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Count Binface, a stunt-obsessed Davey, and a returning Farage: Big players in the UK election

Voters in the United Kingdom will head to the polls on July 4 to choose their next government, with polls indicating that the results will be historic. After 14 years of Conservative rule, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to lead the party into one of the greatest defeats in electoral history, going from a […]

Voters in the United Kingdom will head to the polls on July 4 to choose their next government, with polls indicating that the results will be historic.

After 14 years of Conservative rule, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set to lead the party into one of the greatest defeats in electoral history, going from a majority to its lowest share of votes since being established in 1834. The party has managed to whip up the anger of the left-wing and center parties through its economic policies while enraging further right-wing voters by failing to follow through with promises to reduce immigration, instead sending it to record highs.

The next prime minister will be decided by which party, or coalition of parties, wins the majority of seats.


Here are all the key players to know in the U.K. election:

Rishi Sunak — Conservatives

Sunak took over as prime minister in October 2022 after the record-short tenure of former Prime Minister Liz Truss. He was credited with providing a degree of much-needed stability to the government and bringing some modest economic gains. However, it was a string of unfulfilled promises that cratered his perception.

Upon his accession to the premiership, Sunak delivered five promises: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut National Health Service waiting lists, and “stop the boats,” referring to the trafficking of illegal immigrants coming to Britain across the English Channel.

Nearly two years later, Sunak only accomplished a single goal, more than halving inflation, while failing on the rest. One of the failures was spurring economic growth, one of the U.K.’s worst economic malaise.

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One of the most important issues that has helped bleed support was his handling of illegal immigration. He oversaw a small decrease in illegal boat arrivals in 2023, after a record high in 2022, but the first half of 2024 saw a resurgence of arrivals. 

He staked much of his immigration plan on a scheme to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda. As of the election, not a single migrant had been deported to Rwanda. The result was disappointment from the Right and Left.

His move to call early elections in May baffled observers, as the polls were already clear and he still had until the end of the year to wait – time he could have spent improving his record.

Sunak’s perception has been further crippled by a series of gaffes, particularly one surrounding the 80th commemoration ceremony of the D-Day landings. After some initial commemorations, the prime minister left Normandy to fly back to the U.K. to record an interview. He left before the main event featuring surviving World War II veterans, leaving one of the key participants of the landings out of the central photos with President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron. Nearly all segments of British society roundly decried the episode, made worse after a half-hearted apology.

His series of missteps, along with longstanding dissatisfaction with Conservative rule, has set the table for what appears could be the greatest electoral defeat in U.K. history.

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Keir Starmer – Labour

Following a blistering defeat in the 2019 elections, the Labour Party underwent a period of soul-searching. Sir Keir Starmer seized control from the former party head Jeremy Corbyn, whose socialism had turned off much of the electorate, in 2020. He spent the next four years rebranding Labour into a moderate, center-left party. He cracked down on long-standing allegations of antisemitism and departed from the far-left leanings of the party.

His efforts appear to have largely been successful, given the expected sweep from Labour. Starmer has touted his remolding of the party as one of his prime accomplishments.

“I have changed this Labour Party, dragged it back to service, and I will do exactly the same for Westminster,” he said.

He has pushed Labour to take positions at odds with its traditional standing, such as becoming tougher on crime, but which translate to a greater appeal to swing voters. Starmer’s stress on law and order can be found in his former career as a lawyer and prosecutor.

But Starmer himself represents something of an enigma – he is best characterized by his pragmatism, flexibility, and desire to get Labour back into power. One descriptor never found alongside his name is “charismatic.” The New York Times described his rhetorical style as “bland,” and the Telegraph described his manifesto as the “dullest on record.”

Starmer’s cautious approach to campaigning has drawn him heavy criticism, especially from his left flank. But the strategy appears to have pulled off – a WeThink/Economist “mega-poll” found that Labour is expected to win 465 of the 632 total parliamentary seats, a stunning turnaround from their embarrassing 2019 loss. He is expected to become the U.K.’s next prime minister.

