General election 2024: Which party is leading on the key issues like health and the economy?

Now that Rishi Sunak has set a date for the general election, which of the two main parties is leading on the important questions that will help define who wins the keys to Number 10?

The economy - Labour

The prime minister hailed today’s news that inflation has fallen as a major moment for the economy and proof that his plan is working. But the truth is he and his party have struggled to recover from the economic disaster that was Liz Truss’s mini-Budget.

Experts warn millions of households across the country are struggling with huge mortgage bills after the average two-year fixed rate jumped to more than 6 per cent, although it has since fallen somewhat. On top of a cost of living crisis, British households are on course to be worse off at the end of this parliament than they were at the start of the term for the first time in modern history, economists warned last November.

Last week the chancellor tried to turn his fire on the opposition, arguing that taxes would go up under a Labour government. But shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves described that claim as "a bit rich", with the tax burden under the Tories at a 70-year high. The PM will want to talk up good economic news at this election – but the key question will be, do voters feel it?

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer will now battle it out for the keys to No 10 (Conservative Party/PA)
Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer will now battle it out for the keys to No 10 (Conservative Party/PA)

Immigration - Labour

Mr Sunak will try to turn this as much as possible into the “small boats” election. The Conservatives want to highlight their controversial Rwanda plan – and claim Labour has little or no answer to the crisis. But the election is now due to happen before the PM can prove that he can get flights of asylum seekers on their way to the African country – without being grounded by legal challenges. Labour attacks the Rwanda plan as a gimmick that will not work and will not deter the boats. Instead, they insist they would work with other countries to cut the supply off at source – by cracking the criminal gangs who put people on boats across the channel in the first place.

One key problem that could hinder the Tories in the campaign is that holding the vote before flights depart does not suggest a huge amount of confidence in one of their key policies.

Housing – no-one

One of the key issues at the election will be how to solve Britain’s housing crisis. After 14 years in power homeownership is stagnating and there are warnings the UK needs many more homes. One of Keir Starmer’s big pledges at his party’s conference last October was to get Britain building again. Labour wants to build one and a half million new homes across the country within the first five years of going into government. They have promised to take on the “blockers” and shake up the planning system to not let anything get in their way.

The Tories will seek to make this in part the small boats election (PA Wire)
The Tories will seek to make this in part the small boats election (PA Wire)

Climate – Conservatives?

The Tories believe their ‘pragmatic’ climate change plans are vote winners. Last year Rishi Sunak scaled back a raft of green policies – saying he was on the side of the consumer and the driver. The party believe the strategy worked for them in a key by-election, when they held on to what had been Boris Johnson’s Westminster seats.

Labour has also suffered its own woes with its green policies. After months of speculation, the party finally confirmed that it would scale back plans to spend £28billion in environmental investment.

Labour are still sticking to plans to create ‘Great British Energy,’ a state-owned sustainable energy company, which it says will slash household bills and create jobs, paid for with a windfall tax on excess profits made by oil and gas companies.

Crime - Labour

Some polls suggest that Labour could be narrowly ahead on the issue of crime – traditionally seen as a vote winner for the Tories.

Labour have announced plans to crack down on antisocial behaviour, including more neighbourhood policing and new “respect orders”, which would give police more ability to tackle adults who breach antisocial behaviour injunctions.

But some experts said the announcements suggested the party was trying to “out-punitive” the Conservatives.

Health – Labour

Even the Conservatives concede they struggle to beat Labour when it comes to the issue of the NHS. But Mr Sunak has failed to meet even his own targets on health. Last month the PM was forced to defend his record on the NHS, after new data shows that key targets on waiting lists and waiting times in A&E had been missed.

Labour have pledged they will cut waiting lists by increasing the amount of weekend working in the NHS.