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When Will The Election Be? Scenario Two: Summer ’24

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The right to choose the General Election date is one of the few residual advantages that Rishi Sunak enjoys as we approach the coming campaign. In this post, we consider Sunak's second option, a summer 2024 election.

CONSERVATIVE ELECTION THEME: “THINGS ARE LOOKING UP”

Summer elections aren’t as unusual as many believe – we had early summer polls in June 2001 and again in June 2017. But an election in either July or August is highly unusual – the most recent was in July 1945, and the time before that was in August 1895.

While theoretically the happier summer months might be good for the public mood, conducting the general election during the height of summer throws up huge challenges, the most important of which is that so many voters are away from home on holiday and unable to vote.

Economic Considerations

While the Bank of England predicts inflation will fall over the course of 2024, they are not forecasting significant interest rate reductions over the summer that would offer mortgage holders much respite with the cost of living.

The State of the NHS

A review of NHS waiting list statistics going back to 2010 shows that waiting lists actually tend to grow more strongly between March and September each year. If that held true this year, Sunak would be handing an advantage to Labour, for whom polls show greater public trust on the issue of the NHS, by calling an election in this period.

The graph below sets out the 2022/23 trends.

Source: BMA analysis of NHS England Consultant-led Referral to Treatment Waiting Times statistics

Small Boat Crossings

Likewise, traditional rises in small boat crossings in this period, illustrated in Figure 2, would counsel caution in calling an election during the high-point in crossings. With Reform UK threatening on his right flank, and winning as much as 10% in recent by-elections, Sunak is unlikely to want to fight an election at a time when his government can’t claim progress on his mantra of “stopping the boats”.

Source: Migration Watch UK Channel Crossing Tracker

Other Factors

The scheduling of other major international commitments, including the G7 Summit on the 6th of June and the NATO Summit on 11th July, both falling on Thursdays (which since 1935 has been the traditional general election day), would minimise the likelihood of elections in either of those weeks.

Many of the nation’s students will have returned home for the summer, where fewer are registered to vote, and are therefore less likely to have a significant electoral impact in university towns and cities

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