Why we could have a May election?

8 Feb 2024, 08:30

By Harry Fairhead, Associate Director

The UK faces a General Election this year – or at least before January 2025 – and it is assumed that it will either be in May or October/November. I have long thought the latter, principally on the basis that it provides more time for the economy (and the Conservatives’ polling) to recover.

However, it’s always useful to test your own assumptions. So, what is the Steel Man for a May election? To repeat, this is not what I expect, especially given the Prime Minister’s own pronouncement that the election would be in the “latter part of [this] year” (and he is the only person who really knows). But, in case he’s just trying to keep us (and the Labour Party) guessing, why might he go for it in May?

1 . Aligning the General Election with the local elections on 2nd May could be beneficial:

  • Conservatives are typically thought to have fewer ‘on the ground’ campaigners and so aligning the elections could mitigate this perceived weakness if volunteers are more willing to go on the stump for their local concerns.
  • Focussing voters’ minds on local issues, rather than the national picture where the Conservatives and its leadership appear unpopular, might help.
  • The Reform Party (nee Brexit Party and other incarnations) are thought to be taking General Election votes from the Conservatives. If they can’t field candidates in the Local Elections, it may plug this leak.

2 . Maybe, like Labour Peer, Peter Mandelson, the Conservatives think Labour’s ~20 point poll lead is not all it seems. Perhaps there is less to fear for the Conservatives than generally assumed?

3 . Perhaps there’s concern that the economy won’t recover sufficiently by Autumn and a tax-cutting Budget, slated for 6th March can provide impetus to the Conservatives?

4 . Perhaps the Conservatives hope to catch Labour unprepared. Unlikely, but not impossible as Labour know this is a golden opportunity not to be wasted. However, Labour may equally be nervous about committing too much resource now, thinking there’ll be an expensive General Election ahead.

5 . There are rumours of Government events being delayed shortly before a potential May election date. Ostensibly for other unavoidable reasons, this could be a small clue that we may be in the Purdah (Government pre-election shutdown) period.

If I were writing the counter argument, I’d like to try to pick holes in some of these points, not least that many are speculative. However, there are certainly good reasons for the Prime Minister to consider a May election.

Either way, change is coming – brace yourselves.