Rishi Sunak has given the biggest indication yet that he is planning for a General Election after he revealed new policies that mark a line in the sand between his party and Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.
In a speech given in Downing Street, the prime minister said he will be easing a series of green policies while setting out a “new approach” designed to protect “hard-pressed British families” from “unacceptable costs”.
He confirmed the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 will be pushed back to 2035 and changes to the Government’s plan to phase out new boilers.
Sunak also claimed to have scrapped a series of “heavy-handed measures”, such as a tax on meat and flying, compulsory car-sharing and forcing people to recycle in seven different bins.
The speech was interpreted by some as the clearest indication yet that the PM is mulling a general election, with policy lines being drawn to distinguish the Tory offering.
What are the polls saying?
Sunak’s approval rating dropped to an all-time low following his speech delaying climate change measures.
YouGov field work shows the prime minister now has a net approval rating of -45 after he rowed back on commitments in the 2019 manifesto to take meaningful action on climate change.
Two-thirds of people told pollster Ipsos they did not trust the Conservatives to make the right decisions on the environment, while Greenpeace found that voters in Conservative heartlands overwhelmingly back climate and nature policies.
The latest opinion polls put Labour on 45 per cent of the vote with the Conservatives on 26 per cent.
Lib Dems have a 13 per cent share while the Green Party is on five per cent.
How are the Conservatives looking to change their fortunes?
A number of policies have been touted by the Conservatives to turn their fortunes around ahead of the next General Election.
Along with scaling back net-zero plans, Sunak has also hinted that he may ditch the northern leg of the HS2 project and make cuts to inheritance tax.
Cabinet minister Grant Shapps told Sky News: “I think it’s a question for many people of aspiration and people know that there’s something deeply unfair about being taxed all their lives and then being taxed in death as well.”
Inheritance tax is levied at 40 per cent, but the vast majority of estates fall below the threshold – which can be up to £1 million for a couple – to incur the charge.
The latest figures, for the tax year 2020 to 2021, showed just 3.73 per cent of UK deaths resulted in an inheritance tax (IHT) charge.
Likely dates for the next UK General Election
It is still unknown when the next UK General Election will fall, but speculation over potential dates has been rife on the back of the net-zero announcements.
The maximum term for Parliament is five years. As the current Parliament first met on December 17th, 2019, it will be automatically dissolved on December 17th, 2024.
Polling day would therefore take place 25 days later, placing the next general election in January 2025. However, King Charles could dissolve Parliament at any time before this date at the request of the prime minister.
Speaking to Kay Burley, Ian Dunt tipped mid September 2024 as being a likely date, while others have suggested a spring election could offer the Tories the best chance of performing well.