Sunak claims 'economy has turned a corner' and 'plan is working' at first campaign rally after announcing election

22 May 2024, 21:02 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 23:11

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Rishi Sunak has claimed the Conservatives' 'plan is working' and the 'economy has turned a corner' as he made his first speech on the campaign trail.

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Met with a round of applause and backed by campaigners holding Vote Conservative placards, the prime minister said he had delivered on his first pledge to the British people after it was announced this morning that inflation had fallen to 2.3 per cent.

"We have shown the country that it is only this Conservative Party that can deliver the economic stability, the foundation of our national success," he told London's ExCel Centre.

He was also flanked by Cabinet colleagues and introduced by Home Secretary James Cleverly as he appeared on stage in shirtsleeves after announcing the general election soaked in rain earlier today.

He also repeated warnings that Labour would take the country "back to square one", adding: "We know the only certainty with Labour is they will run out of money and raise your taxes."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, meanwhile, said he was committing to running the party's General Election campaign was "a new spirit of service: country first, party second".

Cabinet members wait for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to speak at a General Election campaign event at the ExCel London
Cabinet members wait for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to speak at a General Election campaign event at the ExCel London. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Starmer vows it's 'time for change' as he addresses nation after Sunak announces General Election date

Read More: Prankster behind Sunak's 'Things Can Only Get Wetter' moment 'banned from Parliament' after drowning out speech

Also speaking at a Conservative campaign rally, Home Secretary James Cleverly said: "In a time of turbulence, when there is danger across the globe... we need a leader and a head of a government who is willing to make the right choices."

It came as a Sky News broadcast crew were removed from the ExCel Centre by security ahead of the Prime Minister's speech.

Broadcaster Darren McCaffrey and his crew were escorted from the venue by two security guards, with the correspondent saying they had not been allowed in due to broadcast pooling arrangements.

Speaking earlier today, Starmer said there is "so much pride and potential" to be unlocked in Britain "with patience, determination and that commitment to service".

Citing his record as director of public prosecutions, the Labour leader said: "Service of our country is the reason and the only reason why I am standing here now asking for your vote. I believe with patience, determination and that commitment to service, there is so much pride and potential we can unlock in our country.

"So here it is, the future of the country in your hands."

He spoke of a "rejection of the gesture politics you will see in this campaign I have no doubt from the Tories and the SNP", saying Labour would approach the General Election in a new "spirit of service: country first, party second".

LIVE: Rishi Sunak announces General Election on July 4

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech to announce the date of the UK's next general election
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech to announce the date of the UK's next general election. Picture: Getty

It comes after Sunak announced the General Election would take place on July 4.

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street earlier today, a drenched Rishi Sunak vowed he "will never leave the people of this country to face the darkest of days alone".

Sunak declared it "the moment for Britain to choose its future" and said the election will take place at time "when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War".

Sunak used his speech in Downing Street to attack the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, accusing him of "taking the easy way out".

"I have to say, if he was happy to abandon all the promises he made to become Labour leader once he got the job, how can you know that he won't do exactly the same thing if he were to become prime minister?" Sunak said.

"If you don't have the conviction to stick to anything you say, if you don't have the courage to tell people what you want to do, and if you don't have a plan, how can you possibly be trusted to lead our country, especially at this most uncertain of times?"

'Power returns to you'

Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer. Picture: Labour

Reacting to Sunak's General Election announcement, Sir Keir said a vote for Labour was a "vote for stability".

"Tonight the prime minister has finally announced the next general election, a moment the country needs and has been waiting for," Sir Keir said.

"And where by the force of our democracy, power returns to you. A chance to change for the better your future."It will feel like a long campaign, I'm sure of that.

"But no matter what else is said and done, that opportunity for change is what this election is about."

"It is a time for change," the Labour leader added.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

The Prime Minister kicked off his election announcement by reflecting on the Covid pandemic, as well as the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

He said: "In the last five years our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War.

"As I stand here as your Prime Minister, I can't help but reflect that my first proper introduction to you was just over four years ago. I stood behind one of the podiums upstairs in the building behind me.

"I told you that we faced a generation-defining moment and that we as a society could not be judged by some Government action, but by the small acts of kindness we showed one another.

"You met that challenge and then some, and I had never been prouder to be British."

Andrew Marr's explores what Sunak's announcement means for Labour

Pointing to wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the Prime Minister added: "This election will take place at a time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War."

Read More: Rishi Sunak confirms General Election will take place on July 4: what happens next?

Sunak concluded by saying only a Conservative government with him in charge would ensure economic stability and said he would "fight for every vote".

"I will earn your trust and I will prove to you that only a Conservative government led by me will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk, can restore pride and confidence in our country, and with a clear plan and bold action will deliver a secure future for you, your family and our United Kingdom," he said.

"Compare the optics of that to what we saw from Rishi Sunak at Number 10", says Ben Kentish

The Prime Minister confirmed Parliament will be prorogued on Friday, before being dissolved officially next Thursday, May 30.

After the election takes place on July 4, the new Parliament will meet again on Tuesday, July 9.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Getty

With six weeks to go until the election takes place, many will be looking to see whether any more veteran Tory MPs will be stepping down.

It comes after experienced government ministers Chris Heaton-Harris and James Heappey announced they would not stand.

The future of the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been subject to intense speculation, with many suggesting he may stand down.

However, Hunt said he will "fight hard for every vote" in his Surrey constituency.

"As today’s inflation news confirms, despite massive global shocks our country’s prospects have been transformed under Rishi’s leadership.

"It will be my honour to fight with every bone in my body to get him re-elected because we need a government that takes the difficult decisions necessary to unlock our nation’s extraordinary potential.

"I will also stand for election in Godalming and Ash where I am proud of my local record and excited that the new boundaries include the town I went to school and the village I grew up in.

"It is a highly marginal seat so I will fight hard for every single vote!"

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