The countdown is on for the United Kingdom general election. Regardless of who forms government, the House of Commons will undergo a drastic change, with more than 130 of its 650 Members stating they will not run for re-election.

This includes 76 Conservative MPs, 33 Labour MPs, 9 Independents, 9 Members of the Scottish National Party, 3 from Sinn Fein, 1 from Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party’s sole MP.

In this edition of Nexus APAC’s UK election insights, we analyse the election from a procedural perspective – from what happens to the Government in the period leading up to the election, to how election day will operate, and when we can expect the UK Government to return to business as usual.

Pre-election Protocol

The UK Cabinet Office has now issued its General Election Guidance 2024, which sets out the key principles of activity for the UK Government during a 6-week pre-election period.

On 22 May 2024, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he had formally asked the King to “dissolve” Parliament – the official term for closing it before an election.

In the UK, Parliament continues to sit until it is prorogued (and then dissolved). It is normal for Parliament to be prorogued before dissolution. This final period is known as ‘wash-up’, whereby Parliament can rapidly pass legislation and attend to ‘unfinished business’ before dissolution.

Parliament was fully dissolved on 30 May 2024, meaning MPs lost their status. Those who want to remain in the House of Commons are now campaigning for their re-election.

While the UK Government retains all its responsibilities during the pre-election period and Ministers retain their ministerial responsibilities, the guidance (reflecting customary practice) clarifies that government activity is restricted during the campaign. This is to ensure public money is not used to support the campaign of the party in power. Staff time, the parliamentary network, email accounts and other parliamentary resources cannot be used for political or campaigning purposes.

Ministers are “to observe discretion in initiating any action of a continuing or long-term character”. In particular, “decisions on matters of policy, and other issues such as large and/or contentious commercial contracts, on which a new government might be expected to take a different view from the present government, should be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money”.


Manifestos are an election cornerstone in the UK.

A manifesto is a publication issued by a political party before a general election. It contains the set of policies that the party stands for and intends to implement if elected to govern. Manifestos are generally published during the campaign, approximately three weeks before polling day.

In recent years, manifestos have become longer and more detailed. Fifty years ago, manifestos contained a mere few thousand words, but during the 2019 campaign, parties released manifestos of more than 20,000 words.


Earlier this week, the first of two head-to-head debates between Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer took place. Key issues dominating the discussion were immigration, defence, cost of living, and the National Health Service (NHS).  A YouGov snap poll after the debate indicated that 46% of viewers thought current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had performed better, and 45% believed Labour Leader Keir Starmer had performed better.

Initially, Sunak challenged Starmer to six televised debates. Starmer rejected the proposal, agreeing to two head-to-head debates and a third appearance in front of a question time-style audience. While a staple of US politics since the 1950s, the UK did not hold televised debates until the 2010 general election, featuring Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrats Leader Nick Clegg. Starmer stated that televised debates are “part and parcel of the election cycle now” in the UK.

Election Day

The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, each electing one MP to the House of Commons. The House of Commons uses a first-past-the-post system, meaning that the candidate with the most votes in a constituency becomes its MP.

Unlike Australia, voting is not compulsory in the UK. Turnout at the last election in 2019 was 67%.

This election will be fought on new constituency boundaries, which have been redrawn to reflect population changes and even out voter numbers in each area.

Election day occurs 25 working days after Parliament is dissolved. This year, the election is scheduled to take place on 4 July 2024, which is also a working day in the UK. As a result, polls close at 10 pm local time. The official results will be declared throughout the night and the following day, with the bulk of results coming in around 3 am BST (12 pm AEST).

Voter ID

Since May 2023, voters must show a valid form of photo ID at polling stations to vote in person at a general election – a policy implemented to avoid voter fraud. At least 14,000 people could not vote at England’s local elections in May 2023 because they had no valid ID. The UK’s Local Government Information Unit advised that voters will be turned away at the general election because there will not be enough staff to check valid IDs and produce Voter Authority Certificates.


After the results are in, the leader of the winning party (if there is one) visits Buckingham Palace to ask King Charles III for permission to form a new government. The Leader then returns to the traditional home of the Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street.

This will be followed by the State Opening of Parliament and the King’s Speech, when the Government outlines its priorities for the months ahead, on 17 July 2024.


Australia and the UK have a robust and longstanding relationship, with a high level of cooperation across a wide range of foreign policy, defence, intelligence, trade, and economic issues. The UK election is undoubtedly important to our nation’s political and cultural landscape.

Stay tuned for the three-part series of Nexus APAC’s insights series on the UK Election, which will delve into the backgrounds, positions, and priorities of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Did you miss part one of this series? You can find it here.

Photo credit: Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA