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A UK election has been called for July 4. Here's what to know

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A UK election has been called for July 4. Here's what to know
News

News

A UK election has been called for July 4. Here's what to know

2024-05-24 19:26 Last Updated At:19:30

LONDON (AP) — The United Kingdom’s first national election in five years is shaping up as a battle for the country’s soul, with some saying it poses an existential threat to the governing Conservative Party, which has been in power since 2010.

The center-right Conservatives took power during the depths of the global financial crisis and have won two more elections since then. But those years have been filled with challenges and controversies, making the Tories, as they are commonly known, easy targets for critics on the left and right.

The Labour Party, which leans to the left, faces its own challenges in shaking off a reputation for irresponsible spending and proving that it has a plan to govern.

Both parties are being ripped apart by the conflict in the Middle East, with the Tories facing charges of Islamophobia and Labour struggling to distance itself from antisemitism that festered under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Here is a look at the upcoming election and the biggest issues at stake.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set July 4 as the date for the election, months ahead of when it was expected. He had until December to call an election that could have happened as late as Jan. 28, 2025.

Elections in the U.K. have to be held no more than five years apart. But the timing of the vote is determined by the prime minister’s calculation of the date most advantageous to the ruling party. Sunak had been expected to call the vote in the autumn, when a number of economic factors were expected to have improved their chances, according to the Institute for Government, a London-based think tank.

But favorable economic news on Wednesday, with inflation down to 2.3%, changed the narrative.

People throughout the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next government and its leader will be prime minister.

That means the results will determine the political direction of the government, which has been led by the center-right Conservatives for the past 14 years. The center-left Labour Party is widely seen to be in the strongest position.

Sunak, a former Treasury chief who has been prime minister since October 2022, is leading his party into the election. His primary opponent will be Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions in England and leader of the Labour Party since April 2020.

But other parties, some of which have strong regional support, could be crucial to forming a coalition government if no one wins an overall majority.

The Scottish National Party, which campaigns for Scottish independence, the Liberal Democrats, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which seeks to maintain ties between Britain and Northern Ireland, are currently the three largest parties in Parliament after the Conservatives and Labour. Many observers suggest the new Reform Party, formed by Tory rebels, may siphon votes from the Conservatives.

The Tories have held power for 14 years. They imposed years of financial austerity after the financial crisis, led Britain out of the European Union, and struggled to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in western Europe. Most recently, Britain has been divided over how to respond to migrants and asylum seekers crossing the English Channel and has been battered by a cost-of-living crisis as prices soar.

Throughout it all, there were a series of ethical lapses by ministers and lockdown-busting parties in government offices. The scandals ultimately chased former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from office and finally from Parliament after he was found to have lied to lawmakers. His successor, Liz Truss, lasted 45 days after her economic policies cratered the economy.

The economy: Britain has struggled with high inflation and slow economic growth, which have combined to make most people feel poorer. The Conservatives succeeded in meeting their goal of halving inflation, which peaked at 11.1% in October 2022, but the economy slipped into a technical recession in the last six months of 2023, raising questions about the government’s economic policies.

Immigration: Thousands of asylum seekers and economic migrants have crossed the English Channel in flimsy inflatable boats in recent years, raising concerns the government has lost control of Britain’s borders. The Conservatives’ signature policy for stopping the boats is a plan to deport some of these migrants to Rwanda. Critics say the plan violates international law, is inhumane, and will do nothing to stop people fleeing war, unrest and famine.

Health care: Britain’s National Health Service, which provides free health care to everyone, is plagued with long waiting lists for everything from dental care to cancer treatment. Newspapers are filled with stories about seriously ill patients forced to wait hours for an ambulance, then longer still for a hospital bed.

The environment: Sunak has backtracked on a series of environmental commitments, pushing back the deadline for ending the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger vehicles and authorizing new oil drilling in the North Sea. Critics say these are the wrong policies at a time the world is trying to combat climate change.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media, as heavy rain falls, outside 10 Downing Street in London Wednesday, May 22, 2024, as he announces that he is to call a General Election for July 4. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media, as heavy rain falls, outside 10 Downing Street in London Wednesday, May 22, 2024, as he announces that he is to call a General Election for July 4. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks from 10 Downing Street to speak to the media in London Wednesday, May 22, 2024, as he announces that he is to call a General Election for July 4. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks from 10 Downing Street to speak to the media in London Wednesday, May 22, 2024, as he announces that he is to call a General Election for July 4. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media, as heavy rain falls, outside 10 Downing Street in London Wednesday, May 22, 2024, as he announces that he is to call a General Election for July 4. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media, as heavy rain falls, outside 10 Downing Street in London Wednesday, May 22, 2024, as he announces that he is to call a General Election for July 4. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

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Dali cargo ship leaves Baltimore for Virginia, nearly 3 months after bridge collapse

2024-06-25 07:26 Last Updated At:07:30

The cargo ship Dali headed out of Baltimore for Virginia on Monday, nearly three months after it lost power and crashed into one of the Francis Scott Key bridge’s supporting columns and caused the bridge to collapse.

