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UK parties la8k8 com register loginunch their campaigns

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (center) watches as beer is bottled at a brewery in Barry, south Wales on Thursday, as general election campaigning began in earnest. STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA/AP

Political parties in the United Kingdom have begun six weeks of campaigning following UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's shock announcement on Wednesday that a general election will be held on July 4.

Party leaders canvassed around the country on Thursday, with Sunak commencing a two-day tour across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland straight after conducting a round of morning media interviews.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer focused on southeast England to target Conservative strongholds and Reform UK's leader Richard Tice held a news conference in London to outline his party's objectives.

The timing of the snap election, the first to be held in July in the UK since 1945, prompted some surprise, including from within the Conservative prime minister's own party.

Sunak's call caught some offguard and it is understood there was a "full range of views" when Cabinet ministers were told of the plan on Wednesday afternoon, with one describing it as "a brave decision", reported the BBC.

The right-wing Conservative Party, in power since 2010 but beleaguered by the UK's exit from the European Union, a string of scandals and ideological infighting, has persistently lagged behind the main opposition Labour Party in opinion polls for two years.

The widening gap has led many commentators to forecast a landslide victory for Labour, marking a significant turnaround following the leftists' heavy defeat in the 2019 election.

Following Sunak's speech on Wednesday, a Survation poll of voting intentions put Labour on 48 points, well ahead of the Conservatives on 27 points, reported AFP.

Additionally, the poll of more than 1,000 adults conducted on Wednesday and Thursday showed that 43 percent of respondents believe Starmer would be a more suitable prime minister than Sunak.

The key election arguments have quickly taken shape, and the prime minister used inflation figures released on Wednesday to argue his plan was working and that the economy was turning a corner.

UK newspapers mostly dubbed Sunak's early poll call a "gamble". In comments to the media on Thursday, Sunak positioned himself as the safe option in a dangerous world and highlighted the Conservatives as the beacon of economic stability. He criticized Labour as unpredictable, accusing Starmer of changing policies for voter approval.

"I'm the one that's prepared to take bold action. I've got a clear plan and that's how I'll deliver security for you and your family," he told the BBC.

Starmer, a 61-year-old former human rights lawyer and chief state prosecutor, released a polished election video on Wednesday, pledging that Labour would "stop the chaos "caused by Conservative governance and "rebuild Britain".

"If they get another five years they will feel entitled to carry on exactly as they are. Nothing will change," said Starmer.

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