Sunak and Starmer Hit UK Campaign Trail

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Labour Party rival Keir Starmer kicked off their election campaigns on Thursday, each arguing that only they can snap the country out of its economic and political malaise.

Sunak, whose Conservatives have trailed Labour by around 20 percentage points in opinion polls since he became prime minister in October 2022, shocked and angered many in his party when he gambled by calling a July 4 election, months earlier than expected.

He argued on Thursday that the economy was turning a corner and he had a plan to tackle illegal immigration. But with prices in the shops up 21% in the last three years and the national health service buckling under record waiting times, it may be hard to persuade voters that Britain is on the right track.

Even though there’s more work to do and I know it will take time for you to see the benefits, the plan is working,” Sunak told voters at an event with workers in central England.

The former investment banker announced his decision in the pouring rain in Downing Street on Wednesday, having to shout over protesters blaring the song “Things Can Only Get Better” – an anthem associated with Labour’s crushing 1997 election victory under Tony Blair that ended the last long period of Conservative rule.

Sunak also admitted on Thursday that the first flights sending illegal migrants to Rwanda, a flagship policy that is tangled in legal challenges, would not start before the vote.

He did receive one boost, however, when Nigel Farage, a former Brexit campaigner, said he would not seek election for Reform, likely blunting the appeal of the right-wing party and reducing its ability eat into the Conservatives voter base.

At stake is control of the world’s sixth largest economy which has endured years of low growth and high inflation, is still battling to make a success of its 2016 decision to leave the European Union, and is slowly recovering from twin shocks of COVID-19 and an energy price spike caused by the war in Ukraine.”

That backdrop makes the economy one of the most important electoral battlegrounds. The two parties are also likely to focus on migration, defence, health and security.

 

 

 

Reuters/Shakirat Sadiq

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