MARK RILEY: Why Anthony Albanese won’t call a snap election and get caught in the rain like Rishi Sunak

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Mark Riley
The Nightly
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MARK RILEY: Anthony Albanese can afford to wait until things become a little sunnier before calling an election while British PM Rishi Sunak drags his sodden soul to the polls in the gloom of a London downpour.
MARK RILEY: Anthony Albanese can afford to wait until things become a little sunnier before calling an election while British PM Rishi Sunak drags his sodden soul to the polls in the gloom of a London downpour. Credit: Supplied

The sight of a sodden Rishi Sunak standing head slumped, water dripping from his chin in the driving rain outside 10 Downing Street early Wednesday morning was the thing of political nightmares.

Sunak was looking for shock value.

And he got it.

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But not in a good way.

The British Prime Minister was looking to seize the initiative by calling a snap election, hoping to catch his opponents off guard.

Instead, he looked like a drowned rat.

To add insult to self-injury, protesters blasted the sounds of “Things Can Only Get Better” along Downing Street as Sunak’s surprise announcement was beamed live to a bemused nation.

This was true pathos.

In England, they call it taking the piss.

Sunak has called this early election for all the reasons that Anthony Albanese won’t.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announces the date for the UK General Election at Downing Street on May 22, 2024 in London, England. After much speculation across the UK media today, Sunak announces the UK General Election will be held on July 4th.  (Photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announces the date for the UK General Election at Downing Street on May 22, 2024 in London, England. Credit: Peter Nicholls/Getty Images

He has no other choice.

To misquote the great Monty Python, Rishi Sunak is not pining for the fjords. This is a dead political parrot.

The Conservatives are running 27 points behind the Labour Party, run by Sir Keir Starmer who appears to be about as inspiring as a bowl of custard.

A recent national survey asked voters to describe Starmer in one word. The most popular responses were “dull”, “weak”, “boring” and “liar”.

And yet he will still win this election in a doddle.

What does that say about the Conservatives? You don’t need a survey to tell you that in one word they are “cooked”.

The writing was on the wall long before the party took an absolute bath in the recent local elections.

And Sunak’s internal opponents were breathing down his neck.

Conservative power brokers have been doing the numbers for a possible return of Lord David Cameron for weeks.

Sunak had survived for longer than his predecessor, Liz Truss, whose less-than-illustrious time at the top had famously been outlasted by the life cycle of a lettuce.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announces the date for the UK General Election at Downing Street on May 22, 2024 in London, England. After much speculation across the UK media today, Sunak announces the UK General Election will be held on July 4th.  (Photo by Peter Nicholls/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announces the date for the UK General Election at Downing Street on May 22, 2024, in London, England. Credit: Peter Nicholls/Getty Images

Now his own time was wilting.

The only weapon he had remaining in his arsenal was surprise.

And in the pitiful, pouring rain outside 10 Downing Street, surprise washed down the drain along with Sunak’s final political hopes.

Things are nowhere near as grim for Albanese, though even he would privately admit that his Government isn’t travelling all that well at the moment.

It has mini crises erupting on several fronts, many of its own making.

But it remains ascendant in the polls, despite trailing the Coalition on primaries.

A day before the Government reached its two-year mark on Tuesday, Newspoll delivered it a two-party preferred lead of 52-48 on a primary vote of 34.

That primary figure might appear low, but it is one and a half points higher than when Labor won the 2022 election.

With the Greens at 13 per cent, two above its election level, Labor would win a Federal election comfortably if it were to be held now.

Albanese’s popularity also remains high. He’s picked up four points on Peter Dutton to lead as preferred prime minister, 52 to 33.

So, for Labor, there is no need to panic and rush to the polls. At least, not yet.

Sunak is desperately worried that the two or three interest rate cuts he promised the British people before the end of the year might not now eventuate.

Indeed, most London analysts are predicting just one cut before Christmas — at the most.

It is better for the Conservatives to go to the polls while the possibility of interest cuts still exists, rather than risk going at a time when they haven’t materialised.

Albanese, on the other hand, has the luxury of time.

And he will use it.

Unlike Sunak, he does not have to have an election before the end of the year. Theoretically, he can wait until next August. Any time after next May, though, would necessitate separate House and Senate elections. He is highly unlikely to do that.

But the odds of at least one cut happening before May as inflation comes down appear high.

There could even be two or three. That would certainly make voters feel happier about their lot.

So, Albanese can afford to wait until things become a little sunnier before calling an election while Sunak drags his sodden soul to the polls in the Dickensian gloom of a London downpour.

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