Expert decodes General Election date as Taylor Swift and Euros followers fume

Drenched in the rain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the next General Election as July 4, which could put a dampener on summer for many.

On the other hand, it could go down in history as one of the best summers to date with victories in both sport and politics – but many are left wondering, why then? As voters head to the polls, Brits will also be revelling in a jam-packed calendar of national summer events, with Euros, Wimbledon, and Taylor Swift’s UK Eras tour, among others.

Following the surprise announcement, memes and tweets soon went viral on social media about the chaos of the upcoming months. “General Election, Euros 2024, The Olympics & Love Island. Twitter is going to be legendary this summer,” posted one to X.

Another remarked: “On the one hand, a general election in the middle of summer, in the middle of the euros, could be absolute vibes. On the other hand, we live in Britain.” One tweet that equally amused and horrified readers summed it up as: “A genny lec during holibobs is absolutely beveragino thinking”.

Harry Kane

The country will be cheering on Harry Kane and his team

Taylor Swift performs at Friends Arena on May 17, 2024 in Stockholm

Swifties will also be welcoming megastar Taylor Swift to their hometowns
Getty Images for TAS Rights Mana)

A rather soggy Sunak said it was “time for Britain to choose its future” as his speech was drowned out by protesters playing the New Labour anthem, “Things Can Only Get Better” by D:Ream, at full blast. In a lengthy address outside No 10, the PM told voters: “I cannot and will not say that we have got everything right. No government should. But I am proud of what we have achieved together, the bold actions we have taken and I’m confident about what we can do in the future.”

He had been under pressure for months to call a vote, which must be held by January 2025 at the latest by law. But he stalled on naming the date previously in a bid to turn around his party’s flagging approval ratings.

Mr Sunak added: “This election will take place at time when the world is more dangerous than it has been since the end of the Cold War.” The “uncertain times” call for a “clear plan”, he said. There were reports that the Tories were in favour of an autumn election, however the PM appeared to have been warned about the economic data not going in his favour.

Instead, he chose to harness Wednesday’s inflation figures, which show price rises slowed to 2.3 per cent in April, down from 3.2 per cent in March. Slashing inflation was one of Mr Sunak’s five pledges, which is why the latest figures could have played a key role in his decision.

Professor Matthew Flinders, director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for Understanding Politics at the University of Sheffield, told the Mirror: “The answer to the ‘why now?’ question is simple – money. The economy is not improving at the speed Rishi Sunak hoped it would.

“Yesterday’s inflation figures confirmed this and so the political logic of ‘playing the long game’ in the hope of future tax cuts was dashed. Sticking it out without the public clearly starting to feel economic improvements risked creating a Conservative catastrophe.”

The expert added: “There is also a personal dimension: Rishi Sunak must be exhausted by the pressures of governing while holding together a cantankerous party. Getting the election out of the way on 4th July will give him a degree of ‘stability’ – guaranteed to be the buzzword of the election – in terms of his own future.”

Rishi outside No 10 in the rain

Rishi Sunak highlighted the latest inflation figures in his promise for ‘stability’
James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock)

Using the buzzword in his speech yesterday afternoon, Rishi added: “Over the next few weeks, I will 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.”

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer also used the phrase in his speech in London, with him saying: “A vote for Labour is a vote for stability.” He said the future of the country was in voters’ hands, adding: “Together we can stop the chaos, we can turn the page, we can start to rebuild Britain and change our country.”

There are also practical reasons for the July 4 date. Parliament needs to be dissolved 25 working days before an election, so it couldn’t have been called any sooner.

The PM also had to take into account school holiday dates. In Scotland, children break up for the summer much earlier than in the rest of the UK, and this year it falls on July 5. If a General Election came after this date, it would have run the risk of having a huge proportion of voters away on holiday, who are potentially unable to arrange postal and proxy ballots.

But with some schools breaking up a week earlier, First Minister John Swinney says the decision to have an election just as Scottish schools begin their summer break is the “latest act of disrespect” from the UK government. Some private schools in England also break up for the holidays around the election date, and the absence of those parents could have had a monumental impact on the swing of the polls.

Dr Nigel Fletcher, Teaching Fellow, Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London, also explained: “Over the years, Prime Ministers have chosen election dates based on all sorts of factors from economic forecasts to football fixtures and the weather. A lot of energy is taken up by these sorts of discussions, because one of the only things they can truly control in an election is the date.”

The expert added: “Sadly for them, they can’t forecast what happens once they’ve fired the starting gun, as many of them have discovered to their cost. Overall, they’re probably better off focusing on the messages they want to convey rather than obsessively studying the calendar.”

The date also falls in line with holding elections on a Thursday, which is more of a tradition than a rule. The last General Election to be held in July was in 1945 on July 5, which saw Labour win by a landslide victory. Replacing Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, Labour MP for Limehouse, Clement Attlee, took over and brought with him the formation of the National Health Service.

Mr Sunak’s election gamble comes just weeks after the Tories lost almost 500 council seats across England in its worst result at the local elections in 40 years. Labour has also secured a series of stunning victories at by-elections in recent months with record swings. In Blackpool South just last month, the party secured the biggest swing from the Tories since the Second World War.