‘Woke and broke under the Conservatives or woker and broker under Labour’: Telegraph readers on the General Election 2024

Rishi Sunak called a general election with the Conservatives 21 percentage points behind Labour in the polls
Rishi Sunak called a general election with the Conservatives 21 percentage points behind Labour in the polls - Telegraph

And they’re off

On May 22, Rishi Sunak surprised many, including most of his own ministers, by calling a snap general election for July 4.  Since then, Telegraph readers have been having their say on the campaign, reflecting on the highs and lows of an eventful run-up to what could be an era-defining poll. 

Lows came thick and fast for the Prime Minister, beginning with his address to the nation outside No 10 on the day the election was called, so that’s where we’ll begin.

SIR – Where was the Minister for Common Sense yesterday? Who in their right mind would make such an important announcement in the pouring rain with the idiots at the gates to Downing Street blaring out their music?

Lisa Dumbavand
London SW18

SIR – It’s difficult to believe that the Conservatives have decided to lose an election six months earlier than they need to.

Paul Webster
Dyserth, Denbighshire

SIR – We are thinking of how much we’re going to save on electricity over the next six weeks because of not having the television or radio on.

Jane Oldroyd
Kelsall, Cheshire

SIR – Woke and broke under the Conservatives or woker and broker under Labour is not much of a choice.

Dr David Slawson

National Service bump

Hardly a promising start, but four days later the PM fared a little better with his announcement that, if re-elected, he’d bring back mandatory National Service for 18-year-olds.

SIR – Rishi Sunak is absolutely right to bring back National Service – and is the only politician with the courage to promote it. The young will find discipline, a purpose in life and self-respect, as well as travel and the chance to learn a skill to support them for the rest of their lives. And we will all be safer as a consequence.

N B Bentley
London SW3

SIR – Many of my friends and I (all in our early 20s) have had experience with the Army or Navy Cadets, and found the skills we gained to be incredibly useful.

There is much talk about the cost of implementing National Service, but such a scheme could in fact save a lot of taxpayers’ money, as many 18-year-olds would feel better equipped to start their lives rather than doing pointless degrees.

Bobby Angelov

London SW1

SIR – The Armed Forces are dangerously low on numbers. Where will they find the manpower to train and lead Rishi Sunak’s National Servicemen and women?

Julian Tope
Portishead, Somerset

The politics of envy

Young people’s prospects have featured prominently in this contest, not least because of Labour’s plan to charge VAT on private school fees – a move that drew almost universal condemnation from Telegraph readers.

SIR – Why is it that when the VAT raid on private education is mentioned by Labour, schools such as Eton, Harrow and Winchester are used as examples?

Most private schools are filled by the children of hard-working parents who choose them for the smaller classes, better discipline and special-needs support – and in doing so make significant financial sacrifices.

Labour’s policy means that overstretched state schools will be further challenged. Let’s be honest and call this what it is: the politics of envy.

Elizabeth Booth
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

SIR – Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, suggests that independent schools faced with closure will simply have to “make efficiencies”. I find this incredible. If she were to refer to almost any independent school’s Charity Commission entry, she would find that the single largest cost is staff. I would be interested to sit with her and discuss how a school like mine could achieve cost savings without making members of staff unemployed or reducing the educational provision available.

My school educates more than 600 children and employs over 200 staff in a rural area where there are few other opportunities. I wonder whether Ms Reeves has considered the probable human cost of her party’s policy.

John Paget-Tomlinson
Headmaster, Leweston School
Sherborne, Dorset

SIR – Labour wishes to “recruit an additional 6,500 new expert teachers”, paid for by levying VAT on private school fees.

For context, in 2023 there were 468,693 full-time-equivalent teachers working in 29,616 state schools in the UK, according to the Department for Education.

So, Labour wishes to put in jeopardy the education of thousands of private school pupils in order to increase the number of teachers by 1.39 per cent, adding 0.22 teachers per school.

Andrew Gardiner
Wantage, Oxfordshire

SIR – Before people vote they should remember that, historically, Labour has always “levelled society down” and the Conservatives have always “levelled society up”. I know which I prefer. Labour’s proposal to charge VAT on school fees is just the start.

Howard Lay
Wokingham, Berkshire

Abbott turn

Attention then turned to the future of Diane Abbott. There had been rumours that Labour HQ was encouraging the former shadow cabinet minister, 70, to retire in return for getting the whip back, but pressure from the party’s Left – including Angela Rayner – was applied, forcing Sir Keir Starmer into a U-turn.

