UK Election 2024: Key issues, candidates, and voting process explained | World News

UK Election 2024: Key issues, candidates, and voting process explained | World News

UK Election 2024: Key issues, candidates, and voting process explained | World News

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Photo: Reuters

The United Kingdom is gearing up for its first national election in nearly five years, with voters heading to the polls on July 4. This election could be a defining moment for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, which faces significant backlash for failing to deliver on promises made during its 14-year tenure.


The centre-right Conservatives came to power during the global financial crisis and have since won three more elections. However, their time in office has been marred by economic stagnation, deteriorating public services, and numerous scandals, making them a prime target for critics from both the left and the right.


The Labour Party, which leans to the left, has surged ahead in most opinion polls by centring its campaign around a single, resonant word: change.


But the Conservatives are also contending with challenges from the new Reform Party, which is drawing votes from the right wing of the Conservative base by attacking the party’s failure to control immigration.


Here’s an in-depth look at the upcoming election in the UK and what’s at stake.


How will the UK election work?


On July 4, voters across the United Kingdom will elect all 650 members of the House of Commons, with one representative for each local constituency. There are no primaries or run-offs; a single round of voting will determine the outcome.


The UK employs a “first past the post” voting system, where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins, even without a majority. This system typically favours the two largest parties—Conservatives and Labour—making it difficult for smaller parties to gain seats unless they have strong regional support.


How is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom selected?


The party that secures a majority in the Commons, either alone or with the support of another party, will form the next government, and its leader will become the Prime Minister.


With the Conservatives having led for 14 years, this election could significantly shift the political landscape, with the Labour Party currently seen as the strongest contender.


Key candidates in the UK election


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a former Treasury chief who has led the country since October 2022, is the Conservative candidate. His main opponent is Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions and Labour Party leader since April 2020.


Other parties, such as the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Democratic Unionist Party, could play crucial roles in forming a coalition government if no party wins an outright majority. Additionally, the Reform Party, led by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, might siphon votes from the Conservatives.


Why are the Conservatives under pressure?


Since taking power in 2010, the Conservatives have faced relentless challenges. Initially dealing with the aftermath of the global financial crisis, they imposed years of austerity to balance the budget. This was followed by leading the country through Brexit, managing one of the deadliest Covid-19 outbreaks in Western Europe, and grappling with soaring inflation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Many voters blame the Conservatives for the numerous issues plaguing Britain, from sewage spills and unreliable train services to the cost-of-living crisis, crime, and the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel. The party’s reputation has also been damaged by numerous scandals, including lockdown-busting parties that led to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation and the brief, economically disastrous tenure of his successor, Liz Truss.


What are the big issues?


Economy


Britain is dealing with high inflation and sluggish economic growth, leaving many people feeling poorer. While the Conservatives have managed to control inflation, which slowed to 2 per cent in May from a peak of 11.1 per cent in October 2022, economic growth remains slow, casting doubt on their economic policies.


Immigration


The Conservatives face criticism for their handling of immigration, particularly the thousands of asylum seekers and economic migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats. Their plan to deport some migrants to Rwanda has been condemned as inhumane and ineffective.


Health care


The National Health Service is struggling with long waiting lists and underfunding. Reports of patients waiting hours for ambulances and hospital beds have become commonplace, highlighting the system’s dire state.


Environment


Sunak has been criticised for backtracking on environmental commitments, including delaying the end of petrol- and diesel-powered vehicle sales and authorising new oil drilling in the North Sea, which critics argue undermines global efforts to combat climate change.


Why is the UK election being held now?


Sunak surprised many by calling the election for July 4, earlier than expected. This decision was a gamble, aiming to capitalise on positive economic news to persuade voters that Conservative policies are effective. However, allegations that party members and police officers had insider knowledge of the election date have stirred controversy, damaging Sunak’s claims of trustworthiness.


The timing of the election has been a topic of speculation for months, with many expecting an autumn election. The Prime Minister’s decision to call an early election is seen as a strategic move to gain political advantage.


Can Indians vote in the UK election?




Indian citizens living in the UK can indeed participate in British elections, including local, supralocal, devolved parliaments, and general elections. This voting right also extends to citizens of all Commonwealth countries, including India, as well as Ireland, who reside in the UK. 


(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jul 03 2024 | 12:19 PM IST


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