• Monday, June 24, 2024

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Sunak, Starmer hit campaign trail as election race kicks off

Both the PM and opposition leader will look to seize the early initiative by meeting voters and conveying the messages that they expect will earn them enough seats to form government.

British PM Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer. (Photo by Hannah McKay – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak and opposition leader Keir Starmer on Thursday (23) kicked off their respective election campaigns with both claiming that only they can steer the country out of its economic and political problems.

The former’s Conservative Party has fallen back behind a resurgent Labour by nearly 20 percentage points in opinion polls since he became the UK’s first Asian-origin prime minister in October 2022 amid a political chaos. His sudden call for elections on July 4 on Wednesday (22) shocked many in his own party even as he argued that the economy was witnessing a turnaround and that he had a plan to tackle illegal immigration.

However, despite the PM’s claims on the economy, the shooting prices in shops in the last three years and the national health service feeling the pressure under record waiting times, it might be heard to convince the voters that the country is on the right track, said a Reuters report.

Read: Rishi Sunak calls general elections on July 4

Sunak also said that the first flights sending illegal migrants to Rwanda would not take effect before the next election.

The PM, a former investment banker, declared his choice over the election in the rain in Downing Street and amid protesters blasting “Things Can Only Get Better” – a tune synonymous with Labour’s sweeping 1997 election triumph under Tony Blair that ended the Conservatives’ lengthy tenure.

Sunak told GB News television that economic stability was returning to the country.

Read: What happens in a UK general election?

“Although I know not everyone is feeling the full benefits of that yet, it’s clear that we have turned a corner. Now is the moment to look to the future,” the 44-year-old said.

The world’s sixth-largest economy hangs in the balance, weathering years of sluggish growth and steep inflation. It is still grappling with the aftermath of its historic exit from the European Union, in 2016 while slowly rebounding from the dual impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in energy prices triggered by the conflict in Ukraine.

The backdrop has made the economy one of the key battlegrounds of the UK’s next election and both parties are expected to focus on controlling migration numbers, tax and spending and security better.

Polls have shown that voters want change, despite being not highly enthused by Starmer and his Labour Party, to see the end of a Conservative era of 14 years marked by political turmoil and culture war issues.

The Tories have seen as many as five prime ministers since the 2016 referendum took place, the shortest serving among them being Liz Truss, who did not last even for two months. If Starmer becomes the next PM, it would mean the country having six prime ministers in eight years, the first time that has happened since the early 19th century.

Both Sunak and Starmer will look to seize the early initiative by meeting voters and conveying the messages that they expect will earn them enough seats to return to power on July 5.

Starmer has brought the Labour’s politics back to the centre ground after it had moved to the left under Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor. The Labour leader has vowed to bring stability and change if there is a change of guard.

“Labour will stop the chaos, turn the page and get Britain’s future back,” the country’s former chief prosecutor said in an early campaign message to Labour members, describing the election as “the fight of our lives”.

Were Labour to win the election, Starmer would become Britain’s sixth prime minister in eight years, the first time that has happened since the 1830s, underscoring the level of turmoil that has gripped a country once known for its political stability and pragmatism.

As electioneering gains momentum, parliamentary proceedings are poised to accelerate as well. The government will prioritize determining which pieces of legislation currently in progress will be expedited and which will be set aside.

(With Reuters inputs)

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