Policy, campaigns & research

General Election 2024 – key dates and things to know

Key election dates coming up to be aware of.

After we’d become lulled into the expectation that the General Election would be in the Autumn, the Prime Minister unexpectedly announced on 22 May that it would take place much earlier – on 4 July – meaning a campaign of around six weeks. 

So, what happens now? Whether your charity is campaigning during the election period or not, here are some key dates and resources to help you understand how the next few weeks will unfold so you can plan accordingly (more explanation follows below): 

  • 30 May – dissolution of Parliament 
  • 7 June – likely deadline for nominating prospective candidates 
  • 7 June – Seven-party debate
  • 5-15 June – party manifestos likely to be announced 
  • 18 June – voter registration deadline 
  • 4 July – polling day 
  • 9 July – swearing in of new MPs 
  • 17 July – State Opening of Parliament 

Despite the polls, a lot has happened since the last General Election in 2019. And it’s worth remembering that neither leader of the largest two political parties at Westminster has undergone the test of a General Election campaign before, so it will be interesting to see what effect that may have. Anything can happen. 

Importantly for charities, regardless of which party or parties form the next government, many MPs in the current parliament will not be there next time. A huge number of MPs are standing down at the end of this parliament, which means we are guaranteed a substantial number of new MPs, many of whom could have experience of working for or supporting charities. And if there’s a big swing for one party or another in the vote, that will likely mean even more MPs who haven’t served before. This will provide fresh opportunities to influence.  

‘Wash up’, prorogation and dissolution 23-30 May 

Following the announcement, the current parliament has been through the period of ‘wash up’, where some bills that were close to passage and had cross-party agreement were pushed through. However, lots of legislation was left unpassed, including bills which some charities had been pushing for such as the Renters Reform Bill. 

Following wash up, parliament was ‘prorogued’, signalling the end of the parliamentary session, prior to being ‘dissolved’ on 30 May, when MPs’ seats are ‘vacated’ for the general election campaign. The ‘pre-election period of sensitivity’ (which used to be called Purdah) started on 25 May, where extra caution applies to announcements and publicity by civil servants, to prevent government resources being used for political campaigning. 

Nomination of prospective parliamentary candidates 

According to the Electoral Commission, during the General Election political parties have to nominate and hand in paperwork for their ‘prospective parliamentary candidates’ no later than the 19th working day before the poll. This means if a party is going to nominate a candidate in a constituency, this would need to be done by Friday, 7 June. Candidates may be nominated before that date, but keep a look out during early June for candidates being declared in your area, especially if your charity has a location or services in a particular constituency. 

Party manifestos 

Normally the political parties will publish manifestos a few weeks into the campaign, which set out their policy ideas and commitments to voters if they get into government. It’s likely that work has already taken place on these already but this process is also likely to be less advanced than in previous elections due to the date being earlier than many anticipated. As a result, the manifestos this year could be much more high-level and less detailed than in past elections. 

If past elections are any guide we can expect manifestos to be published in the period between 5-15 June. DSC will be analysing the manifestos for clues as to what they could mean for charities and voluntary groups, and producing a ‘Manifesto Mashup’ to aid your own analysis, so watch this space! 

Voter registration and voting 

The Electoral Commission has set out guidance on voter registration including a deadline of 18 June for registering to vote. Also, remember that new rules on voter ID are now in force. Although polling day isn’t a holiday in the UK, many charities and other employers, including DSC, encourage their staff to vote and make accommodations for this during the working day of 4 July. Elections are important, so charities should bear this in mind for staff and volunteers. 

What happens after 4 July  

The results of the vote will determine which party forms the next UK government. There could be a majority government as we have now, or a hung parliament where no single party has control. That could mean several parties agree to work together, or there is a formal ‘coalition’ as we had between 2010 and 2015. Either way, after the next government is formed, there may be some changes to the ‘machinery of government’ – in other words how government departments are structured and what responsibilities they have. New Ministers will also take up their posts. 

On Tuesday, 9 July, the new MPs will be sworn in and will elect a Speaker of the House. Then on Wednesday 17 July, there will be the State Opening of Parliament, officially starting the new parliamentary session, where ethe new government will announce its legislative programme in a King’s Speech. 

Autumn Budget and Spending Review? 

There is a good chance that the new government will want to have another ‘fiscal event’ in the autumn, after party conferences, especially now that the election won’t happen then. If there is a change of government this will likely be more far reaching and involve more of a departure to current policy and spending plans. We expect there could be a Spending Review as well, either as part of an Autumn Budget statement or separately, which would set departmental budgets for the coming years. This will affect things which are important to the charity sector, such as the Charity Commission’s budget. 

Campaign with confidence 

It’s been a long time since the last General Election and whatever the outcome there will be opportunities for change. It’s really important that charities and trustees continue to speak out on behalf of their beneficiaries, including during election times, within the law of course.  

If you’re uncertain about what you can do or not do, the best thing to do first is to review and understand the relevant guidance from the charity regulators in the different parts of the UK. For example, in England and Wales, the Charity Commission’s guidance on campaigning and political activity (CC9).  

DSC has published many articles and books that can help you campaign with confidence, and we’ll continue to do so over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!