The 2024 UK General Election: A Global Turning Point

This year prospective parliamentary candidates will find Britons aren’t just voting on healthcare or domestic economic policy, rather turning their gaze outwards. Increasingly the British public is positioning themselves based on international issues that not only redefine the UK’s security, but global security as well.

From the war in Ukraine, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, to China’s rise as a global powerhouse, those running for seats in the next parliament must be prepared to answer the big questions in geopolitics.

The War in Ukraine

The UK’s support for Ukraine against Russian aggression has been steadfast, exhibited through the supply of advanced weaponry to Ukrainian forces, hosting Ukrainian refugees, and strong diplomatic support. Russia’s looming threat over the West remains a prominent point of discussion among the public, especially given its triggering of the cost-of-living crisis.

Across all political affiliations, the percentage of Britons who deem “Russia as generally a hostile threat towards Britain and countries in Europe” has almost doubled since the invasion. When it comes to the role of the West, 52% say Western countries aren’t doing enough to prevent the Russians from winning the war in Ukraine, including 22% who think the UK is not doing “nearly enough.”

Yet, the West’s military and diplomatic support towards Ukraine is not the only concern for the electorate. Russia’s chronic threat to Europe is being recognised by Britons, as between the two major threats of Russia and China, a clear majority view Russia (51%), rather than China (31%), as the greater threat to the UK’s future security and prosperity. This data displays overall support for increased defence spending and an expanded UK military given the possibility of the UK finding itself in direct military confrontation with Russia.

How the UK chooses to proceed will be a defining moment not just for whoever takes up residence in No.10 but set a precedent for international responses to similar aggressions in the future.

Israel-Hamas Conflict

The Israel-Hamas conflict has emerged as a deeply divisive issue among UK voters, reigniting debates about the UK’s role in the Middle East. With its deep historical roots and ongoing violence, this conflict presents significant moral and strategic challenges for the next government.

Questions on human rights, justice, and the ethical use of force circulate in public discourse. Adding to the complexity, Iran’s emergence as a global threat with potential nuclear capabilities has heightened the stakes. This development exacerbates regional instability and underscores the strategic importance of the UK’s position diplomatically in the Middle East.

Foreign policy and concerns over social cohesion have pushed their way into the spotlight in a way not seen in recent elections. Pro-Palestine marches across the city have garnered media attention for months and just one week into the Prime Minister Sunak announcing the general election date, three police officers were injured and 40 civilians were arrested in a protest in front of No.10. The conflict has highlighted long-standing cleavages in our society, resulting in an atmosphere of heightened tensions and distrust.

Back in February, we saw George Galloway MP win the Rochdale by-election, despite repeated antisemitic remarks, illustrating these omnipresent, deeply-wedged divisions. With the influx of polarising opinions from the Israel-Hamas conflict, will he keep his seat come 4th July?

This same conflict has seen protests reach the doorsteps of MPs’ homes and increased intimidation, including a suspected arson attack on one MP’s constituency office.

Candidates must reckon with the reality that foreign policy issues now have an impact on domestic security and local popular opinion.

China’s Global Influence

China’s increasing boldness and crossing red lines as a global power is a hot topic in this election. Just 1% of Britons see China as an ally of the UK, whereas a third (34%) believe China to be a rival of the UK, and a quarter (26%) believe China to be an enemy.

The UK’s significant economic ties with China, while beneficial, bring challenges like ethical trade practices. China’s increasing boldness has been called out by officials who have accused the nation of intellectual property theft as well as the use of AI for espionage, leading to public concern over China’s sphere of influence.

Aside from technological fears, most Britons (60%) are aware of the inhumane treatment towards Uyghur Muslims. Within this, 53% of Britons think the government should impose sanctions on China in response to human rights abuses.

China’s growing influence within international bodies and strategic moves like the Belt and Road Initiative raise geopolitical concerns. Navigating relations with China while neither endorsing human rights abuses nor exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis in the UK will undoubtedly pose a significant challenge for the next government.

A Decisive Moment Ahead

This is the year the world goes to the polls. With Russia and Taiwan in the first part of the year and South Africa currently underway, we look towards the EU Parliament election from 6th to 9th June that will take place under the shadow of the recent assassination attempt on Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Come autumn, all eyes will be on our neighbour across the Atlantic, as the outcome of the US election will undoubtedly have a significant impact on current conflicts and multilateral relations.

All these elections have one thing in common: foreign policy issues being at the heart of national elections. The UK election will be no different. Our next government must navigate these complex challenges while balancing moral imperatives with pragmatic solutions. This election takes place at a pivotal time for global security, with voters facing a decision that will determine how we address these issues at what is a geopolitical crossroad on many fronts.

Candidates must be prepared to answer the foreign policy questions and most importantly, understand the growing implications international affairs are having on our domestic security and social cohesion.


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