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UK PM Rishi Sunak takes time away amid mass exodus of MPs

The 44-year-old Indian-origin leader is taking some private time out with his aides and family amid a mass exodus of senior members of Parliament from his embattled Conservative Party.
Last Updated : 25 May 2024, 10:23 IST
Last Updated : 25 May 2024, 10:23 IST

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London: After declaring a general election for July 4, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly spending his first Saturday with his closest advisers as he takes an “unusual step” of a day away from public events over the first weekend of the campaign.

The 44-year-old Indian-origin leader is taking some private time out with his aides and family amid a mass exodus of senior members of Parliament from his embattled Conservative Party.

Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom became the latest Tory frontliners to announce their decision to not stand for re-election in this summer’s polls, taking the number of party members quitting the race to as many as 78.

Gove’s announcement in a letter released on social media on Friday evening had been anticipated amid strong challenges to incumbent Tories in constituencies around the country.

Leadsom released her own letter shortly after, writing to Sunak: “After careful reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming election.”

In his letter, Housing Minister Gove wrote that he knew “the toll office can take, as do those closest to me…No one in politics is a conscript. We are volunteers who willingly choose our fate. And the chance to serve is wonderful. But there comes a moment when you know that it is time to leave. That a new generation should lead.'

Former prime minister Theresa May is also among the senior MPs stepping away, with former defence minister Ben Wallace already having announced his decision to leave frontline politics.

According to sources quoted by the Guardian newspaper, Sunak is taking the “unusual step” of a day away from public events over the first weekend of the election campaign and instead will spend it in discussion on election strategy with his closest advisers.

While one source was quoted as saying that the idea that Sunak was hoping to reset his campaign was “ridiculous”, another campaign operative claimed that “prime ministers don’t normally spend the first weekend of the campaign at home talking to their advisers”.

The reports prompted Opposition Labour MP Stella Creasy to post on social media: 'Sunak is already in need of a duvet day. Britain is already in need of a different government.'

However, the claims were soon rubbished, saying he was spending the day campaigning in his north England constituency of Yorkshire. Conservative minister Bim Afolami intervened to brand criticisms of the Sunak campaign made by the Opposition.

'I think a lot of those things are fluff…I think that the important thing is that we frame this election correctly,' he said.

It came as Sunak visited the Titanic Quarter in Belfast on Friday, where the world's largest attraction themed around the ship is located, prompting one reporter to ask if he is 'captaining a sinking ship going into this election'.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer is also in full campaign swing planning to use the day at public events designed to focus on his argument that the Conservatives have damaged the economy and raised living costs.

It came as Labour’s lead fell by three points in the first YouGov opinion poll since Rishi Sunak called the snap summer general election on Wednesday.

The survey, conducted on Thursday and Friday, shows the Conservatives up by one point to 22 per cent, while Labour is down two to 44 per cent.

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Published 25 May 2024, 10:23 IST

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