Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out a July general election amid speculation he could go to the polls earlier than expected.

After his deportation bill finally cleared parliament, the Prime Minister was questioned about whether he would hold a summer election.

Conservative ministers believe the passing of the Rwanda legislation, which plans to see a number of asylum seekers deported to the east African nation, is evidence they are taking action to “stop the boats”.

After the bill passed Mr Sunak revealed that he hoped to start moving asylum seekers to Rwanda in July.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday about a possible July vote as he flew to Poland on Tuesday, Mr Sunak left the option open, repeating his familiar formula: “My working assumption is an election in the second half of the year.”

It is still widely expected the country will go to the polls in October or November, but a July vote would help Mr Sunak avoid a surge in small boat Channel crossings over the summer and quell any potential Tory coup if, as expected, the Conservatives do badly in the English local elections on May 2.

Mr Sunak has repeatedly refused to clarify when the general election will be, promising only to hold it in the second half of 2024. The latest possible date for an election is 28 January 2025, meaning Mr Sunak could delay the vote for a further eight months.

He was already accused of being a “chicken” and “squatting in Downing Street” after ruling out holding the general election on the same day as the local elections in England.

His latest refusal to clarify when the general election will be comes as the Conservatives sit 21 points behind in the polls. A series of polls have shown the party is heading for electoral oblivion, with even Mr Sunak at risk of losing his seat.

The latest Ipsos poll showed support for the Conservatives has fallen to its lowest level in 45 years.
The pollster found the Tories on just 19%  – a record low for the second consecutive month – with Labour leading by 25 points on 44%.

And in a further blow for Mr Sunak, his personal approval ratings are now at the worst level in the history of Ipsos polling – equivalent only to John Major in 1994 and Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.

The Conservatives are set to lose hundreds of seats on local councils in England but all eyes will be on the two high-profile Tory mayors Ben Houchen and Andy Street.

The two were elected to the Tees Valley and West Midlands mayoralties respectively with significant majorities and are the most powerful Conservative figures outside Westminster.