Rory Stewart reveals Tories are 'bewildered' by early election announcement

Rory Stewart reveals Tories are 'bewildered' by early election announcement
Rishi Sunak's general election speech drowned out by Tony Blair campaign song

Rishi Sunak took everyone by surprise after calling an early election for July 4 on Wednesday (May 22), announcing the news in the pouring rain with a Labour anthem playing in the background.

The news came out of the blue, with many expecting the election to take place in the Autumn.

Now, former Tory MP and co-host of The Rest is Politics podcast, Rory Stewart, has given his thoughts on the ‘bewildering’ decision – and he’s put forward theories on why he has called a summer election.

The theories include the idea that Sunak is ready to leave Number 10, that things will only get worse for the government before the end of the year, and that a number of MPs were calling for an election sooner rather than later.

Speaking on a The Rest is Politics live stream following the announcement, Stewart said: "I've had, as you can imagine, a number of texts and WhatsApps from serving MPs. I think I've heard from six of them, some of them being cabinet ministers, some of them being backbenchers."

When asked by co-host Alistair Campbell whether they would stay and stand for re-election on July 4, Stewart replied: "I think very few of them will stay, including some who haven't yet announced they're leaving."

He spoke about the decision to call a snap election, saying: "Honestly, the response from most of them is total bewilderment."

"One of them is like: 'I have literally no idea why he's doing it, any more than I have any idea why he's standing in the rain with his musical background."

Stewart went on: "I'm talking to veteran MPs, people who have been in parliament 15-20 years, and [when asked if they know why Sunak called a snap election] they're writing back saying 'No, to be honest, I've got no idea’.

Stewart offered his thoughts on the early election announcementGetty Images

"Then they try to speculate, and I can give you the full range of hypotheses," the former MP said, listing the explanations he'd been given.

"[The first is that] this is the best moment to go," he said, listing one possible explanation. "This is a very generous view. This is a good moment, inflation is down, interest rate is cut and there are going to be Rwandan flights in June - that's the story, that it's a beautiful moment to go. That's really not very convincing, that's just somebody putting it out, trying his best."

It's an especially unlikely one, given that on Thursday morning, Sunak admitted that there will be no Rwanda deportation flights before the general election.

Stewart continued: "The next theory was [that] things are definitely not going to improve... so, the economy is not going to get any better and there's not going to be any more money for cuts, so you might as well go now.

"The third theory was that things are going to get much worse [between now and the end of the year] so we might as well go now. That theory is that Rwanda is going to go bottoms up, there's going to be more defections, Farage is going to make a comeback, the party conference is going to be an absolute catastrophe."

Stewart went on to say: "Then, there were a number of people saying that [Sunak] just hates being PM and can't bear the idea of a winter campaign and just can't face the idea of waiting until party conference and just can't do it anymore."

He went on to speak about the MPs he'd been in contact with since the announcement was made, saying: "They are all totally thrown off balance and astonished."

Stewart concluded by saying: "There is only one more theory that I want to share... I did have somebody who is very much in the inner circle who said that there have been a lot of MPs over the last few months going in to see [Sunak] saying 'please can we have an election, we're so exhausted, we're so fed up, we don't want to be in Parliament anymore. We want to leave, we want to go and do something else with our lives'."

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