July 19, 2024

Polls suggest that the center-left Labour Party is set to return to power after more than a decade in opposition, which would bring a fundamental realignment to British politics.

The United Kingdom — which consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales — is divided into 650 constituencies.

Voters in each constituency select a candidate to represent them as a member of Parliament, and the political party that wins the most seats usually forms the next government. That party’s leader also becomes prime minister.

To win an overall majority, a party must secure 326 seats. If the top party falls short of that, the outcome is known as a “hung Parliament” and the party can try to form a coalition government with other parties. In 2010, the Conservatives joined with the Liberal Democrats to form Britain’s first coalition government since World War II, and, in 2017, the Conservatives allied with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

The state of Britain’s economy is the top issue for most voters today, according to polls, in the wake of a cost-of-living crisis and record inflation — which reached a peak of 11.1 percent in 2022 and has only recently begun to return to target levels.

The National Health Service, the state-funded health care system that provides care at no extra charge, is another top priority. A decade of fiscal austerity that began under Prime Minister David Cameron after the 2009 global financial crisis left Britain’s public services deeply underfunded and facing chronic staff shortages. Waiting lists for N.H.S. treatment were already growing before the pandemic, and have since rocketed further upward, a major source of public dissatisfaction.

Immigration comes third in most voters’ lists of top issues, although its importance differs starkly according to party preference. Only 20 percent of Labour voters said it was one of their most pressing national concerns, compared with 65 percent of Conservatives in a recent poll conducted by YouGov.

The two largest parties in Britain are the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and the Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, a former public prosecutor and human rights lawyer.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party became the most popular party in 2015, displacing Labour there. But a funding scandal and the departure of Nicola Sturgeon as first minister has weakened the party’s support over the past year. Polls now suggest that Labour has a chance of gaining significant ground in Scotland this time round, which would ease Mr. Starmer’s path to becoming prime minister.

The populist Reform Party, which was co-founded by Nigel Farage, the champion of Brexit, has risen in the polls in recent months. Conservative Party officials fear that the anti-immigration party could cannibalize the right-wing vote in individual constituencies, although Mr. Farage’s decision not to run as a candidate will have been welcomed by the Tories.

Two other parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, made sizable gains in local elections in early May. But while both are aiming to gain seats in July, Britain’s electoral system makes it harder for smaller parties to win seats in a parliamentary election.

Just after polls close at 10 p.m. on July 4, exit-poll results are announced, based on surveys of thousands of voters after they have cast their ballots.

Exit polls are not always accurate — famously, in Britain’s 1992 and 2015 elections, they predicted a hung Parliament, when in fact the Conservative Party went on to win a majority. But they have become increasingly reliable in the country in recent years and are generally seen as offering a good early indication of how the public has voted.

The first results from a few individual constituencies will announced from around 11 p.m., and then a steady rhythm of results arrive through the early hours of the next morning. By around 7 a.m., the overall result is usually clear, although some rural seats can be announced later.

#U.K #General #Election

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