Economy, health, migration and more: key battlegrounds in the UK election

<span>Rishi Sunak on a visit to Milton Keynes university hospital in August 2023.</span><span>Photograph: Leon Neal/PA</span>
Rishi Sunak on a visit to Milton Keynes university hospital in August 2023.Photograph: Leon Neal/PA

Rishi Sunak has sought to frame the Conservatives as the party of the future and one that can be trusted with the economy and national security.

The prime minister, who once billed himself as the “change candidate” and unsuccessfully tried to distance himself from years of Conservative rule, now claims his party’s experience in government makes it more likely than Labour to have a secure plan for the future.

With Keir Starmer’s party topping the polls, this guide takes you through what the key issues are with voters and how those battles are likely to play out.

The economy

Sunak promised to grow the economy and halve inflation, which he has just about managed to achieve. But the cost of living crisis has hugely affected the working class across all political affiliations, from the “Essex man” to the typical “progressive activist” – all voters whom Labour hopes to win over – while national debt remains at levels not seen since 1960s.

The prime minister has been waiting for inflation to fall to prove he can be trusted with the nation’s economic security and that his plan to make things better for the hardest-hit has worked. But recent polls suggest Labour outscores the Conservatives for being the party believed to represent working families and is more trusted with the economy. According to the More in Common thinktank, 65% of voters believe the Tories are for rich people.


The health service is on its knees, with overworked staff, record waiting lists and crumbling hospitals. The Conservatives have struggled to resolve junior doctor strikes.

Issues around rural healthcare have bubbled up in traditional Tory leafy seats, with older people struggling to access services. Disparities in maternal healthcare, which disproportionately affect voters in urban areas, have been neglected. In every constituency, hospitals lack funding and the ability to adapt to the country’s evolving healthcare needs.


The broader electoral landscape has shifted since Sunak made it one of his priorities to “stop the boats”, with no firm date for achieving this. The government’s Rwanda bill became law only last month, and the number of small boat crossings this year is already approaching 10,000.

Keir Starmer has ramped up his migration messaging by vowing to launch a new border security command force to reduce Channel crossings.

This issue will be a concern for “red wall” voters but also older Tory supporters in areas such as Yorkshire and the Humber, who usually have a negative view of immigration.


At least 1.5 million homeowners are feeling the effects of the Conservatives’ 2022 mini-budget, with mortgage repayments having gone up by hundreds of pounds. The Conservatives have been unable to meet a target of building 300,000 new homes each year in England by the mid-2020s, and have failed to close loopholes for unfair and illegal evictions of renters.

There were concerns over Starmer’s decision not to include any form of housing policy in his recent six pledges. However, he has insisted that delivering affordable housing is integral to his mission.

While Labour is understood to be considering its offer to renters, its plan to ensure 50% of all new homes are affordable while protecting green spaces has gone down well with progressive voters, who typically live in urban constituencies.

Climate crisis

The environment has been a major dividing line between the main parties, with Sunak’s hostility towards net zero at odds with Labour’s more progressive approach. The prime minister has overseen the rollback of key climate policies, including a delay to the phase-out of fossil fuel cars and the scrapping of HS2’s northern leg.

Labour has argued that tackling the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis are one and the same. It suggests policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as insulating homes and boosting renewable energy, also bring down energy bills, while green growth attracts investment and new jobs.

Starmer controversially U-turned on his £28bn green investment plan in February, cutting planned investment in half after warnings from senior aides that the Tories would weaponise the issue at the general election.

Education and childcare

Britain is in the middle of a childcare crisis, with parents struggling to access the government’s offer of funded places across the country – a policy introduced to gazump Labour’s own.

A number of households, even on above-average incomes, have found themselves having to adjust their working hours in order to look after their children, and more young people than ever are opting to have children later in life so they can afford childcare providers. Voters will want to know what plans the parties have to help ease the burden.

They will also want to know what the plan is to improve working conditions and pay for teachers, who are quitting in record numbers, and whether educational institutions such as state schools and universities will be given the funding they so desperately deserve.

The prime minister has been criticised by senior Conservatives for not flaunting the party’s record on education, with many crediting the rise in England’s literacy and numeracy rates to its polices.

Culture wars

Rishi Sunak’s premiership has been dominated by MPs on his own benches pouring petrol on the fire of Britain’s culture wars, with a focus on transgender rights, mental health and supposedly “woke” universities.

These issues are highlighted in an attempt to woo traditional “blue wall” seats such as Wokingham, but research has found undecided voters are generally repulsed by politicians’ attempts to jump on the bandwagon of culture war messages.