Record number of candidates standing in general election

The 2024 tally of 4,515 candidates surpasses the previous high of 4,150 candidates in the 2010 election

Record number of candidates standing in general election

Labour leader Keir Starmer debates with Rishi Sunak, as ITV hosts the first head-to-head debate of the general election, in Manchester. Jonathan Hordle/ITV/Handout via REUTERS.

By:
Pramod Thomas

AN unprecedented number of candidates are running in this year’s general election on 4 July. Over 4,500 people are vying for positions across the 650 constituencies in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the BBC reported.

This represents a 35.7 per cent increase from the 2019 election.

The surge in number is largely attributed to Reform UK breaking its pledge not to challenge Tories, alongside the Green Party fielding more candidates and the Workers Party of Britain making its electoral debut.

Additionally, there’s been a significant rise in the number of independent and minor party candidates.

Prof Matthew Flinders of Sheffield University noted that an increase in candidates implies “more marginals” and “greater fluidity between elections” for the next government.

Tim Bale, a politics professor at Queen Mary University of London, said, “Party systems across Europe, including the UK, have become more fragmented. Voters now exhibit less loyalty to traditional parties, often feeling let down or ignored by them.”

“This shift has led to a rise in party-switching among voters, resulting in “more parties and consequently, more candidates.”

The 2024 tally of 4,515 candidates surpasses the previous high of 4,150 candidates in the 2010 election.

Reform UK, formerly known as the Brexit Party, has seen the most significant increase, presenting 609 candidates in 2024—a leap of 332 from the last election. In 2019, leader Nigel Farage decided not to run candidates in over 300 seats to aid Boris Johnson’s Tories in securing Brexit. Farage has dismissed any similar pact with the ruling party for this election.

The Green Party has also increased its candidates by 131 compared to the last election, with a total of 629, following the termination of their “Unite to Remain alliance” with the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, parties that advocated for the UK to remain in the European Union.

The Workers Party of Britain, under George Galloway’s leadership, is participating for the first time with 152 candidates.

Professor Flinders suggested that future elections might see even more candidates.

“The dynamics of British politics have changed significantly. The ability of the two main parties to function as broad ‘catch-all’ entities is being severely tested—they risk breaking apart. Consequently, new insurgent and independent parties are stepping into the arena,” he was quoted as saying.

Surveys showing the Tories consistently about 20 points behind Keir Starmer’s Labour party.

Tories also now face a challenge from the right-wing Reform UK party, which, under Farage, has vowed to lead a “revolt” against them.