Great Britain will elect a new parliament on July 4th. King Charles III as head of state has approved his request to dissolve the House of Commons and schedule the vote, said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in front of his official residence in Downing Street in London. The conservative head of government is threatened with a debacle less than two years after taking office.

In the polls, his Conservative Party trails Labor’s Social Democrats by around 20 points. It will be the first time since 1945 that the UK will have a general election in July. At that time, the conservative incumbent and World War victor Winston Churchill surprisingly lost to his Labor challenger Clement Attlee.

Sunak: Have a clear plan

Sunak promised that only a Conservative government led by him could secure the hard-won economic stability. “These uncertain times require a clear plan and courageous action to set the course for a secure future,” said the 44-year-old. He referred to recently better economic data. The ONS statistics office announced this morning that consumer prices rose by 2.3 percent on an annual basis in April, after 3.2 percent in the previous month. When Sunak took office, inflation was more than 10 percent.

Labor leader Keir Starmer, however, demanded that after 14 years of Conservative government it was now time for a change. Nothing seems to be working in the country anymore, said Starmer. “Public services are collapsing, ambulances aren’t coming, families are being burdened by higher mortgage rates, anti-social behavior on our high streets. The list goes on and on.” Scottish Prime Minister John Swinney of the SNP independence party said: “This is the moment to throw the Tories out.”

“Sunak wants to mitigate the extent of the defeat”

Commentators spoke of a bold move given Sunak’s Tory party’s large deficit in the polls. “British prime ministers usually call early elections to increase their chances of winning,” said political scientist Mark Garnett from Lancaster University to the German Press Agency. “Rishi Sunak hopes an early election will lessen the extent of his defeat.”

Unlike in Germany, in the United Kingdom the Prime Minister is largely free to decide on the date of the election within a generous period of time. He must give notice at least 25 working days in advance. The opposition has been urging Sunak for months to finally set an election date. She accused him of deliberately delaying the decision while hoping for a shift in public opinion.

Lots of setbacks for the Prime Minister

Sunak is already the third head of government since the previous election in 2019 after Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. The Conservatives have been blamed for several scandals in recent years, including the “Partygate” affair surrounding banned lockdown celebrations in Downing Street during the pandemic. Several Conservative MPs have been expelled from the group for misconduct, including sexual assault. Recently, two Tory politicians defected to Labor.

Despite several announcements and recently improved economic data, Sunak’s Conservatives have so far failed to close the gap to Labor. Most recently, they lost hundreds of seats and a key mayoral post in local elections in England, as well as a constituency in north-west England in a parliamentary by-election. The right-wing populist Reform UK party, the former Brexit Party, is also putting increasing pressure on the Tories. The palace announced that the royal family would refrain from appointments that “may appear to distract from the election campaign.”