New Tory chairman Greg Hands hints at date of the next election

Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle sees Hands replace Zahawi

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The Tory chairman Greg Hands appears to have given away the approximate date of the next election in a message to party members and supporters. The email aimed at introducing the man who will take charge of the Conservative election campaign machine told recipients how long they had to prepare before going to the polls.

In his message, sent out from Tory headquarters known as CCHQ, Mr Hands said: “The next 18 months will see us win or lose the next general election.”

It means Mr Sunak is planning to go to the polls in 2024 next year, almost as late as he can go before being forced to call an election.

Technically one does not have to be held until January 2025 but winter elections are very rare.

The time frame of 18 months takes the country to August next year but that month almost never has an election because it is when people are away on holiday.

However, the email strongly hints that party activists may be spending that summer holiday pounding streets, delivering leaflets and campaigning to return Mr Sunak back to Downing Street.

In his message, Mr Hands urged a reluctant general public to join the Tories saying: “The deciding factor will be people like you.”

He went on: “I’ll be spending the next few days getting to grips with the party machinery.

“We need it in fighting condition and we need your help to get it there.

“We need to hit the ground running to keep Keir Starmer out of Downing Street.

“From helping us secure elections across the nation to delivering on the policies that matter, our members fuel everything we do.”

The new chairman frm a traditional Tory blue wall seat in west London which is under threat from Labour will be joined in the campaign team by new deputy chairman Lee Anderson, a former miner, trade unionist and Labour activist who has become a hero of the red wall MPs.

Mr Anderson said he was “feeling very proud” of his promotion and also pointed to a September election in a recorded message to supporters on Twitter.

He vowed: “I am going to take this new role really seriously, grafting seven days a week, 12 hours a day for the next 18 months up until the general election.”

But not everyone was impressed.

One senior northern activist described Mr Hands’ message as “generic, uninspiring stuff that’s just not going to work.”

A northern Tory backbencher added: “What a mess! What planet are they on.”

However, the messages from the new leadership of the campaign team is meant as a sign that the reshuffle was aimed to put the Tories on an election footing.

But with the Techne UK tracker poll for showing Labour with a 21 point lead for three weeks in a row they face a struggle to turn the Conservative Party fortunes around.

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