The 984-foot Dali started moving shortly before 8:30 a.m. with four tugboats.

The Dali was sailing under its own power with a full crew of 22 and six salvage experts, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release.

The Coast Guard is overseeing the voyage and providing a 500-yard safety zone around the Dali during its trip.

The Dali is scheduled to go directly to Virginia International Gateway to have roughly 1,500 cargo containers off-loaded to reduce draft, the Coast Guard said. The vessel is then scheduled to travel further to Norfolk International Terminal, where it is scheduled to undergo continued salvage and repairs from damage caused during the bridge collapse.

Shortly after leaving the Port of Baltimore early on March 26, the ship lost power and propulsion and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns, killing six construction workers.

On May 20, the Dali was refloated and guided back to port. The vessel had been stuck amid the wreckage for almost two months, with a massive steel truss draped across its damaged bow.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found the ship experienced two power outages in the hours before it left the Port of Baltimore. In the moments before the bridge collapsed, it lost power again and veered off course. The agency is still investigating what caused the electrical failures.

In an update to its May investigative report, the NTSB said Monday that investigators have completed in-person interviews with the Dali’s crew.

The update noted that investigators have removed an electrical component known as a terminal block, as well as two portions of control wiring associated with the terminal block.

“We continue to examine the removed components at the NTSB Materials Laboratory,” the board said. “We will continue to evaluate the design and operation of the vessel’s electrical power distribution system, and investigate all aspects of the accident to determine the probable cause and identify potential safety recommendations.”

Last week, under an agreement confirmed by a federal judge, some members of the Dali's crew were allowed to return home. Of the 10 allowed to leave, eight have done so, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesperson for ship manager Synergy Marine. The roughly two dozen total seafarers hail from India and Sri Lanka.

Under the agreement, the crew members who return home must be available for depositions.

Thousands of longshoremen, truckers and small business owners have seen their jobs impacted by the collapse, prompting local and state officials to prioritize reopening the port and restoring its traffic to normal capacity in hopes of easing the economic ripple effects.

Earlier this month, officials announced the reopening of the Fort McHenry federal channel, after clearing wreckage from the 700-foot-wide by 50-foot deep channel.

Monday also was the submission deadline in Maryland for proposals to rebuild the bridge. Procurement regulations prohibit the state from providing information about the proposals until the contract award is made and the state announces the design-build team. The state estimates the award and announcement sometime in mid- to late summer.

Officials have said they hope to rebuild the bridge by 2028.

The container ship Dali pulls away from the Seagirt Marine Terminal on its way to Norfolk, Monday, June 24, 2024, nearly three months after the ship hit a support pier of the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The container ship Dali pulls away from the Seagirt Marine Terminal on its way to Norfolk, Monday, June 24, 2024, nearly three months after the ship hit a support pier of the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The container ship Dali pulls away from the Seagirt Marine Terminal on its way to Norfolk, Monday, June 24, 2024, nearly three months after the ship hit a support pier of the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The container ship Dali pulls away from the Seagirt Marine Terminal on its way to Norfolk, Monday, June 24, 2024, nearly three months after the ship hit a support pier of the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The container ship Dali approaches the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Monday, June 24, 2024, on its way to Norfolk, Va., as a man fishes at Sandy Point State Park. Ninety days ago the ship hit a support pier of the bridge causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The container ship Dali approaches the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Monday, June 24, 2024, on its way to Norfolk, Va., as a man fishes at Sandy Point State Park. Ninety days ago the ship hit a support pier of the bridge causing a catastrophic collapse. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sailfish, an 87-foot Marine Protector class vessel, as it prepares to escort the Motor Vessel Dali during its transit from the Port of Baltimore to the Port of Virginia, Monday, June 24, 2024. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Bokum/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sailfish, an 87-foot Marine Protector class vessel, as it prepares to escort the Motor Vessel Dali during its transit from the Port of Baltimore to the Port of Virginia, Monday, June 24, 2024. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Bokum/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

FILE - The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the container ship Dali, May 12, 2024, in Baltimore, as seen from Riviera Beach, Md. Crew members on the cargo ship Dali can head home as soon as Thursday, June 20, 2024, under an agreement that allows lawyers to question them amid ongoing investigations into what led to the deadly collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

FILE - The collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge rests on the container ship Dali, May 12, 2024, in Baltimore, as seen from Riviera Beach, Md. Crew members on the cargo ship Dali can head home as soon as Thursday, June 20, 2024, under an agreement that allows lawyers to question them amid ongoing investigations into what led to the deadly collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

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