Whitehall officials in secret talks for snap election in May despite Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously alluding to calling poll in ‘the second half of the year’

  • Meetings begin to be held to make contingency arrangements for May 2nd

Whitehall is making secret preparations for a snap general election, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Although Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his “working assumption” was that he would call the poll in the second half of the year, he did not actually rule out a spring election.

Meetings are now starting to be held in government offices to make contingency arrangements for May 2.

This included making transitional security plans for MPs when Parliament is dissolved and preparing for a possible influx of new MPs in the week commencing 6 May.

Most officials are still operating on the assumption that Mr Sunak will call an election for October or November after the Tory conference and a tax-cutting autumn budget – a time when the ‘feel good’ factor of lower inflation and interest rates should finally kick in through voters to be felt.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his 'working assumption' is that he will call the poll in the second half of the year

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his ‘working assumption’ is that he will call the poll in the second half of the year

Sir Keir Starmer's party is bracing for the possibility of an early poll

Sir Keir Starmer’s party is bracing for the possibility of an early poll

The main Cabinet Office building at Whitehall Road, City of Westminster, Central London

The main Cabinet Office building at Whitehall Road, City of Westminster, Central London

Mr Sunak also needs more time to try to deliver on his promises, including lower inflation, cutting NHS waiting lists, reducing debt and stopping the small boats.

But The Mail on Sunday understands officials are now drawing up a contingency timetable for the prime minister to call the election in mid-March. Parliament would be dissolved a few days after the declaration, with polling day falling 25 working days after dissolution in accordance with General Election Rules.

Council and mayoral elections are also scheduled for May 2.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party is also bracing itself for the possibility of an early poll, to ensure it is not wrong if the Prime Minister goes to the country in the spring.

Some Tory MPs have also privately pushed for a spring election on the grounds that the polls are not moving in the party’s favour, and that their situation could deteriorate even further.

The Institute for Government says a poll on May 2 will avoid the risk that “a heavy defeat in the local elections could increase pressure on the Prime Minister – also from within his party – and make it difficult to regain momentum.”

Mr Sunak declared his ‘working assumption’ on the timing in an attempt to fend off a planned Labor attempt to label him a ‘bottler’ if he waits until the autumn.

According to law, the last possible date for the election is 28 January 2025.