Around Westminster and Holyrood, at meetings of local party groups, and indeed in newsrooms and households up and down the country, everyone is wondering 'when is the general election?'

Today, ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Budget tomorrow, there is renewed speculation over the possibility that Mr Sunak may call the election in May.

What has fuelled the talk are reports, first published in The Times, that Mr Hunt is going to cut National Insurance by a further two percentage points for 27 million workers in a move worth £450 on average.

The Chancellor will make national insurance the central measure in his spring budget after deciding against cutting income tax, according to The Times.

He will say that the tax cut is worth a total of £900 for the average worker when combined with the two percentage point cut that was announced in the autumn statement.

By law, the Prime Minister must call one by January 28 2025.

But shortly after the Christmas break Rishi Sunak told journalists his working assumption would be for the vote to take place in the "second half of this year".

His close friend, former Chancellor George Osborne, suggested November 14.

The Sun last month reported that the PM may prefer October.

In truth, nobody, may not even Mr Sunak himself, knows exactly when polling day will take place.

Meanwhile, the thinking among MPs and MSPs is that he could yet surprise us and hold the election in May, and as they see it, they are playing it safe by working on that assumption.

May is often the favoured month for polling day because of its usual fine weather and longer days, and because the school holidays have yet to start meaning people are around to vote and not enjoying a spell far away.

Importantly, this year May 2 is when council elections are taking place in England.

Mr Osborne was dismissive of a May election back at the beginning of January, but others think it’s still possible.

First Minister Humza Yousaf certainly wasn't ruling it out when he gathered the SNP to the Oran Mor venue in Glasgow's west end near the start of the year to launch his party's campaign and unveil his candidates.

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Still smarting from the Rutherglen defeat in October and with the SNP facing an electoral challenge from a resurgent Labour, Mr Yousaf urged voters to back his party to remove the six Scottish Conservative MPs and keep the independence goal alive. "If you want independence you must vote SNP," he told the audience.

A briefing published by the Commons library sets out possible dates for the dissolution of Parliament and the corresponding polling day for each Thursday, the traditional day of voting in the UK. It says that if a general election is to be held on May 2, parliament must be dissolved by March 26.

However, for a May 2 election to take place, MPs must agree with the government required to bring a motion to parliament. This process means that if dissolution was to happen on March 26, MPs would need to be told before then.

SNP insiders reckon the crunch deadline is March 15.

Against a slew of polls showing the Conservatives trailing Labour by 20 points, one SNP source told Unspun last month: "We are working on the basis it could be May, and we won't take that off the agenda until March 15.

"That will be a week after the Budget on March 6. If the Tories were going to use the Budget as a springboard for the election, then they only have a week or so after the budget to give notice for a May 2 election.

"I don't think there's any prospect of the Tories holding an election in spring that isn't May 2 because that is the date of the English locals. The Tories are going to get gubbed then anyway, so they wouldn't start an election campaign with such negative momentum.

"The thinking is that they would want people to forget [the local election results] for six months before holding a general election."

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Among some Conservatives, the hope is that inflation will have fallen by the early autumn, the PM's plan to deport some migrants to Rwanda will finally have come to fruition, and the party could be seeing the polls move in its favour. 

Mr Sunak's controversial £1,000 bet with TV host Piers Morgan this week that he will have got the first asylum seekers onto planes and off to the African state before the election, also suggests his current thinking is more towards an autumn polling day.

The Herald: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a £1,000 bet with TV host Piers Morgan that he could get the Rwanda planes off the ground before the electionPrime Minister Rishi Sunak made a £1,000 bet with TV host Piers Morgan that he could get the Rwanda planes off the ground before the election (Image: PA)
However, other political insiders think Mr Sunak could yet be prompted to hold the election on May 2 because of the risk of being ousted by his own MPs.

Westminster is awash with talk of Tory plots against the PM and a move to find someone else to lead the Conservatives fight to return to power.

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"He could just call an election to put off the plotters and get his party to rally behind him," quipped one observer who also thought Mr Sunak could be secretly considering the size of an anticipated defeat before making up his mind.

"He could also be thinking maybe ‘better have the election in Spring and lose 100 seats rather than wait for the autumn and face the greater humiliation of losing 200 MPs?’."

While the embattled PM weighs up his difficult options, it seems increasingly clear we'll all know by mid March if a May general election is definitely off the table.