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Election: Everything you need to know – Bath Spa University

The general election: everything you need to know


Why vote?

Wednesday, 29 May, 2024

Clifford Williamson, Senior Lecturer in History at Bath Spa University, considers why we should vote.

Rebuilding our politics

With the General Election now called for 4 July, many of us will be weighing up not just who to vote for but also why you should vote. It is true that there is an anti-politics mood across the UK with only 9% of people according to IPSOS trusting politicians to tell the truth.  

The 2019-2024 Parliament has been the worst for MPs being suspended for various malfeasances. From partying during lockdown to inappropriate behaviour, more than 20 MPs have been disciplined, had the whip withdrawn and three have lost their seats to recall petitions. This election is crucial to rehabilitating our political culture. 

Do you remember the first time? 

This will be the first general election that many of you will be voting in. It is a big moment, and you could make the difference. Only 47% of 18–24-year-olds voted at the 2019 General Election, compared to 74% of people over 65. Just think how much things could be changed if 74% of young people voted in 2024. 

You will be part of and will be making history! Irrespective of the result it will be a special moment for you and the whole of the UK. It will be something to look back on as a shared experience of family and community.  I first voted way back in 1987 but the experience has never changed the same little booth, pencil on a piece of string and a cross on ballot paper. 

Your future is on the ballot paper

General Elections are about the future and who has the biggest stake in the future. For new and young voters this is the moment of decision. So much of it will focus on the issues that are at the top of your agenda: the environment, affordable homes, and the cost of living.  

Higher education is on the ballot paper too, for the first time in decades. There is talk of ‘Mickey Mouse’ and ‘rip-off’ degrees and the cost of tuition fees to you and the Exchequer is a matter of real concern.   Everything is political, from food to sewage, peace and war, race, religion, gender, and you must be in the room where the decisions are made and to do that you have to take part. Politics is the art of the possible, using protest and persuasion, thinking together, and working together.  

You could be the difference

In your local constituency you could make a real difference as 97 of the 650 constituencies are marginals requiring only five in every hundred people to change their minds or vote for the first time to change party. So, by voting you can really impact the outcome.  

Standing on the shoulders of giants

When you vote it is a moment where you have the right to choose, for a long time and for most people this was not the case. It is just over a century since most men and women won the right to vote. For women it was a long and difficult campaign that saw some killed, imprisoned and force-fed. Their endurance is your freedom. You stand on the shoulders of giants.  

Democracy is precious and across the world many are losing the right to vote with authoritarian and totalitarian states in the ascendant. Like all political systems ours is not perfect but it can be changed, and you can be that change.   

10 things you need to know about the general election:

  1. What is a general election?

    The general election is to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons. Find out more information about the general election.

  2. When is the next one taking place? 

    The next general election will take place on 4 July 2024.

  3. How do I register to vote?

    You can check if you’re already registered and if not, you need to register before the deadline of 18 June.

    You’ll be asked for your National Insurance number (but you can still register if you do not have one). After you’ve registered, you'll be added to the electoral register. You can register anonymously if you are concerned about your safety, or that of someone in your household.

    As a student you can be registered at both your home and term-time address, provided you only vote once.

  4. I’m an international student, can I vote in the UK general election?

    Non-UK citizens and international student visa holders may be able to vote. Check your eligibility.

  5. How do I vote?

    You have three options to vote, either in person, by proxy, or by post. If you wish to vote in person, you can find your local polling station.

    If you’re not going to be around on 4 July to vote in person, you can either apply in advance for a postal vote application form or you can ask someone you trust to cast your vote for you.

  6. What do I need to take with me to vote in person?

    You’ll need to show photo ID when voting in person. You can find out more about valid Photo ID and if you don’t have one, you can apply for a free photo ID, via the NUS.

  7. When will manifestos be launched?

    The parties decide when to launch their manifestos - there is no set date for this. It’s worth keeping an eye on the websites of the parties you’re interested in, so you can find out as soon as they're available.

  8. What does an MP do? 

    The UK public elects Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons. MPs consider and can propose new laws as well as raising issues that matter to you in the House. This includes asking government ministers questions about current issues including those which affect local constituents.

    MPs split their time between working in Parliament itself, working in the constituency that elected them and working for their political party.  

  9. Who are the candidates in my constituency?

    Find out who your local MP is.

  10. What happens on polling day? 

    Polling day is set for Thursday 4 July and will run from 7am to 10pm.

    When you vote in person, you go to the polling station allocated to you based on your address on the electoral register.

    Before you go to vote, check where your polling station is. It might not be the closest one to where to you live, and it might have changed since the last time you voted. You have to go to your allocated polling station, and you can't go to a different one close to where you work, for example. Your polling station will be on your poll card, which you'll receive through the post a few weeks before polling day.

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