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4TH JULY – BE READY TO VOTE!

On May 22nd, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the next general election in the United Kingdom will take place on Thursday, July 4th, 2024. This will be the first general election in the United Kingdom since 2019, and it’s only six weeks away. This period has seen the UK weather tremendous change, with four different Prime Ministers taking office and the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on public health and the economy.

Rishi Sunak, the current Conservative Party leader, and Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader, are set to be the main contenders for the Prime Minister’s seat in this upcoming election. While other party leaders, such as Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats, play crucial roles in British politics, it’s less likely they will ascend to the premiership, particularly in a hung parliament scenario.

The Conservative Party and the Labour Party have dominated UK politics for over a century. Historically, one of these two parties has always held the majority in Parliament and provided the Prime Minister. Their policies and ideologies span a broad spectrum of the political landscape, appealing to a wide range of voters. Conservatives are a right-wing party, being more authoritarian; however, the Labour Party are left-wing and more libertarian. However, occasionally, parties may shift their ideologies depending on current affairs. It is argued that Labour has become more centred than ever before under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

Consequently, they continue to be the primary contenders in every general election. The UK’s political landscape is shaped by the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system, where the constituency’s candidate with the most votes wins. This straightforward system often leads to a two-party dominance, as seen with the Conservative and Labour parties. Understanding this system is vital for voters, as it directly influences the outcomes and dynamics of the general elections.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered considerable disruptions in the education sector, compelling many institutions to transition to remote learning. This abrupt shift has laid bare several challenges, including the digital divide, learning loss, and mental health issues among students, with 1 in 6 (17.7%) in 2020 being affected. In the upcoming election, the parties’ education policies will likely tackle these issues head-on. Previously, Starmer has said that he wanted to scrap tuition fees; however, now this is not possible as he wants to focus on the NHS. Sunak wants to scrap A-levels and introduce Advanced British Standard (ABS), making maths and English compulsory until students are 18. This policy received mixed reviews.

Potential strategies could include enhancing digital infrastructure (making technology up-to-date and more accessible to students of all backgrounds) to ensure all students can access online learning resources, implementing catch-up programs to mitigate learning loss, and introducing mental health support in schools to address the psychological impact of the pandemic on students. Furthermore, the Conservatives might propose plans for a more blended learning approach, harmonising in-person and online teaching methods to prepare for potential future disruptions. As such, the election provides an excellent platform for voters to influence these critical policy decisions by making sure they are eligible to vote and keeping a loop o the news and any new policies that may interest them.

Voting is an essential civic duty, and all eligible voters are encouraged by parliament, news outlets and political enthusiasts to participate in the election. If you haven’t registered to vote, now is the time. The importance of this election is particularly significant for young people and students as it will be their first opportunity to cast a vote in a national election.

The outcome of the upcoming general election will have substantial implications for the future of the UK. It’s crucial for everyone to reflect on past challenges, consider future opportunities, and make their voices heard at the ballot box.

In the evolving political and social landscape, the election serves as a beacon of democracy. It enables citizens to express their views and influence policy direction. It’s a chance to decide who represents us and who leads us. For young voters, this is an opportunity to shape the world they will inherit, to advocate for the issues they care about, and to help forge the path the UK will take in the coming years.

Link to register: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Maliha Hussain

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