General Election 2024: What are the key Labour and Conservative manifesto policies?

Rishi Sunak has called a snap general election for July

Albert Toth
Monday 27 May 2024 07:41 BST
PMQs: Sunak confirms ‘there will be a general election in the second half of this year’

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


After a day of fervent speculation, Rishi Sunak has finally called a snap general election on July 4.

Mr Sunak confirmed the news in a speech outside No 10. Almost upstaged by the rain – and pranksters loudly playing D:Ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, closely associated with Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour victory – the prime minister reminisced on his time in office, before making the big announcement.

Before now, the prime minister had resisted calls to go to the polls, despite constant pressure from the Labour Party to do so over the past year.

Follow The Independent’s live coverage for the latest updates

However, it is speculated that Mr Sunak had been waiting for an opportune time to make his move. Bolstered by the positive downturn in inflation to 3.2 per cent, it appears his mark has been met.

Taking a swipe at the Labour Party, the prime minister said:

“I don’t know what they offer”, adding “they have no plan, there is no bold action, and as a result the future can only be uncertain”.

Responding to the news, Labour leader Keir Starmer released a video saying “it’s time for change”.

“They have failed. Give the Tories five more years, and things will only get worse,” he said.

While neither party has released an official election manifesto yet, as they will only come after an election is officially called, both have dropped hints and promises over the course of the past few years, which offer a clue for their vision for the country.

Here’s where the UK’s two largest parties stand on some of the key issues:


Economic policies have been a focal point of Mr Sunak’s premiership, making up three of the Conservatives’ five key priorities. They are: reduce inflation, grow the economy, and reduce national debt.

The first of these aims has largely been achieved, with inflation falling since the pledge was made, from 10.1 per cent to 2.3 per cent, although it is still above the Bank of England’s target of 2 per cent.

View more

However, the respected IFS economic think tank has questioned Mr Sunak’s taking credit for the economic good fortune, with director Paul Johnson arguing that it is the Bank of England’s job to cut inflation and that the prime minister’s pledge was always “inappropriate”.

The economy has shown signs of growth since Mr Sunak’s pledges were made, with the economy forecast to have grown 0.5 per cent in 2023, and wages rising steadily. However, debt has risen to 89.9 per cent of GDP, up from 85.1 per cent in late 2023, when the prime minister promised to reduce it.

Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech on May 17, 2024
Jeremy Hunt delivers a speech on May 17, 2024 (Getty Images)

Labour has been critical of the government’s economic record, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves promising to take an approach of ‘securonomics’ as an antidote to the economic turmoil caused by Liz Truss’s catastrophic 2022 ‘mini-budget’.

Outlining Labour’s ‘first steps for change’ in May, Keir Starmer said the party would impose strict rules on themselves.

Mr Starmer also says the party would introduce an ‘Office for Value for Money’ to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and halve government consultancy spending, instead focussing on long-term staffing.

Finally, the party says it would appoint a ‘Covid Corruption Commissioner’ to recoup billions in taxpayer money wasted on fraudulent Covid contracts, as well as ending what it calls the VIP ‘fast lane’ government contract procurement process.


Both parties have expressed reluctance to raise taxes.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves has confirmed the party would not seek to undo the government’s 2p cut to National Insurance tax if it came to power, looking to other measures to raise funds.

Chief amongst these measures is scrapping the controversial ‘non-dom’ tax status held by some wealthy foreign nationals in the UK, as well as a crackdown on tax avoidance, and introducing VAT and business rates to private schools.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

In April Mr Sunak beat Labour to the punch on non-doms by announcing that the tax regime would be phased out over a transitional period. Labour has said they would scrap the transitional measures, saving a further £2.6 billion.

Conservative chancellor Jeremy Hunt has also indicated a desire to cut NICs even further, if he can “afford” to. This is despite a warning from the International Monetary Fund of a potential £30bn hole in the public finances, which the Treasury disputes.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have ruled out increasing income tax (or changing its bands), capital gains tax, or corporation tax.


NHS waiting times have skyrocketed over the past two years, with the number of people waiting for a hospital treatment hitting a record 7.8 million in late 2023, with around a third waiting over 6 months.

The proportion of people waiting over 4 hours in A&E has also increased, reaching a peak of over 50 per cent last Summer, and now at around 45 per cent.

Both parties have pledged to reduce these waiting times.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins (Yui Mok/PA)
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)

The Conservatives have pointed to the Covid pandemic as the driving force behind the increases, pledging to work hard to reduce them.

Mr Sunak has said his government will do this by introducing “record” funding, up 35 per cent since the start of the last parliament, as well as record staffing levels.

However, the IFS argues that, in real-terms, the increased spending amounts to no real growth in the NHS budget between 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The prime minister also plans to “reform” the NHS. This includes allowing people to receive prescriptions directly from pharmacies, improving health technology, and giving people the choice to be referred to the private sector.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said the party will get the NHS “back on its feet” by delivering 40,000 more evening and weekend appointments a week, funded by their economic policies.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

However, Mr Streeting raised some eyebrows in April when he announced his intention to use “spare capacity in the private sector” to work towards Labour’s NHS goals, despite what “middle-class lefties” might think.

The shadow health secretary has since clarified that this does not mean Labour wishes to privatise the NHS in any way, and that he believes the health service should always be free for everyone.


Immigration has been a key issue for both parties. The Conservative government has taken a hard stance on the issue, pledging to “stop the boats” and increase measures to deter immigrants and asylum seekers from heading to the UK. Mr Sunak announced last year his goal of reducing net migration from 606,000 in 2022 to 240,000 in 2024.

His 12-point plan includes measures such as capping the number of people claiming asylum in the UK, raising the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers, and cutting visas for care staff and students.

Home Secretary James Cleverly standing in front of a discarded migrant boat in Lampedusa Port, April 2024
Home Secretary James Cleverly standing in front of a discarded migrant boat in Lampedusa Port, April 2024 (PA)

However, Mr Sunak has not yet delivered on his promise to reduce the number of people arriving into the UK via small boats, with a record number of migrants crossing the channel in the first three months of 2024.

View more

The government’s controversial and long-standing Rwanda bill is also likely to feature prominently in the run up to the general election. Despite approval by parliament in April, it is unlikely a flight will take off under the scheme until late June or July.

Labour’s plan on immigration similarly looks to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas’ workers. It says it would implement policies that tackle “home-grown skills shortages” to fill key sectors facing employment gaps.

The opposition party says it would take inspiration from Australia’s points-based immigration system, which assesses a migrant workers’ suitability for a visa based on factors such as education, language skills, and work experience.

The Labour party has also pledged to secure the UK’s borders by introducing a Border Security Command, which would use counter-terror style tactics, as well as a Returns Unit to more efficiently removed asylum seekers with failed applications.


In 2019, the Conservatives under Theresa May committed to a net zero target of 2050. Rishi Sunak has said he remains committed to this goal.

The government’s current policies include a transition to electric vehicles by 2035, meaning no new petrol or diesel cars should be sold after that year, as well as encouraging households to transition from gas boilers to heat pumps.

However, the prime minister was criticised last year for pushing back the transition period for both of these measures, alongside announcing new oil and gas licences.

Labour has laid out its plans for ‘Great British Energy,’ a publicly-owned sustainable energy company, which it says will reduce household energy bills and create half a million jobs.

Shadow environment secretary Ed Milliband says the party would pay for the plan with a windfall tax on excess profits made by oil and gas companies.


Labour has made education a key part of its policy programme in its time as in opposition. Their headline measure is to recruit 6,500 new teachers in key subjects, as well as creating a ‘national excellence programme’ which would see teachers given continuous support with professional development.

The party has also said it will set out to review the national curriculum, giving it wider scope to improve creativity, and digital and communication skills, alongside more mental health support staff in schools.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have promised a new qualification framework called the ‘Advanced British Standard’ for 16- to 18-year-olds. It will increase the number of A-Levels students study from the typical three to five, and ensure everyone will study “some form” of maths and English to age 18.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan speaks during the Conservative Party Conference, October 2, 2023
Education secretary Gillian Keegan speaks during the Conservative Party Conference, October 2, 2023 (Getty Images)

The Department for Education has said the rollout will take around a decade, pledging £600 million in the first two years, as well as a £30,000 bonus for for teachers in key shortage subjects, spread out over the first five years of their career.

The government has clashed with teacher’s unions during Mr Sunak’s tenure, seeing a number of teacher strikes organised over the course of 2023.

After accepting a pay offer last year, teachers’ unions are now looking to secure a further pay increase for September 2024. Education secretary Gillian Keegan was due to table a new pay offer soon, but this now looks unlikely and will probably fall to the next government.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in