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For all its criticism, the Labour leader’s reserved, cautious approach will likely serve as a vindication of Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous maxim – “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Ed Davey – Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats, liberal economically and socially, are in an odd position in U.K. politics, seen by many as the eternal loser. The last Lib Dem (in the form of the then-Liberal Party) prime minister departed office before the Soviet Union was established. They have played roles in some governments since, but have remained a clear minority party.

Sir Ed Davey, 58, took over as head of the party in 2020 and has gambled on a series of publicity stunts, perhaps hoping to inject fun and dynamism into the bland campaigns of Labour and the Tories.

In one recent stunt, he went bungee jumping, yelling “Do something you’ve never done before: vote Liberal Democrat!” as he bounced on the cord.

In another, he raced a farmer in a yellow tractor – the color of the Lib Dems. He’s purposefully fallen off a paddle board, gone down water slides, played Jenga, baked bread, rode bicycles, done group exercises in a pool, and tried “Wipeout” style obstacle courses.

In an op-ed for the Guardian, Davey said that his stunts were meant to show he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

“The ‘stunts’ hopefully show that I do not take myself too seriously,” he wrote. “But what I do treat with the utmost importance are the issues that people have raised with me and the stakes at this election, which could not be higher.”

While it can’t be guaged how much of the likely impending success can be owed to the amusing publicity stunts, the Lib Dems are set to see their best electoral results since 2010. The Economist even estimated that there’s a chance they could win more seats than the Tories, a historic accomplishment.

Nigel Farage – Reform U.K.

Nigel Farage used his charisma and populist sentiments to become one of the most influential politicians in the U.K., playing a key role in pushing the biggest geopolitical development in recent U.K. history – Brexit. After the successful vote, Farage resigned as head of the U.K. Independence Party, arguing that he never wanted to be a career politician.

He kept a lower profile in U.K. politics since, departing Parliament in 2020 and announcing his official retirement in March 2021. He spent his retirement partly by making paid Cameo videos exalting Irish Republicans, “Big Chungus,” and other memes upon user request.

Then, in a shock move, Farage announced his surprise return to politics on June 3, 2024, running as head of the Reform Party and the minister of Parliament for the coastal constituency of Clacton.

The move will likely go down as one of the final nails in the coffin of Sunak and the Tories – offering disgruntled conservatives a further-right alternative to the Conservatives, especially those angry over the party’s failure on immigration.

Farage has been speaking to packed crowds denouncing the Tories and forcing the insecure Conservatives further right.

With Farage’s leadership, Reform, which hasn’t won a seat before, is expected by the Economist to win 14% of the national vote and three seats.

Count Binface – Independent

Sunak faces a daunting, direct challenge in his constituency in the form of the supposed 5,900-year-old space warrior, Count Binface.

The satirical candidate is the doing of comedian Jonathan David Harvey, who ran in earlier elections as Lord Buckethead. He was forced to retire the persona amid a copyright dispute.

Count Binface, dressed in a cartoonish space costume and trash-bin-looking mask, has touted outlandish electoral promises, such as nationalizing the musician Adele, price-capping croissants at £1.10, and to “make water bosses take a dip in British rivers, to see how they like it,” 1843 Magazine reported.

His first election showing was against Boris Johnson in 2019.  In a surprise defeat in the 2021 London mayoral election, he earned just 1% of the vote, 24,775 votes, losing to Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

One of Binface’s primary motives is the procedure of all candidates being photographed beside one another, meaning the prime minister of one of history’s greatest empires will be pictured next to a man wearing a trash can.

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The British political system requires that candidates only need to pay a £500 fee and get the signatures of 10 constituents, making prank candidates a common occurrence.

In a self-aware moment, Harvey expressed pride in his native country over his ability to pull off the stunt.

“I want to prove to the omniverse that it’s still possible for anyone from any planet to stand for election, whatever your platform,” Binface told the 1843 Magazine. “And I just think that says everything about what makes Britain great.”

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