SIR – It is entirely possible that, in the near future, Prime Minister Keir Starmer will be woken up at 4am and informed that Russian land forces have invaded Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Finland, then asked: “What is your response?”

Having seen him dither and obfuscate over whether Diane Abbott can or can’t be a Labour candidate, I don’t hold up much hope for a speedy or meaningful reaction to more important matters.

David Logan
Spilsby, Lincolnshire

SIR – Sir Keir Starmer waved the white flag and restored the whip to Diane Abbott – one half of the Left-wing dream team. So we may well get change after the election: vote Starmer, get Corbyn.

Gordon MacKenzie
Whitehaven, Cumbria

The Farage factor

On June 3, Nigel Farage stole the limelight by announcing that he would take over the leadership of Reform UK from Richard Tice, and stand for Parliament in Clacton. A major question in this election has been whether disaffected Tory voters would change allegiance and support Reform. Mr Farage’s re-emergence as a political leader turbo-charged this debate. 

SIR – That the decision of one man to stand for Parliament has created such a storm is a sad reflection of the fact that all the mainstream parties have failed to understand the deep resentment and despair felt by the electorate.

Andrew Beevers
East Bergholt, Suffolk

SIR – The Tories are wide of the mark in complaining that Reform is splitting the Conservative vote. To many people, Reform is the Conservative vote.

The fact that they seem unable to appreciate this helps to explain the dire situation they find themselves in.

Andy Tuke

SIR – It is not surprising that lifelong Conservatives are moving to Reform en masse. After decades of party membership, I resigned four years ago. By then the One Nation clique had already subverted the entire party. 

Now there is nothing left to save.

Dr Tony Parker
Ringmer, East Sussex

SIR – Like it or not (and I do not relish it) we are in for some years of Labour government.

What the country now needs is a strong and watchful opposition, and the only party capable of providing this is the Conservative Party.

Chris Rome
Thruxton, Hampshire

SIR – As a disillusioned Conservative voter, I had decided that this time I would support Reform UK. Then I read about Nigel Farage’s suggestion that the West is responsible for the war in Ukraine. This brought me back down to Earth.

Patricia Essex
Hedge End, Hampshire

SIR – Nigel Farage, having severely damaged the country by engineering Brexit, now seeks to demolish the Conservative Party in the general election.

A supporter of Donald Trump and an apologist for Vladimir Putin, he is the most destructive force in politics today. I hope voters do not fall for his false promises this time round.

Sir Christopher Gent
Newbury, Berkshire

SIR – With regard to the question of who to vote for, Nigel Farage appears to have two policies: zero net migration and scrapping net zero. His aim is to destroy the Conservatives.

Voting for Reform UK will hand Labour a mandate to go soft on immigration, hurtle towards net zero and put the brakes on any further progress towards Brexit freedoms – the opposite of what Conservatives want.

Carol Rispin
Hessle, East Yorkshire

SIR – As this election has now become a farce for the Tories, is it not time for a joining of forces? Conservative Reform could be their salvation. It might also encourage some serious Conservatives back into the fold.

Janet Warwick
Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire

SIR – Like many others, I’m not sure where to put my cross on the ballot paper on July 4. But if nothing else, may we hope that the popularity of Reform UK might at least bring about an increase in the use of the name Nigel, and save it from extinction?

Penny Scott
Neston, Cheshire

D-Day dishonour

Not content with haemorrhaging support to Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, Rishi Sunak then set about committing one of the great election faux-pas of modern times. By choosing to attend a television interview in favour of a major international ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the PM invited scorn from all quarters. 

SIR – Rishi Sunak showed both arrogance and a lack of respect by leaving the D-Day commemorations early.

Once again he has demonstrated that he lives in a bubble, totally out of touch with reality. The sooner the Conservative Party rids itself of him and his band of sycophants, the sooner it will become electable again.

Tony Ellis
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – Like many Conservative voters, I was preparing to support the party while holding my nose.

However, seeing the Prime Minister putting politics before those brave young men who fought and died for our freedom has changed my mind.

Rishi Sunak disrespected Britain in front of the world. On a political level, he also allowed Sir Keir Starmer to take the spotlight and be seen as someone who understood the gravity and solemnity of this special occasion.

Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – What would the Conservatives be saying if a Labour leader had bunked off from the D-Day commemoration to record an interview?

Christopher Clayton
Waverton, Cheshire

Promises of change

Yet for all the criticism of the PM and his gaffe-prone campaign, a consensus on Labour began to emerge: that no one knew exactly what it stood for or how it would govern if it won. 

SIR – The best Sir Keir Starmer appears to be able to say about his policies is: “Time for change.” Change to what?

