UK general election 2024: Rishi Sunak calls election on 4 July

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The UK will go to the polls to decide the next Prime Minister in a general election on 4 July.

Rishi Sunak has called the UK’s next general election on 4 July.

The Prime Minister surprised Westminster by announcing the snap poll on Wednesday afternoon (22 May), after holding a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street. Ministers including David Cameron were called back early from trips abroad. Most commentators had thought Sunak would wait until October or November, however the CPI inflation rate dropping to 2.3% appears to have spurred him on.

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Speaking in the rain outside Downing Street, Sunak revealed that he spoke to the King today who agreed to dissolve Parliament and hold a general election on 4 July. It comes not long after the Prime Minister suffered a number of losses in the local elections on 2 May, with Andy Street being ousted in the West Midlands and a number of Tory councils falling to Labour.

Rishi Sunak announces a general election. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireRishi Sunak announces a general election. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak announces a general election. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire | Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

What did Rishi Sunak say as he called the 2024 general election?

As protesters threatened to drown out the Prime Minister with Things Can Only Get Better, Sunak said: “In the last five years our country has fought through the most challenging times since the Second World War.

“As I stand here as your Prime Minister, I can’t help but reflect that my first proper introduction to you was just over four years ago. I stood behind one of the podiums upstairs in the building behind me.

“I told you that we faced a generation-defining moment and that we as a society could not be judged by some Government action, but by the small acts of kindness we showed one another. You met that challenge and then some, and I had never been prouder to be British.”

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Announcing the election, Sunak said: “This hard earned economic stability was only ever meant to be the beginning, the question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family, and our country?

“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty. Earlier today I spoke with His Majesty the King to request the dissolution of Parliament. The King has granted this request and we will have a general election on 4 July.”

What did Keir Starmer say?

Sir Keir Starmer said this is “a moment the country needs and has been waiting for and where, by the force of our democracy, power returns to you”.

The Labour leader commented: “A chance to change for the better your future, your community, your country. It will feel like a long campaign, I am sure of that, but no matter what else is said and done, that opportunity for change is what this election is about.”

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Earlier in the day, a spokesman said: “We are fully ready to go whenever the Prime Minister calls an election. We have a fully organised and operational campaign ready to go and we think the country is crying out for a general election so would urge the prime minister to get on with it.”

Rishi Sunak has called a general election on 4 July. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty/AdobeRishi Sunak has called a general election on 4 July. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty/Adobe
Rishi Sunak has called a general election on 4 July. Credit: Kim Mogg/Getty/Adobe | Kim Mogg/Getty/Adobe

What date is the 2024 general election?

Sunak has to give at least 25 working days’ notice for the election, so the earliest he could call it for is 27 June. However, today Sunak told PMQs: “Spoiler alert – there is going to be a general election in the second half of this year.” And then during his speech he confirmed the general election would be on 4 July 2024.

What do the polls say about the 2024 general election?

Starmer’s party currently leads the Conservatives by 21 points in Politico’s poll of polls. Elections guru Prof John Curtice has given Labour a 99% chance of forming the next government. According to BonusCodeBets, Labour are 1/9 favourites to win a majority while the Tories are 25/1.

Sunak’s Conservatives have been squeezed by the Liberal Democrats in Blue Wall seats of the South, and Labour in cities and the North. All the while, Richard Tice’s anti-immigration party Reform UK has been taking some of Sunak’s right-wing supporters.

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Recent polls have not shown good news for Sunak. Despite, cutting taxes again in the Budget that did not shift the dial at all. Redfield & Wilton's latest poll on 13 May put Labour on 42% with a lead of 21 points on the Conservatives.

Tory support of 21% is the same as the final poll while Liz Truss was Prime Minister, and it’s only been lower on the days around her resignation. While right-wing rivals Reform UK is now on 15%. And in Westminster by-elections, the Conservatives have lost nine of the last 10 votes they have been defending.

Redfield Wilton's latest poll. Redfield Wilton's latest poll.
Redfield Wilton's latest poll. | Redfield Wilton

How does the 2024 general election work?

This election will have a new set of constituencies. Since the 2019 election, some boundaries have been altered to even up the number of voters in each seat. There will still be 650 seats in the House of Commons, however only 65 will stay the same.

The UK operates a first-past-the-post system, where the candidate who receives the most votes automatically becomes the MP for that constituency and wins a seat in the House of Commons.

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A political party wins a general election by an overall majority if it reaches 326 MPs. The King then invites the leader of the party to form a new government, with the leader becoming the country’s Prime Minister.

This will be the first general election with new voter ID rules. In April 2022, MPs passed a new law making voter ID mandatory. The move was highly controversial, with widespread concerns that many could find themselves disenfranchised because they do not own ID.

The introduction of voter ID is designed to prevent voter personation, the crime of impersonating someone else when voting. But the Electoral Reform Society says the crime is “vanishingly rare” – there were only three convictions and six cautions between 2015 and 2020, according to the Electoral Commission – and that photo ID is a “solution looking for a problem”.

This means to vote on 4 July you will need to be registered, and you’ll have to bring photo ID with you. If you do not own any of the IDs that are on the approved list then you will be able to apply for a free voter authority certificate (VAC), which will be issued by your local council.

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This will be accepted as your ID by polling staff. You can apply for a free VAC document online via the UK government website by following this link. You must first be registered to vote, and the name on your VAC should match the name that appears on the electoral roll.

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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