UK elections: Future of PM Rishi Sunak hangs in balance

The election involves all 650 constituencies across the UK, with 326 seats needed for a majority in the Westminster Parliament

Sunak opposed Labour's potential "supermajority" during the campaign (photo: NH archives)
Sunak opposed Labour's potential "supermajority" during the campaign (photo: NH archives)


The future of Rishi Sunak as Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party hangs in the balance as the UK goes to the polls on Thursday, 4 July.

Around 46.5 million Britons are eligible to vote in the election. The electorate votes for members of Parliament across 650 constituencies – with 326 required for a majority in the first past the post system.

Sunak, 44, is up against voter angst against the incumbent Tories after 14 years in power and has had to contend with trailing far behind 61-year-old Keir Starmer-led Labour Party throughout the six-week campaign. Both leaders wrapped up their poll pitches with contrasting messages — Sunak urging voters not to hand a "supermajority" to “tax-raising” Labour and Starmer playing down the prospect of a landslide win for fear of a low turnout impacting the final outcome.

On Thursday, around 40,000 polling booths open across the country at 7 am local time as voters turn out to mark a cross next to their chosen candidate on a paper ballot. Since this year, carrying an identification document to the polling booth has become compulsory in elections, which are open to all registered adult voters resident in the UK — including Indians as Commonwealth citizens.

Once the votes are cast and the booths officially close at 10 pm local time, the focus shifts to the definitive exit poll soon after which gives a fair snapshot of what can be expected UK-wide. Counting commences up and down the country right away, with the first results expected just before midnight local time.

Stop Labour’s supermajority is the central message British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was trying to drive home on the final day of campaigning on Wednesday, as most of the incumbent Conservatives all but conceded defeat in the general election.

“This is what unites us. We need to stop the Labour supermajority that will put up your taxes. The only way to do that is to vote Conservative tomorrow,” said Sunak on social media, as he focused on drumming up support in the last few hours of the campaign trail.

The British Indian leader and his team's strategy in the final hours was to canvas their traditional voters to narrow the gap of their widely expected defeat after Tory victories in the last three general elections. The Opposition dubbed it as fear tactics to jolt Tory voters into action, with the hope of keeping the Labour majority under that won by former prime minister Tony Blair led Labour Party in 1997 of 179 seats.

"Thursday's vote is now all about forming a strong enough Opposition. One needs to read the writing on the wall: it's over, and we need to prepare for the reality and frustration of the Opposition," Suella Braverman, sacked as home secretary by Rishi Sunak, told ‘The Telegraph’.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Boris Johnson sprung up as a surprise campaigner at an event in London to warn against a “sledgehammer majority” being handed to Starmer-led Labour Party.

“When Rishi asked me to come and help, of course, I couldn't say no. We're all here because we love our country," Johnson told a cheering Tory crowd.

The Labour Party, meanwhile, was keen to override this message of its win as a foregone conclusion to fight against any complacency within the ranks and among its own voter base.

“People are saying the polls predict the future – they don't predict the future, every single vote counts, every single vote has to be earned… It isn't 'job done',” cautioned Starmer.

Polling experts have forecast a low turnout, which stood at 67 per cent in the last general election in December 2019 when Johnson won a solid majority on his “get Brexit done” message. If opinion polls are to be believed, the incumbent Tories are in line to win anywhere between 53 and 150 seats, with Labour projected to win a landslide.

The vote, called by Sunak, is being held months earlier than necessary and caught much of his party by surprise.

The 2019 General Election resulted in a Conservative victory. The party won 365 seats. The Labour Party won 202 seats.

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