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Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak during the ITV leaders debate.
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General election 2024: The precarious state of the state

The scale and severity of the problems facing the next government.

The general election campaign is in full swing. Politicians are vying to persuade the public that it is their party which is best placed to lead the UK to a brighter future. But none of the plans, pledges and policies being touted are credible unless they also explain how, as well as looking to that future, they will reckon with the problems on their desk from day one.

Those problems are many – from creaking public services and fragile public finances to a strained civil service and challenges to the union. All will have a profound bearing on how the next government, whoever holds the keys to Downing Street on 5 July, approaches the job. In this sense the ‘state of the state’ will be among the most defining factors of that government’s first years in power, if not the whole of the next parliament.

Few elections in recent history have rewarded the winner with challenges of this scale and severity. This Insight assesses those challenges. Many will require immediate attention, not least to rescue services on the brink of collapse. Almost all will require serious reform over the next parliament.

While manifestos will set out the – optimistic – pledges each party hopes to deliver on, it will be dealing with the issues and challenges explored here that will likely determine their success in government.

General election 2024

The next UK general election will be held on Thursday 4 July. Our analysis, explainers and events explore what happens before and during an election, how political parties and the civil service prepare for the outcome and what it means for government.

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Prime minister Rishi Sunak issues a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, after calling a general election for 4 July.

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