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Countdown to election04 July 2024 12:00 am

Snapshot of the week

[23rd May 2024]

After months of hearsay and gossip, it has finally happened. Rishi Sunak took to the Prime Ministerial podium in a drizzly Downing Street and announced that a General Election will be held on Thursday 4th July.

With the King’s permission, the Prime Minister will have to dissolve Parliament. Experience suggests this will be 30th May. From this date, all MPs lose their parliamentary jobs and must win them back in the election.

Before then, Parliament must finish any business which it deems vital, in a period known as the ‘washup’. The most important legislation will be expedited by the Government over the next week, working with the Opposition, so that it is not lost when Parliament is dissolved next Thursday. Once past the date of dissolution, all legislation which has not passed through will be scrapped and cannot continue to the new Parliament.

The five week “short campaign” will then begin in earnest and a period of restriction comes into force called the ‘pre-election period’ or purdah. This is a time when governments (ministers, who continue in their roles, until replaced) and civil servants will exercise caution in making official announcements or making decisions that might influence the election campaign.

Along with all the usual campaign speeches, visits, and endorsements, the parties will also publish their manifestos. Whilst there is no set publication date, parties have historically released manifestoes 3-4 weeks before the election date, with Labour’s and the Conservatives’ usually coming out within a few days of each other.

Party Leaders can also be expected to take part in TV debates and longform interviews with several broadcasters. The dates for these debates are not set, nor is the participation of the parties’ leaders required.

On the day itself, polls will open at 7am and close at 10pm. Photo ID will be required to vote, and the media will stop reporting on details of campaigning or election issues throughout the day so as not to influence the result. School holidays are already taking place in Scotland at this stage, which some commentators have suggested could be a complicating factor north of the border, while the Orange marching season will be in full swing in Northern Ireland by then.

At 10pm an exit poll will be released, the pollsters’ prediction of the result. From then on, it’s just a question of waiting for the result.


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MHP's polling tracker

Voting intention: Labour 43% (+3), Conservatives 27% (+4), Reform 9% (-1), Liberal Democrats 11% (+3), Green Party 4% (0%), SNP 3% (+1%), other parties 4% (+1).

The Labour Party retains its comfortable lead in the polls with 43% of the vote share compared to the Conservatives’ 27%.

All signs (and commentators) continue to predict to a woeful general election result for the incumbent Conservative government, which has suffered in the polls since the disastrous Truss premiership.

The battle for the position of Britain’s third largest political party has intensified between the Liberal Democrats and Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party), with 11% and 9% of the vote share respectively. However the first-past-the-post system means that Reform UK is unlikely to convert votes into seats – this was evident in the local elections where, for example, Reform UK won 14.5% of votes in Sunderland but failed to win a single seat, compared to the Liberal Democrats share of 15.4% which propelled them into winning the second largest group of councillors after Labour (45.5%).

Who would make the better prime minister?

According to the public, who will make a better prime minister? Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer?

41% said Starmer | 30% said Sunak

In total, 30% of the public believe that Rishi Sunak would make the best Prime Minister compared to 41% who would opt for Keir Starmer, and 29% who don’t know.

For people who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election, 57% believe Rishi Sunak would make the better Prime Minister compared to 79% who are planning to vote Conservative at the next general election – a drop of 22 percentage points.

Rishi Sunak’s net favourability rating stands at a dismal -17%, compared to +2% for the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer. Perhaps Rishi can take comfort from the fact he is nevertheless rated more favourably than the former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson (-19%) and Liz Truss (-39%).

Data source: Savanta, 23rd April 

Inside the Ballot Box

Data from Savanta, analysis from MHP

Despite that big speech setting out his vision earlier this week, Rishi Sunak is still struggling to sell it to the British public. The latest poll from Savanta for the Daily Telegraph shows Labour on 43% of the vote, and the Conservatives on 25%.

That 18-point margin slots nicely into a pattern of leads Keir Starmer and co. have racked up with the pollster; Savanta’s last six voting intention polls have shown Labour leads of 15, 18, 16, 18 and 16.

What does it all mean? Well, even the most hopeful of Tories will struggle to spin this. For all Sunak’s talk of being the steady hand on the tiller in troubled times, the voters seem more inclined to try the wares in another shop.

One of the latest and controversial goods on offer in the Labour catalogue is Natalie Elphicke, rebadged as the party’s MP in Dover after originally being elected as a Conservative.

Despite that defection resulting in much chin stroking about policing the intellectual parameters of the Labour Party amongst Westminster types, the general public are much more ambivalent. 33% say Starmer was right to admit her, 27% say otherwise. A finding which will provide some comfort to the Labour leadership is that 46% of the party’s 2019 voters say letting Elphicke join the party was the right thing to do. It will be interesting to see whether a further series of bad headlines drives that down over time.

Another poll telling us Labour are on the march and Sunak is struggling and unlikely to be the last.

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