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2024: Mapping the British electoral landscape

Updated: May 23

Adam McCartan

rishi sunak outside number 10 downing street

2024 is shaping up to be a huge year for politics. In the US, the nation braces for

the upcoming presidential election, as it stands a house divided between an ever

increasing populist and conservative right and a liberal left. Here in the UK, we

are no strangers to electoral and political turmoil (just ask the last three prime

ministers!) and 2024 promises to be no different with the next general election

expected for the autumn.


The question, therefore, is on what landscape shall the next general election be

fought? In which arena’s shall Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and others be battling

it out to gain that ever-coveted parliamentary majority? We will attempt to

explain just that, looking at what the landscape is beginning to look like.

The world of 2023 is incredibly different to the one of 2019. Globally, the world

has been through a pandemic, and Europe once again has seen the horrors of

war return to its shores.


So, it is hard exactly to predict what 2024 will

precisely bring, however, that being said, there are key areas over which the

next general election shall be fought: cost of living, inflation,

migration, the NHS. Also, up for judgement is the Conservative record in

government (which in my opinion is a legacy of shambolic chaos).


Let’s start with the area that is of most concern to everyone. Since the end of

the pandemic, in 2021, we have all felt things becoming more financially tight,

our money not going as far as it used to, and our rent or mortgage payments

become harder to pay. Well, this is the cost-of-living crisis. In layman’s terms

(which for me is all I understand when it comes to economics) it is a result of

the people and household’s ‘real’ income (income after taxes and benefits)

falling below the rate of inflation.


As of April 2023, inflation for the UK currently stands at a whopping 8.7%,

standing above other comparable

economies. This inflation has had a huge impact on families and households

across the UK. For example, the prices of whole milk and pasta have gone up

26% , while according to the ONS (Office of national statistics) 2 in 5 adults

have reported “finding it very or somewhat difficult to afford”. While the

current government under Rishi Sunak has attempted to mitigate the worst of

the current crisis, households continue to feel the pinch. Labour, the SNP, and

the Liberal Democrats have all taken to referring to this as the “Tory-made cost

of living crisis”. Labour’s website on the topic leads with bullet points on how

the Conservative’s have caused it, not least stating “15 Tory tax rises have led

to the highest tax burden in 70 years”.


It is clear this will be one of the huge issues for the coming election.

For the Conservatives, their only hope of

rebuttal is to regain their mantle as the party of fiscal responsibility that was so

shattered by Liz Truss’ disastrous libertarian experiment. Under Sunak, and his

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, they party has returned to austerity as the orthodox

in hopes of curbing inflation to soften the crisis. Whether this will work come

polling day remains to be seen.


Next up on the list is the ever-present issue of migration. Among Conservative

voters the issue remains one of the top priorities with POLITICO reporting it as

their second-biggest concern. Among wider voters however the issue remains

more controversial, in a recent poll by PublicFirst it found that when asked

“Which of the following specific challenges do you think the Government

should take most seriously?” it came 4th at 26% except among Conservative and

Reform UK voters where it came in at 41% and 60% respectively. So then why

is migration a central issue for this election if its not in the top 3 issues for the

government to focus on? Well simply put it always was, and always probably

will be. It was one of the driving factors behind the Brexit referendum (“take

back control”) and since the referendum and leaving the EU, and since

consecutive Conservative governments.


Despite the tough rhetoric they have failed to reduce migration significantly,

with the ONS showing that last year

Britain saw a net migration of 606,000 people, with the ONS also stating that 1

in 12 of these people were asylum seekers. Sensing an opportunity to gain

disenfranchised Conservative voters in more Brexit supporting areas, Labour

leader Keir Starmer has repeatedly attacked the government on this issue during PMQs.


While Labour voters themselves don’t necessarily find migration

to be a key issue, if Labour hope to win a majority they will need to capture

traditional Tory voters, with the best way to do this so far presenting itself in

Migration.


Next on our list is the state of the NHS. One of the wonders of being British,

and one of the core institutions in British life is the National Health Service. The

first of its kind in the world, the NHS has provided since its inception free

healthcare upon request, and has been paid for through both incomes tax and

national insurance contribution. When asked by the ONS what they thought

was the most important issues facing the UK today, 83% of respondents

answered the NHS. This is nothing knew. The quality of healthcare in a given

country is always a matter of concern for voters, look at the US where despite

its private insurance-based system, voters still pay great attention to what

politicians say about healthcare (see Obamacare).


Here in the UK, all major

parties have included the state of the NHS in their plans and promises for the

coming election. The Tories have promised to cut waiting times and previously

promised to build 40 new hospitals. It was revealed however that the current

government has downgraded the promise on new hospitals to renovations of

existing hospitals, while waiting times and the numbers of people on waiting

lists have continued to rise since they entered office. Labour

as well has made the NHS one of their ‘5 missions for a better Britain’,

promising to build a better NHS (a vague statement but understandable pre-

manifesto launch). The issue of the NHS no doubt therefore will be, as usual, of

the key election issues in 2024.


Finally is the Tory record in government. The last 13 years has been, well to put

it mildly, shambolic. I think it’s hard for anyone to realistically argue that the

last nearly decade and a half of Tory government has been strong or stable.

Inside that time we have had 5 Conservative Prime Ministers (Cameron, May,

Johnson, Truss, Sunak). The legacy of these PM’s is one of continuous turmoil

and, after Johnson, of sleaze. The Tory party under Johnson and beyond has

been rocked by several high profile scandals and resignations, with most

recently Johnson being found to have willfully mislead Parliament.

There’s absolutely no doubt as to if the opposition parties will use this in their

campaign, in fact we already have seen it in the May 4th Local elections, in

which the Tories lost a whopping 1000 seats! Further to this obvious

indictment of the Conservative party are the polling figures, in which the Tories

have been consistently 14 points behind Labour, due to cost of living, Tory

sleaze, ‘Partygate’ and much more all bringing down public opinion in the

Conservative Party.


So where does all this leave us lowly voters then? Well as usual it leaves us the

important job of evaluating the claims of these various parties on the issues

outlined above. The 2024 election campaign is probably going be highly

eventful, and certainly will be highly important. Will the Conservative

monopoly on the reigns of government be broken and Labour returned from

the wilderness of opposition, or will Keir Starmer’s Labour face the same story

of defeat? Only time, and the voters, will tell.


Image: Rishi Sunak

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