UK election is nearing its end - here's what you need to know

UK election

Many people all over the UK are preparing to participate in the upcoming general election on Thursday. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a tough challenge as he tries to prevent opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer from becoming the next resident of 10 Downing Street.

UK election - Figure 1
Photo BBC News

The Conservative party led by Mr Sunak and the Labour Party led by Sir Keir have been working hard in the last days of the campaign to make sure their main points are clear and persuade undecided voters to support them.

With numerous polls showing Labour in the lead, the Conservatives are cautioning voters not to give their opponents a significant advantage. One minister even admitted they are anticipating a large victory for their rivals. Additionally, the Conservatives are also being challenged by the right-wing party Reform UK, who are being boosted by Nigel Farage's reentry into politics.

However, despite facing four consecutive election losses and spending 14 years in the minority, Sir Keir's party is not assuming anything.

Even though topics like quality of life, healthcare, and migration have been the main focus of discussion across the country, smaller political groups like the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party of England and Wales have also been highlighting their own key issues.

Here is all the information you need to have as the nation prepares to vote, with 650 positions in the House of Commons available for candidates to win.

Starmer Pledges Change, Sunak Boosts Cuts

Aware that it has not been victorious in a nationwide election since 2005 – and that its most recent performance in 2019 led by left-leaning former leader Jeremy Corbyn was its poorest in nearly a hundred years – the Labour party under Sir Keir has made efforts to demonstrate to voters that it has undergone a transformation.

Sir Keir has stated that the main focus for his administration will be to boost the economy, leading to better quality of life for the public.

In the past few years, families in the UK have struggled financially because prices have gone up a lot (inflation) and taxes are at their highest in a long time. But the Conservative party says this isn't their fault - it's because of things like Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. They also think things would get even worse if the Labour party was in charge.

One of the Labour Party's most talked-about ideas for generating revenue is to impose a value-added tax (VAT) on private schools.

Mr. Sunak, who started his term in October 2022, has suggested reducing taxes for self-employed individuals and bringing back compulsory national service for youth.

Just like the Labour party, he is also pledging to increase the number of people owning their own homes.

Mr Sunak is restating his goal of sending certain asylum seekers to Rwanda to reduce illegal migration. This plan has faced legal challenges for several years, but it was ultimately approved by Parliament in April.

Immigration Dominates, Brexit Absent

Picture provided by PA Media

Nigel Farage is trying for the eighth time to win a seat in the British Parliament.

The focus on immigration is central to some of the main promises of Reform UK, which vows to halt "non-essential" migration. Despite only having one Member of Parliament, the party is consistently ranking third in public opinion polls.

Reform is a new political party that came after the Brexit Party, which pushed for a complete separation of the UK from the European Union. Even though Brexit was a huge issue in Conservative politics, it hasn't been a big focus in the current election.

The Liberal Democrats have promised to undo a part of Brexit by re-entering the European single market. As the party bounces back from a defeat in the 2015 election, they are also committing to significant funding for social care.

In the meantime, the Green Party of England and Wales, which currently only has one Member of Parliament, is campaigning on a platform that includes implementing new taxes on the affluent and aiming for net-zero emissions by the year 2040.

Campaign Defined By Mistakes And Controversies

Sir Keir and his team have not only criticized their opponents' past performance in government - which included a chaotic time in 2022 with three different prime ministers in just weeks. They have also called out the leadership culture within the Conservative Party, pointing to a recent supposed betting scandal.

Mr. Sunak's main points were disrupted earlier in the campaign when he had to say sorry for leaving an event in France early. The event was held to remember the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War Two, attended by leaders from around the world.

However, the Conservative party has successfully criticized Reform party, whose members have been involved in their own controversies. The newly appointed leader Nigel Farage, running for parliament for the eighth time, faced backlash for his comments suggesting that the West played a role in causing the conflict in Ukraine.

The Labour party has also faced its own challenges leading up to the election, particularly regarding the controversy surrounding the selection of veteran left-wing candidate Diane Abbott.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey felt the need to make it clear that he is very attentive to the worries of voters. This came after a series of dramatic election events, such as jumping into a lake, which were meant to draw attention to his political ideas.

Sir Ed Davey's jump into the lake was a highlight of the campaign.

Parties Seek Widespread International Support

Sir Keir and his Labour team are optimistic about their chances in Scotland, where polls indicate that the SNP may lose some of its Westminster seats after years of being in control. The SNP has been dealing with financial troubles amid a police investigation, causing internal chaos.

The recent appointee John Swinney is determined to continue advocating for Scotland's interests. He plans to increase pressure for a second independence vote from the UK and undo the negative effects of Brexit.

The nationalist party of Wales, Plaid Cymru, is looking to expand on its three Members of Parliament in Westminster. Their campaign promotes Welsh independence in order to achieve more equality and greater aspirations.

In Northern Ireland, the election is centered around the issue of the country's constitution, with unionists advocating to maintain their connection to Great Britain and nationalists pushing for Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

Political parties in Northern Ireland typically do not have a significant impact on the politics of the UK Parliament. Sinn Féin, the leading nationalist party, has a long-standing policy of abstaining from taking seats in Westminster that they are elected to.

However, the involvement of the DUP in supporting a past Conservative government shows that Northern Irish parties can play a significant part when it comes to a tight vote.

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