RISHI SUNAK, not normally noted as a gambler, has thrown the dice in the biggest bet of his political career.

The Richmond MP went outside Downing Street in an early English spring without an umbrella and, while announcing a general election will be held on July 4, he got absolutely drenched. Soaked.

And, with the polls putting Labour 21 points ahead, it looks likely the Conservatives will get washed away. Even in the Tees Valley, where Ben Houchen’s re-election was the party’s one bright spot only a couple of weeks ago during the local elections, the 17 per cent swing to Labour would wipe out every Tory MP.

This is either a bold or a reckless move. Everyone assumed we’d drift into an autumn election, which Labour would win, but Mr Sunak has grabbed the moment, and put the country – which does not enjoy a long drawn out campaign – out of its misery.

He must be hoping for a few summer wins, like flights to Rwanda taking off and a boost from a successful football campaign, and he must be fearing that he has run out of money so an autumn Budget with nothing to giveaway was not worth waiting for.

And he must be hoping that Labour as a whole and Keir Starmer, whom he ferociously attacked, as an individual comes under sudden scrutiny, which will cause the polls to close. But can they close by 21 points? What has changed since the Conservatives were trounced on May 2?

Mr Sunak finished his brief announcement in the rain looking like a drowned rat, and many of his words were drowned out by a loudspeaker playing a Labour theme song, Things Can Only Get Better. That must be Mr Sunak’s biggest worry: no one is listening to him, no amount of tax cuts and no number of new pledges have shifted the polls as the country has already passed judgement on the party that brought us first Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss.

Can yesterday’s sodden announcement be the jolt that turns things around for the Tories? It would be a very brave person that bets that it will be.