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UK parliament dissolved ahead of general election

The British parliament was dissolved on Thursday, as the five-week campaign period begun leading up to the general election on July 4.
The election is expected to bring the Labour party back to power after 14 years of Conservative rule. As the clock struck one minute past midnight, all 650 seats of members of parliament (MPs) became vacant, marking the official commencement of the electoral process.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s election announcement, which took place amidst a heavy downpour, has been seen by many as a shaky start to the campaign, with some interpreting the rain as an ill omen.
Sunak’s decision to hold the election on July 4, earlier than anticipated, is viewed as an attempt to regain momentum as his party’s popularity wanes in opinion polls. Meanwhile, the Labour party, led by former human rights lawyer Keir Starmer, is poised to capitalize on the opportunity to regain power after 14 years in opposition.
The ruling Conservative party is not only trailing significantly behind Labour in the polls but also facing a mass exodus of parliamentarians. An unprecedented 129 MPs, including 77 Conservatives, have announced their decision not to seek re-election, reflecting the bleak prospects of victory for the governing party. Some Tory MPs have expressed frustration at being caught off guard by the July election date, with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Steve Baker opting to continue his vacation in Greece while preparing his campaign remotely.
Despite Sunak’s efforts to promote the Conservatives as the “safe” option during his campaign travels across the country, his campaign has encountered some early setbacks. A visit to the site where the Titanic was built drew comparisons between his leadership and captaining a sinking ship. Sunak’s campaign has focused on appealing to older voters and right-wing supporters, with pledges to bring back national service and a substantial tax break for pensioners. However, these efforts have done little to boost the party’s favor, with polls indicating a significant lead for Labour.
Labour, on the other hand, is aiming to capitalize on the public’s fatigue with the Conservatives, who have seen five prime ministers since 2016, along with numerous scandals and economic challenges. The party has sought to position itself as the “natural party of business,” garnering the support of 120 industry leaders this week. Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour has shifted towards the center in an attempt to win back voters, including by expelling former leader Jeremy Corbyn and taking steps to address anti-Semitism within the party.
However, the past week has also exposed long-standing factional divisions within Labour, with MP Diane Abbott expressing dismay at the party’s desire to bar her from candidacy. Starmer has faced criticism from leftist voters who accuse him of backtracking on promises made during his successful leadership campaign. As the campaign progresses, both parties will need to navigate internal challenges while presenting a compelling vision to the electorate.
(With AFP inputs)

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