Minister warned Sunak it was not common sense to have a snap election

Exclusive: Details are emerging of the final cabinet meeting when Rishi Sunak told his top team he had called a snap election

David Maddox
Political editor
Monday 27 May 2024 13:12 BST
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Key takeaways from Rishi Sunak's general election announcement

Rishi Sunak asked King Charles to dissolve Parliament before telling his cabinet that he had called a snap election.

But that final 4pm cabinet meeting on Wednesday before the prime minister made his rain sodden announcement to the nation outside Downing Street, saw very little response,

The Independent understands that only two ministers piped up to tell him he had made a mistake.

The first was Esther McVey, his Cabinet Office minister for common sense, who was a surprise call up in his reshuffle late last year after he had sacked Suella Braverman as home secretary.

Ms McVey is understood to have told the prime minister to his face in front of the cabinet that it was wrong to go early.

Esther McVey was unhappy with an early election (PA)
Esther McVey was unhappy with an early election (PA) (PA Archive)

Her reasoning is understood to have been that “our messaging is landing but it is only just beginning to land.”

She argued that the anti-woke measures including tackling impartiality in the civil service, the improvements in the economy including inflation coming down had “not yet had time to settle in with the public”.

Just days before she had announced reforms to the civil service to ensure impartiality including a potential ban on rainbow and other random lanyards for passes.

Only one other minister spoke up - Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

He is said to have agreed with Ms McVey even though he was stepping down as an MP at the forthcoming election.

None of the other ministers objected with deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden a long term advocate of going early to the people, although defence secretary Grant Shapps subsequently questioned the decision.

A number of Tory MPs had been hoping that an autumn election would allow for one more “fiscal event” or autumn budget to bring in tax cuts or maybe see an interest rate cut before going to the country.

Michael Gove has announced he will not be standing at the General Election (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Michael Gove has announced he will not be standing at the General Election (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

Michael Gove told the prime minister: “‘Who dares wins. You dared and you will win.”

But two days later he announced that he was not running for parliament.

There had been drama ahead of that meeting with ministers told to attend and Mr Shapps, foreign secretary Lord Cameron and chancellor Jeremy Hunt all having to pull out of prior engagements.

The questioning of the early election at cabinet is not the only divide among ministers.

Today Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker put out a message to his constituents with a barely veiled attack on the prime minister’s surprise weekend announcement that he would reintroduce National Service.

Thesenior minister and former leading Brexiteer told voters in Wycombe that he was “committed to freedom” and “against compulsion”.

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