Voices: All the ways this general election will be like nothing we’ve seen before...

The prime minister has announced that the general election will take place on 4 July  (AFP via Getty)
The prime minister has announced that the general election will take place on 4 July (AFP via Getty)

Finally, after what feels like a lifetime, Rishi Sunak has announced the date when we’ll head to the polls to cast our votes for somebody who isn’t him.

Social media reacted more or less as you’d expect to news of a “snap” summer election – the first July poll since 1945 – by finding the funny. Users of X (formerly Twitter) quickly coined the term “genny lex” – which, like “platty jubes” and “statey funes” before it, is so irritating, it almost makes you want to spoil your ballot.

The online commentariat were also out in force, generating memes, mostly of our esteemed prime minister making his announcement in the pouring rain, looking like the mathematical opposite of Hugh Grant at the end of a Nineties romcom.

There’s an energy in the air that’s already made this election feel different from the usual fare. Maybe it’s because, despite still very much being within the five-year term since we all last voted, we’ve had three whole PMs since then (yes, Truss still counts – even if her time in Downing Street was shorter than the leadership race that got her there).

Maybe it’s because the result seems a bit of a foregone conclusion, and none of us can muster the energy to even pretend the Tories have a chance. Maybe it’s because it feels like we’ve been talking about having an election for the past one hundred thousand years, and can’t quite allow ourselves to believe it’s finally happening.

Whatever the reason, these next few weeks have been a long time coming. It’s difficult to tell what the Tories will hang their hat on as things start to heat up. Their stellar record on immigration? Their flawless delivery of Brexit? This incredible economy? There’s just so much to choose from!

If the past few months are any indication, it looks like we might be treated to yet another instalment of the never-ending culture wars. Oh, I’m sorry – were you hoping that your grocery shop would be a little cheaper? Or that you’d be able to afford to heat your house in the winter? Well, I’m afraid we don’t have much on that front – but, brother, if you don’t want your kids hearing about where babies come from, or are afraid of convenient bathroom facilities in pubs, then I have just the government for you.

That isn’t even mentioning the fact that the government has spent the past year scaremongering about the possibility of actual wars. A few months ago, we were talking about conscription – and not just in the usual OAP-baiting “back in my day kids had respect” sort of way. More recently, they launched a website encouraging people to stock up on tinned foods and medical supplies just in case we end up in a global conflict – an uplifting addendum to Sunak’s recent warnings about the possibility of Labour leaving us totally unprepared for a nuclear war. To call it a desperate ploy would be an insult to desperate ploys.

One type of warfare that could have an impact on the result, though, is information warfare. Prepare for every Facebook-using elderly relative in your life to send you at least one deepfaked video of Keir Starmer pledging himself to Hamas, or Rishi Sunak saying he hates Taylor Swift. If that wasn’t bad enough, that AI technology that Sunak loves so much could easily be weaponised against his campaign, as purpose-built bots take to Twitter to tell you that hey, you know what’s really cool? Voting for third party candidates.

It almost seems criminal that after all that exciting build up, and years and years of chaos and strife, the election itself is probably going to be relatively boring. Sure, the Tories might throw out a few Hail Marys – I expect them to warn us that Keir Starmer is secretly a werewolf any day now – and I’m sure Labour will go on the offensive in a way we haven’t seen since the Nineties. But we know how this ends. We’ve known how this was going to end since before it began.

That probably isn’t great for democracy, but it’s really good for my mental health. In a year that’s also going to feature a real nail-biter between Trump and Biden this November, it’s nice that the UK election is essentially just a waiting game at this point.

Of course, as the weeks tick away, it isn’t going to feel like that. As the date approaches, it’s going to feel more and more possible that Sunak will be able to pull it off. You’re going to hear a lot of stories about politicians you’ve never heard of clutching victory from the jaws of defeat, and you’re going to see fringe polls that predict the impossible, and you’re going to ask yourself: could it be? Could that old son of a gun really do it?

Probably not. But it’s going to be a lot of fun to speculate in the meantime.