UK general election 2024: Rishi Sunak to call election on July 4

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

Rishi Sunak has said he will call the UK’s next general election on July 4.

The Prime Minister surprised Westminster by announcing the snap poll on Wednesday afternoon (May 22), 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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It comes not long after the Prime Minister suffered a number of losses in the local elections on May 2, with Andy Street being ousted in the West Midlands and a number of Tory councils falling to Labour.

Keir Starmer has repeatedly urged Sunak to call a general election, with a spokesman saying today: “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.”

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 July 4 2024.

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

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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”.

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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.

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.gener

More to follow.

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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