We know their names, and we’ve seen their faces – but who are the primary contenders for the 2024 United Kingdom general election? With less than 15 days left in the campaign, what would a Sunak or Starmer Government look like under their leadership?

In this edition of Nexus APAC’s UK election insights, we provide an overview of each candidate’s positions on the high-profile issues for this election, followed by in-depth individual political profiles of current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Election Positions


Conservatives & Sunak: Sunak has stated that people’s taxes would be cut in the next parliament under a Conservative government. He has also pledged a “triple lock plus” for pensions, which he says will mean state pensioners will never pay tax on the state pension.

Labour & Starmer: Starmer has stated that a Labour government would not raise income tax, national insurance contributions or value added tax (VAT). He plans to charge VAT on private school fees and to tax the overseas income of British residents who claim non-domiciled status.

Health & Social Care

Conservatives & Sunak: Sunak promised to invest £3.4bn into new technology for the National Health Service (NHS), in particular, improvements to the NHS app, artificial intelligence systems to “free up” nurse and doctor time, and replacements for outdated computer equipment in NHS facilities.

Labour & Starmer: Starmer’s plan is to significantly cut NHS wait times by providing an additional 40,000 appointments each week. He stated that the effort would be funded by doubling down on tax avoidance cases and “non-dom loopholes.”

Foreign Policy

Conservatives & Sunak: Sunak says he would put annual caps on legal migration. “Stopping the boats” has also been a key pledge since he became Prime Minister in October 2022. The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 became law in April 2024. Sunak indicated he would be willing to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights to help the Rwanda plan.

Labour & Starmer: Starmer has stated he would not pull the UK out of international agreements.


Conservatives & Sunak: Sunak has proposed a £2.5bn National Service that would see every 18-year-old taking part in either 25 days of community service or a year of military service.

Labour & Starmer: Starmer opposes the Conservatives’ National Service proposal. Starmer said a Labour government would seek to lower the voting age for 16 and 17-year-olds as part of his offering to young voters.

In the Race

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Conservative Party Leader

Rishi Sunak was born on May 12, 1980, in Southampton, England. His parents, Yashvir and Usha Sunak, are of Indian descent. His father was a general practitioner for the NHS, and his mother ran a local pharmacy. Sunak attended Winchester College, one of the most prestigious private schools in the UK, where he was head boy. He then went on to study at Oxford University, earning a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) from Lincoln College. After Oxford, Sunak pursued further studies at Stanford University in the United States, where he obtained an MBA as a Fulbright Scholar.

Before entering politics, Sunak had a successful career in business. He worked for the investment bank Goldman Sachs and later joined the hedge fund management firm The Children’s Investment Fund Management, where he worked as an analyst. In 2010, he co-founded an investment firm, Theleme Partners, and also worked with his father-in-law’s firm, Catamaran Ventures.

Sunak’s political journey began in in 2015 when he was elected as the Conservative MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, succeeding former party leader William Hague. Sunak’s tenure as an MP was marked by his strong advocacy for local issues and his keen interest in economic policy.

His rise within the Conservative Party was rapid. Sunak’s expertise in finance and economics, combined with his communication skills, earned him several key roles. He served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Local Government from January 2018 to July 2019. In July 2019, he was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a role in which he assisted Chancellor Sajid Javid.

In February 2020, following Javid’s resignation, Sunak was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, making him one of the youngest individuals to hold this position in recent history. As Chancellor, Sunak managed the UK’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His policies included the furlough scheme and various support packages for businesses and individuals.

Sunak became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on October 25, 2022, succeeding Liz Truss. Whilst Prime Minister, he has been described as straddling both liberal-conservative and nationalist-conservative instincts, with his social conservatism contrasting his comparatively moderate economic outlook.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Party Leader

Sir Keir Starmer was born on September 2, 1962, in Southwark, London, England. He grew up in Oxted, Surrey. His father, Rodney Starmer, was a toolmaker, and his mother, Josephine Baker, was a nurse. Starmer was named after Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party. He has been labelled “the most working-class leader of the Labour Party for a generation.” Starmer attended Reigate Grammar School, a selective state school that became independent during his time there. He went on to study law at the University of Leeds, where he graduated with a first-class Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1985. He was the first in his family to graduate with tertiary qualifications. He then completed postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, earning a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree.

Before entering politics, Starmer spent three decades as a successful human rights barrister. Starmer’s legal career began when he was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1987. He developed a reputation as a human rights lawyer, co-founding Doughty Street Chambers in 1990. Over the years, he worked on numerous high-profile cases, often involving civil liberties and human rights issues.

In 2002, Starmer was appointed Queen’s Counsel (QC). He continued to rise in prominence, and in 2008, he was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). During his tenure as DPP, which lasted until 2013, Starmer was known for his reforms to the CPS and his efforts to improve the handling of sexual abuse cases.

Starmer entered politics as the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras in May 2015, succeeding Frank Dobson. He quickly earned a place on the front bench when he was appointed Shadow Minister for Immigration in 2015 and then promoted to Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit) in 2016. In this role, Starmer played a significant part in shaping Labour’s stance on Brexit, advocating for a second referendum and a close relationship with the European Union.

Following the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn after Labour’s defeat in the 2019 general election, Starmer won the Labor Party leadership in April 2020. Interestingly, Starmer has never been from or beholden to a particular faction of the UK Labour Party.

Stay in the Know: UK Election Podcast Recommendations

Finally, to stay up-to-date on the head-to-head between Starmer and Sunak, tune in to Nexus APAC’s top 3 recommendations on your commute to work or with a weekend cuppa:

  1. The Rest is Politics

Two men who’ve been at the heart of the political world – former Downing Street Director of Communications and Strategy Alastair Campbell and cabinet minister Rory Stewart – join forces from across the political divide. The Rest Is Politics lifts the lid on the secrets of Westminster, offering an insider’s view on politics at home and abroad while bringing back the lost art of disagreeing agreeably.

  1. The News Agents

Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall – three of the UK’s top journalists – host an award-winning daily news podcast: The News Agents.

  1. Politics Weekly UK

Guardian political columnist John Harris hosts a cast of voices from up and down the country as well as across the political spectrum to analyse the week’s political news.

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