J L Greenwood
London SW18

SIR – Sir Keir Starmer plans to be in No 10 for 10 years. It’s comforting to know that he has at least one plan.

Geoff Millward
Sandside, Cumbria

SIR – It is worth looking back to when Sir Keir Starmer laid out his 10 “pledges” during the Labour leadership election, and comparing them with his recent six.

Four years go he pledged, for example, to increase income tax for the top 5 per cent of earners and reverse corporation tax cuts. He pledged to abolish Universal Credit and tuition fees. He pledged to introduce the Green New Deal.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a pledge as a “solemn promise”. It is now clear that those solemn promises have simply been abandoned in favour of the vacuous nonsense of the new pledges.

I suspect that, once Sir Keir starts having to discuss the detail of Labour’s manifesto, people will think long and hard before putting an “x” in the Labour box on election day.

Richard Allison

SIR – So Sir Keir Starmer backed the hard-Left, socialist manifesto of Jeremy Corbyn because he thought Labour would lose the 2019 general election. He has now moved, and the 2024 manifesto is what one might expect from Tony Blair, who was effectively disowned by the Labour Left.

Perhaps he is a typical lawyer who simply changes his argument to win the case. But this is hardly reassuring.

Eric Morgan
Ponteland, Northumberland

SIR – Sir Keir Starmer has promised that there will be no tax rises for “working people”. As a working person, I would be affected by a hike in fuel duty, council tax or even capital gains tax. Do I not count?

Jonathan Mann
Gunnislake, Cornwall

SIR – Sir Keir Starmer has insisted that there will be “no tax surprises” in the forthcoming Labour manifesto.

He’s correct: taxes will rise, and no one will be surprised.

Adrian Mugridge
Ellesmere Port, Cheshire

SIR – If Sir Keir Starmer loses the election, will he demand another one? He has already proved himself incapable, during Brexit, of accepting the results of a democratic vote.

William McWilliams
Ashford, Kent

Humourless hustings

As election fatigue set in, all the major parties sought to motivate a weary electorate. Rishi Sunak proposed tax cuts. Sir Keir Starmer promised an end to Tory chaos. Sir Ed Davey fell off a paddle board. But Telegraph readers craved more. 

SIR – This election has been sadly lacking in humour – from candidates and hecklers.

I well remember Harold Wilson speaking at Watford Technical College in the campaign of autumn 1964. We’d had a long spell of hot sunny weather, and Mr Wilson remarked: “The Tories think they can get re-elected because we have had eight weeks of sunshine”. Then, sotto voce: “And 13 years of moonshine”.

Come on, candidates – let’s have some spark.

Robin Platt
Wokingham, Berkshire

SIR – A week ago, as I was finding the general election campaign dull and predictable, I decided to make it more interesting by allowing myself an alcoholic drink each time I heard or saw the following: “Liz Truss’s mini-Budget”; “Fully funded, fully costed”: “Toolmaker”; “We have a plan”; or Sir Ed Davey in a life jacket and/or safety helmet.

I haven’t got a lot done since, but it has made watching political interviews much more enjoyable.

James Sneath
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Fate of the nation

In the final days of the race, amid talk of a Labour supermajority and a possible Tory wipeout, thoughts have turned to life after July 4 – and to why life in Britain might not be quite as bad as a general election can make it seem. 

SIR – The day after the last Labour landslide, I was so depressed that I asked my then girlfriend to marry me.

Many years of happy marriage and two children later, I can say unequivocally that it was the best decision I have ever made.

Now, I must decide what to do on July 5. Any suggestions?

Philip Usherwood
Elvetham, Hampshire

SIR – Philip Usherwood, who proposed to his girlfriend after the 1997 Labour landslide and is now happily married with children, asks what big decision he should make on July

My suggestion: start the emigration process.

Janet Haines
Reading, Berkshire

SIR – There’s something reassuring about Emmanuel Macron’s panicked declaration of his own snap election.

Here in Britain, catastrophising is fashionable. “Exceptionalism” is often assumed to be an arrogant state of mind, but it can be the opposite: we do like to wear hair shirts and tell ourselves that our country is unique in its state of political and cultural decline. This attitude is particularly common among Remainers, who fret about what the neighbours must think.

Developments in France give us a sense of perspective. The grass may seem greener on the other side, but other countries have problems too.

Robert Frazer
Salford, Lancashire

Get in touch

So there you have it – things could be worse. Just ask President Macron. 

Thank you to all the brilliant readers who contributed to the election conversation, and do please write to us with your reaction to the result at dtletters@telegraph.co.uk.