Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out a July general election.

The Prime Minister, travelling to Poland on Tuesday to announce a military aid package for Ukraine, repeated his line that he intends to call a vote in the second half of the year.

He told reporters on the plane: “All I’m going to say is the same thing I say every time. As I said, I think it was in the first week of January, my working assumption is an election in the second half of the year.”

Many Westminster analysts see October or November as the favoured period for a national poll. The latest possible date Mr Sunak could delay the election until is January 28 2025.

But a disastrous set of local elections in May could force his hand, either by leading to a challenge to his leadership or by persuading him that an earlier polling day could be a better solution than limping on with a divided party.

Rishi Sunak on a plane
The Prime Minister has signalled a poll in the second half of this year (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt recently said “feelgood factor” of interest rate cuts would be stronger in the autumn, in an apparent hint at the timing of the election.

Asked whether he would commit to a deportation flight to Rwanda taking off before the vote, Mr Sunak said: “As I said on flights yesterday, 10-12 weeks, that’s what we’re working towards for all the reasons that I outlined yesterday.”

The Prime Minister also downplayed reports that West Midlands mayor Andy Street excluded references to the Tory Party from his campaign material ahead of the May 2 contest.

Mr Sunak said: Actually I think what these local elections allow us to do is demonstrate what the reality of Labour in power means.

“You mentioned the West Midlands – what have we got, Andy Street, who has attracted more inward investment than I think Wales and Scotland combined, smashing all his housing targets, attracting investment in transport infrastructure?

“Meanwhile, Labour-run Birmingham council have bankrupted the largest local authority in Europe and they’re saddling people with a 21% council tax rise.”

The Prime Minister is visiting Warsaw and Berlin to talk defence and security with the leaders of Poland, Nato and Germany.