Millions head to polls to cast their votes in general election – live

People across the UK have begun casting votes in a general election expected to sweep Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives out of power and usher in Labour’s Keir Starmer as prime minister.

Sunak’s messaging on the day of polling remained about encouraging Tory voters out to “stop the Labour supermajority” rather than positioning himself to continue in Downing Street.

Starmer’s Labour were pushing people to go out and vote for change. Opinion polls suggest Labour is on course to secure a big majority, but last night Starmer told supporters to “imagine a Britain moving forward together with a Labour government. That’s what we are fighting for, let’s continue that fight. If you want change, you have to vote for it.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, Scotland’s first minister John Swinney, and Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth have all also voted. Davey, whose campaign has been marked by a series of extreme stunts, said “It’s a beautiful day. I hope lots of people come out to vote.”

An exit poll, published shortly after polls close at 10pm on Thursday, will provide the first indication of how the election has gone on a national level. These take place at polling stations across the country, with tens of thousands of people asked to privately fill in a replica ballot as they leave, to get an indication of how they voted.

If Starmer were to become prime minister, it would be the first time the UK’s leader has changed as a result of a general election since 2010, when David Cameron succeeded Gordon Brown. Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Sunak himself all became prime minister after internal Conservative party mechanism rather than through a general election.

You can tell us what is happening where you are on polling day – details of how to contact the team can be found here.

Under bright, blustery skies across most of the UK, British voters went to the polls on Thursday to elect their fourth prime minister in five years, with Keir Starmer’s Labour party heavily tipped to win an overwhelming parliamentary majority and bring to an end 14 years of Conservative-led government.

After weeks of campaigning after Rishi Sunak’s surprise gamble to call a July election, he and the other party leaders cast their votes across the country while making their final appeals to the electorate.

Sunak voted early with his wife, Akshata Murty, in his home constituency of Richmond and Northallerton, urging voters on X to “stop the Labour supermajority which would mean higher taxes for a generation”.

Starmer, accompanied by his wife, Victoria, was met by a small group of supporters at a polling station in Kentish Town, north London. On social media, he repeated Labour’s campaign theme that “it is time for change”.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, the Green party co-leader, Carla Denyer, and party leaders in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were also pictured at their constituencies.

Davey, whose campaign has been characterised by stunts including bungee jumps, water slides and Zumba dancing, paid tribute to his wife, saying: “Without my rock, Emily, I simply would not be on the ballot paper.”

Jeremy Corbyn, running against Labour in his north London constituency after being expelled by the party he formerly led, tweeted: “I just voted for the independent candidate in Islington North. I hear he’s alright.” The Reform UK leader, Nigel Farage, posted a TikTok video of himself buying a drink in a Clacton pub.

Thank you for sending in your pictures of dogs at polling stations today. Here are a few more that have popped up in my inbox:

Pam has sent a lovely message saying that she’s enjoying seeing all the dog pictures making it on to the live blog today.

This sweet pooch is Lola, Pam’s parson russell terrier, making her first visit to a polling station in the Angus and Perthshire Glens constituency in Scotland.

Barnaby has shared a picture of a very keen Freddie from 7.15am this morning. He was “desperate to get to the polling station in Hackney,” says Barnaby. Incidentally, it’s also where his pal, Duster, was this morning (16:04 BST).

“Here’s Crumble, fulfilling her civic duty in Hove, this morning,” says Simon. Excellent work.

Christian has got in touch to share a picture of his friend’s dog, Lenny the dachshund, that he’s looking after.

“I took a photo of him waiting outside – eager to know the results. It’s going to be a long day,” says Christian.

Basset hounds Pippin and Padfoot have also been our at a polling station today. This time in Lewisham, along with owner, Rob.

This “pensive pooch”, pictured in south-east London was provided by Terry.

The UK is not the diplomatic powerhouse it once was, with Brexit leaving it looking inward and years of economic failures meaning the Conservatives and Labour are both sidelining foreign policy in their campaign messaging. Still, leaders around the world (some more than others) will be taking an interest in the 4 July election.

The Guardian’s Oliver Holmes has taken a look at some of the key issues here:

Live election results for the UK’s 650 constituencies will start to be announced at about 11:30pm. You can follow the results later via our live tracker.

There’s also an election night guide, via the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast. Presented and produced by Lucy Hough with Archie Bland, it has tips on when to set your alarm for the potential Portillo-moments, the seats to watch and how to make it through to dawn.

The Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has voted and shared a picture of himself with a dog outside the polling station. Everyone is getting in on it.

“It has been a terrible general election. The least we can do is learn from it,” writes the Guardian’s executive opinion editor, Hugh Muir.

