Rishi Sunak outside Number 10

The UK is heading for an election on July 4, as both prime minister Rishi Sunak and opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer set out their parties’ stalls.

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In a sodden speech given on the steps of a rainy 10 Downing Street, Sunak tried to set out the Conservative government’s achievements, such as bringing down inflation, cutting taxes and increasing state pensions by £900.

He said: “We’ve reduced taxes on investment and seized the opportunities of Brexit to make this the best country in the world to grow a business. Put record amounts of funding into our NHS and ensured it is now training the doctors and nurses it needs in the decades to come.”

Labour leader Starmer opened his party’s campaign by stressing that: “Service of our country is the reason and the only reason why I am standing here now asking for your vote.”

He also said a vote for Labour was a vote for stability, adding: “If [the Conservatives] get another five years they will feel entitled to carry on exactly as they are. Nothing will change.

“A vote for Labour is a vote for stability, economic and political, a politics that treads more lightly on all of our lives. A vote to stop the chaos.”

In a Labour campaign launch video on social media, Starmer criticised the rise of “antisocial behaviour on our high streets” under the Conservatives.

At the time of writing, responses from the retail sector to the calling of a general election have been muted. However, in a May 13 article for Retail Week, British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said the sector must show the next government that “the key to successful leadership is to work with the industry, not against it”.

She wrote: “The future [of retail] will be shaped by policies put in place by the next government. While life sciences or gigabit factories might be important and alluring for politicians to hang their hats on, they miss the USP that retail provides.

“Small changes at scale can have a much bigger impact. And retail’s scale and reach puts the industry in a unique position to make a huge contribution to the next government’s policy goals.”

Iceland boss and former Conservative Party donor Richard Walker has been in election mode since January when he wrote an article in The Guardian saying he would be backing Labour at the next election.

Walker said that under Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives had gone further to the right of the political centre, causing a “total collapse in public confidence” in the government.

“Indeed, the Tories’ abandonment of what I have always regarded as basic Conservative principles has fuelled my personal disenchantment,” he said.

Walker also stressed that Starmer has a “credible programme” to improve the UK economy and the lives of its citizens.

On May 16, in a move that surprised many, Boots chief executive Seb James endorsed Labour by video at the party’s general election campaign launch.

In his pre-recorded address, James said: “Keir came to one of our Boots stores earlier in the year and we talked about the importance of looking after our high streets.

“There is a Boots on almost every high street, but high streets are not just a place that people come to shop, it’s a place of work – in some small towns, the only place of work. It’s a place to meet, to connect, to get health advice from your pharmacist, it’s the heart of our towns, and a thriving high street helps to build communities.

“And I think that’s going to be a really important game-changer in the next few years. We need to invest in it, connect it to our digital worlds and look after it.”

What does the general election mean for retail? Catch up on the latest policy announcements and we give a platform to retailers to have their say ahead of the vote on July 4 on our dedicated election page.