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Who’s who in the UK general election

The United Kingdom heads to the polls on Thursday, 4 July in a general election that is expected to see the main opposition Labour party return to power after 14 years.

Here are the main players in the nationwide vote.

Keir Starmer

Labour leader Keir Starmer is a former human rights lawyer and chief public prosecutor tipped by pollsters to win the election and become prime minister.

Starmer, 61, has been credited with moving his party back to the centre ground and rooting out anti-Semitism since succeeding left-winger Jeremy Corbyn as leader in April 2020.

Supporters see him as a pragmatic, safe pair of hands, ideally suited to managing Britain back from economic decline.

Critics accuse him of being an uninspiring flip-flopper who has failed to spell out a clear vision for the country during a cautious campaign.

Starmer was born in London to a toolmaker father and a nurse mother. His unusual first name was his socialist parents’ tribute to Labour’s founding father – Keir Hardie.

The keen footballer and Arsenal fan was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to criminal justice but rarely uses the prefix “Sir” before his name.

Rishi Sunak

Sunak, 44, is seeking his own mandate from the British public having been installed as Conservative leader, and therefore prime minister, by his own MPs in October 2022.

He succeeded Liz Truss, who was ousted following just 49 days in power after her tax-cutting economic agenda spooked markets and lost her the support of her party.

Sunak, who is of Indian descent, is the UK’s first British Asian and Hindu prime minister.

The ex-financier has been credited with steadying government following the chaos of the Truss and Boris Johnson premierships and for slashing inflation.

He has failed though to meet several promises, including cutting health waiting lists, stopping irregular immigration, and sending migrants to Rwanda.

Sunak has run a lacklustre and mishap-strewn campaign, which started with his rain-sodden announcement of the election date and included criticism for skipping the main D-Day anniversary event.

Opinion polls give him some of the lowest approval ratings of any prime minister ever.

Nigel Farage

The 60-year-old beer-loving, cigarette-smoking ex-member of the European Parliament is one of the most divisive personalities in UK politics.

He gained the nickname “Mr Brexit” by former US president Donald Trump after helping to persuade a majority of Britons in 2016 to vote to leave the European Union.

The arch-Eurosceptic is a perennial loser at Westminster though and is seeking to become an MP at the eighth time of asking.

He heads the hard-right Reform UK party, whose poll numbers indicate it could deprive the Conservatives of several key seats needed to win re-election.

Farage has become engulfed in a racism scandal after several Reform activists were filmed making racist and homophobic remarks.

Reform, which Farage co-founded in 2018, disowned three candidates over the weekend due to offensive comments.

Farage also faced criticism for saying that the West “provoked” Russian into invading Ukraine.

Swinney, Davey and Denyer

Neither Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats nor John Swinney’s Scottish National Party (SNP) will win the election – but they could have a say in who does.

Davey, 58, hopes his party can stop a Conservative victory by winning several seats in southern England as it eyes overtaking the SNP to regain its position as the third-largest party in parliament.

He has mixed campaigning on serious issues such as adult social care and polluted waterways with irreverent stunts like falling off a paddleboard and tackling an obstacle course.

Swinney, 60, does not sit in the UK parliament but is first minister in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, having taken over the leadership of the SNP in May following Humza Yousaf’s resignation.

His SNP is struggling to fend off a Labour resurgence in Scotland, which could kill off its independence hopes for a generation.

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer, 38, is hoping to win the new seat of Bristol Central as the fringe outfit targets increasing its representation from one to four MPs.

By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse

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