Muir writes:

It started with dark comedy. The sight of Rishi Sunak, behind the podium at No 10, drenched by the rain – a drowned rat in a sharp suit, drowned out by a hostile loudspeaker, bellowing out the fact of his sudden-death election – belonged to vaudeville.

The race itself belonged to Hobbes: “poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

And at the end, after all the speeches, the televised debates, the photo ops, the accusations, the helicopter rides, the leaflet-filled vehicles crisscrossing the country, the vox pops, what did we learn about our country and our politics?

We learned more about the foolish recklessness of those who have ruled us. Sunak called his election for himself and for his party and for his faction. There was nothing further from his mind, as he dripped rainwater, than the good of the nation or our democracy. He had no plan, other than to parrot the inanity that “the plan” was working. Tell that to the food bank volunteers or the coastguard at Dover.

You can read his full opinion piece here:

What happens next for former MPs defeated at the general election? Well, the PA news agency’s parliamentary editor, Richard Wheeler, has answered just that question, and more, in this explainer:

When did they stop being an MP?

Parliament was dissolved on 30 May and at that point there ceased to be any MPs until the election took place. Ministers continue in their roles and remain in post until a new government is formed.

What happens next for a former MP who failed to be re-elected?

For some, the defeat will be a surprise, for others they will have seen the writing on the wall during the campaign. There will be several removal vans on the parliamentary estate in the coming days and weeks as the former MPs clear out their offices and make way for the new intake.

It is expected some new MPs will start arriving in parliament just hours after the results are announced as they begin a new chapter in their lives.

They will eventually be assigned office space in parliament by their party whips once the areas have been cleared out.

What help is available to former MPs?

The taxpayer-funded Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) – which governs MPs’ expenses – supports those candidates who have lost their seat.

Winding-down payments are designed to help departing MPs close their office and manage the departure of staff. They have up to four months to carry out the necessary tasks.

How much financial support is there?

Former MPs are entitled to receive a one-off winding-up payment to help them close down their parliamentary affairs. This is the equivalent of four months of their salary, minus tax and national insurance contributions.

The basic annual salary for an MP is £91,346. The government’s tax calculator estimates this would mean take-home pay is £63,541.68 – which would suggest four months of salary is about £21,000.

Former MPs are also able to claim for certain costs during the winding-up period, including office rent.

What is the loss of office payment?

A candidate who loses their seat or stands unsuccessfully in a different seat could also be eligible to receive a loss of office payment. It is similar to a redundancy payment and is equal to double the statutory redundancy entitlement.

It will therefore vary by individual as it takes into account age as well as length of service. Ipsa guidelines state a former MP will be eligible for such a payment if they held office for a continuous period of at least two years at the point they lost their seat.

And what about ministers who lose their jobs in government as a result of the election result?

Regardless of whether an outgoing minister remains an MP or not, they are entitled to receive severance pay, as outlined in 1991 legislation. This is separate from winding-up payments and loss of office entitlement.

The severance pay amounts to 25% of the annual ministerial salary they were being paid.

Not all polling stations are the same. Some make use of a community hall or church, while others are located at more unusual venues. Here is a selection of interesting polling stations via the newswires.

I’d love to hear from you about any unique, or just beautiful, polling station spots. As always, pictures (of the outside – don’t go breaking any rules) are very welcome and I can try to post a mix of them.

With about four hours to go until the polls close, more voters have been in touch to tell us about how election day has gone. And for some, today was an important milestone as it was the first time they were eligible to have their say in a general election.

Liv Skinner, 19, was one of those casting her first vote in a general election in North Devon this morning. “I’ve been excited to vote in a general election since I started becoming interested in politics in Year 10. I understand the importance of making sure my vote counts,” she said.

Skinner, who works as a barista and will study politics and philosophy at university this September, will also be assisting at the vote count tonight with a friend. “I’m really looking forward to it. I was planning to stay up and watch the results roll in anyway,” she said.

She has been preparing for the overnight count, which can go on until the wee hours. “We have to get there at 9:30pm, and then it can go on anytime until 6am. We went to shop and got loads of food and snacks, and I’m planning to have a nap soon!”

James Watts, 20, also voted for the first time in a general election, marking his ballot in the constituency of North Bedfordshire.

“I was happy to do it – I voted in local elections last year but was at university in Southampton this year and was upset to miss it. It felt good to vote in a general election – I was glad to participate, when before I was just watching.”

Watts, who is studying politics, said he felt “civic duty” to vote and planned to stay up to watch the results trickle in. “My mum and dad and I are in different areas but we plan to all be on a call tonight. We’ll probably mainly watch Channel 4, but also go back and forth between BBC, Sky and ITV. I’ll be staying up all night.”

And in south London, Maddie McVickers, 19, accompanied by Ruby the dog, 14, voted for the first time.

