Polling day is almost here. It’s time to choose

By Stuart Bonar on 28 June 2024

The manifestos have all been published. The TV debates are all wrapped up. And in the case of Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, lakes have been fallen into, rollercoasters have been ridden, and water slides have been slid down. Now, just a few days of this eventful general election campaign remain.

You may have had your door knocked. You will probably have had election leaflets land on your doormat. In any event, you have hopefully got a grasp of some of what the different parties and candidates contesting your constituency are promising.

In case you missed what the parties’ manifestos said about maternity care and the wider NHS, you can find out in two blog posts we published, on 14 June and 21 June, or you can just read the following refresher.

Labour have committed to training thousands more midwives, and to tackling the unacceptable maternal mortality gap between Black and Asian women and white women. They have further committed to supporting those areas where maternity care needs improvement, and to fix crumbling NHS buildings. They want to repeal a lot of anti-union laws too.

Conservatives want to bring forward a comprehensive national strategy for maternity care. They would put more money into improving maternal safety, maternal mental health, and more postnatal appointments that check on mums as well as babies. They have also committed to prioritising women’s health more generally, with local women’s health hubs in the community.

Reform UK are offering substantial cuts in Income Tax for frontline NHS staff, and for student midwives they would gradually write off tuition fee debt over 10 years in exchange for working in the NHS.

The Liberal Democrats have a focus on mental health, including perinatal mental health support for pregnant women, new mums and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. They also commit to a properly independent pay review body, not hamstrung by ministers. The party also wants to see a plan to retain more NHS staff and another on fixing NHS buildings that are unfit for purpose.

The Greens want an immediate boost to NHS pay and have a big plan of hospital building and repair. They would also boost the public health budget, including on smoking cessation, as well as spending on mental healthcare. They also support repeal of anti-union laws.

The UK Government is responsible only for healthcare in England, but people living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will vote and elect MPs in this election. Some of the parties that contest seats only outside England have still made relevant commitments.

The Scottish National Party, for example, want a jump in NHS spending and NHS pay in England, which would automatically trigger more money for Scotland. They have committed to pushing back against private sector involvement in the NHS and want the repeal of recent anti-trade union laws.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru want more money for Wales which they would use to pay NHS staff better. They also want more flexible working arrangements to help staff juggle work and home life. They too want to repeal anti-union laws and want more healthcare apprenticeships in Wales.

In Northern Ireland, where elections are contested by wholly different parties than in the rest of the UK, manifestos did not contain specific commitments affecting maternity care but parties do typically want to see better funding for Northern Ireland.

It is now too late to register to vote in the General Election, though you can still register for future elections. It is also too late to apply for free photo ID for this election, as well as to register to vote by post or to appoint a proxy.

In England, Scotland or Wales, you can still apply for an emergency proxy vote, where you nominate someone else to vote on your behalf, up until 5pm on the very day of the election. Applications will only be approved for very specific reasons however, such as a medical emergency, your photo ID has been lost or stolen, or you will not be available to vote in person because of your work. The rules in Northern Ireland are stricter and the deadline for emergency proxies there has already passed.

If you are voting by post, your vote needs to have been received before polls close at 10pm on Thursday 4 July. If it arrives after that time, it won’t count. If you are worried that it may not arrive back in time and live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can hand in your completed postal vote pack at your polling station on the day. In Northern Ireland you can only hand it in at the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland office in Belfast.

If you have any questions or are unsure about any of the rules, the best place for you to check is the Electoral Commission’s online one-stop shop for information about everything to do with the election and voting. Be sure to select which part of the UK you are voting in at the top of the page as the information can change based on that, especially for Northern Ireland.

But we should not focus just on polling day because there is still time to contact your candidates and ask them about issues such as maternity care. In this blog post, published earlier in the campaign, we set out ways in which you can do that and what you may want to raise with them. But do hurry, time is now running out.

Soon enough, it will be over to all of us to make up our minds. Do not assume any outcome; polls have been wrong before. Do not rely on others to vote because you assume your preferred candidate will get in easily enough; those other people may be relying on you. The different parties stand for different ideas and different values; they are not all the same, and it is up to you to choose between them.

Your vote is a powerful thing. Please use it.

Polls are open from 7am until 10pm on Thursday 4 July.