Rishi Sunak's UK election decision prompts Conservative anger, frustration

3 weeks ago 43

LONDON - There were tears, anger and frustration as Conservative lawmakers digested their leader Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's decision to call a British election much earlier than they had ever expected.

Some of those who are fighting to retain their seats feared the six weeks left to convince sceptical voters to back them would not be enough. For others who are planning to stand down, it meant an abrupt end to their political careers, forced to clear out their offices months earlier than planned.

A grassroots Conservative campaign coordinator said morale was the lowest he had known in five decades.

Sunak remained adamant on Thursday that the timing was right, telling workers at a distribution centre in an English town that the economy was turning a corner with inflation down, energy bills falling, wages rising and increasing growth.

"So look, even though there is more work to do ... the plan is working and we have that economic stability back," Sunak told some 30 workers encircling him in a warehouse.

Laughing with the workers and chatting about U.S. popstar Taylor Swift, Sunak's upbeat mood was in stark contrast to that among Conservative lawmakers who said they were blindsided by his move on Wednesday to call a national election for July 4.

After the shock of the decision that only a handful of close advisers knew about, those Conservatives who are planning to run started to realise how much of an uphill battle they faced to retain their parliamentary seats. Those whose constituencies had disappeared in a redrawing of electoral boundaries for this election wondered whether they would even be offered a seat.

Of eight Conservative lawmakers Reuters spoke to about the decision, seven said they were baffled and frustrated by the timing of the vote. Only one said it was the right decision because the economy was unlikely to improve further.

None believed the Conservatives could win a parliamentary majority.

'THE SPARK HAS GONE'

"It may well be the case that he just realised that the game is up ... However, he didn't come to speak to the parliamentary party, which is absolutely dreadful form. That is a matter of basic courtesy," said one Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity because he did not want to criticise Sunak publicly.

One Conservative staffer said they had spent much of the night crying after Sunak's announcement.

Ed Costello, c...

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