As Martin explained earlier, there’s not a whole lot that we can report on at the moment. So, while we wait, here is a reminder of a few useful general election 2024 pieces and explainers from the Guardian.

What constituency am I in?

The general election on 4 July will be fought across 650 new constituencies after boundary changes were approved by parliament.

You can use the tool in the below interactive to find your new constituency – and see what the notional results would be.

What photo ID do I need to vote in the 2024 UK general election?

For the first time in a UK general election people will need to produce photo ID at polling stations today to be able to vote in person.

You can find everything you need to know, including which forms of photo ID are accepted here:

What is tactical voting and how does it work?

This guide looks at what tactical voting involves and discusses what campaign group Best for Britain recommends.

What time will we know who won?

Want to catch a few results before bed, or see it through to the moment of reckoning? We’ve got you covered with this hour by hour guide to election night and into Friday morning.

If the pictures of dogs at polling stations is too much for you, then you might want to skip past this post.

If you’re still enjoying the canine content, then please enjoy this visual compilation that the Guardian video team have put together:

Voters arriving at a Glasgow polling station were met with posters listing the wrong instructions, reports the PA news agency.

According to the report, posters displayed at Notre Dame primary school told voters to rank candidates in order of preference. This is how ballots are cast in local elections in Scotland, which use the single transferable vote system, while general elections use the first-past-the-post system, which requires voters to put a single “X” next to their chosen candidate.

Glasgow city council said the error was spotted “very soon” after the polling station opened at 7am on Thursday and “after the first few voters”. A council spokesperson said the posters were replaced with the correct information.

The PA news agency reports that the council said no one had been disfranchised as voters’ first preferences would be used from the affected ballots.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have their own take on the ‘dogs at polling station’ pictures.

Over on X, the charity has been urging voters to share photographs of any feathered friends they spot near a polling station.

The UK’s political parties are on track to spend more than a million pounds on online adverts on Thursday, circumventing a media blackout rule that forces television and radio stations to stop their election coverage when polls open.

British parties have traditionally ceased top-level campaign activity when voting began as they had no way to get out their message out. This is because of a longstanding broadcasting rule, enforced by the media regulator Ofcom, that states: “Discussion and analysis of election and referendum issues must finish when the poll opens.”

The switch to online campaigning over the past two decades has increasingly made a mockery of this rule, with early indications suggesting political parties are viewing Thursday as an incredibly important campaign day for pushing their core messages to wavering voters.

Sam Jeffers of WhoTargetsMe, which has monitored election advertising in the UK for the last decade, said substantial funds had been released for Thursday. “The parties are on track to spend a million pounds today on Meta and probably another £250,000 on Google,” he said.

If these figures are correct, it could mean that more money is spent by political parties buying online political advertising on polling day than was spent online during the entire 2015 general election campaign.

The Conservatives have been attempting to spur on support for the party by sending out emails saying turnout is much higher than expected.

“We’re getting reports from our teams on the ground. And the more reports we get, the more it looks like turnout is higher than expected,” according to messages sent out from the ‘CCHQ data team’ to those signed up on the party’s mailing list.

“That means we could have a MUCH better chance than polls have suggested. So if you haven’t voted yet, now’s the time to get out.”

The claim by the Tories that a higher turnout would benefit the party would be contested at this point.

Turnout was 67.3% at the last election in 2019, down from 68.8% during the previous one.

When Labour won in 1997, turnout was relatively high at 71.4%, although lower than the previous poll – 77.7% in 1992 – which was won by the Conservatives in what was a relative surprise to some.

Let’s step away from the canine contributions for a moment. As people cast their votes on Thursday, the opinion polls continue to predict that Keir Starmer’s Labour party will win the general election with one of the largest ever parliamentary majorities. Conversely, Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party is projected to suffer one of its worst ever losses.

The Guardian’s David Batty has looked at how this prediction of a dramatic Labour win compares with other landslide victories in British history.

While Martin Belam has now headed off for a well-earned rest, I (Amy) have taken over the duties of posting pictures of dogs (and other animals) at polling stations. Here’s a little selection that have come in via our readers.

Jodie has shared a picture of the “noble Bill O’Shea”, who I’m assured is a very good boy and has performed his civic duty in Greenwich today.

Duster the double doodle at Hackney town hall is “hungry for change”, says Oliver, who has sent in this lovely picture.

Jon, has shared a photograph of his white golden retriever, Ted, outside the Hive community centre in Dollar in the new Scottish constituency of Dunfermline and Dollar.

Justin has also got in touch via email with this delightful picture of his puppy, Oscar, going to the polling station today for the first time.


Updated: Juli 4, 2024 — 2:36 pm

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