration”, Sunak said on Tuesday.

The gathering of European states from Iceland to Azerbaijan is intended to promote better co-operation across the continent and has been held three times before.


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