Seven things you need to know, seven days before the general election

With just a week to go until the general election, here’s what you need to know before you go to the ballot box.

Polling station sign in the UK
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The general election is almost upon us, with voters set to head to the ballot box on 4 July. This means it’s time to start thinking about which party has the best policies for you on everything from taxes to social care, pensions and housing.

It is hard to believe that more than five weeks have passed since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun, standing outside Number 10 in the pouring rain as D:Ream blared in the background. 

Whatever the election outcome, the song was certainly right about one thing. As far as the British weather is concerned, things have only got better. This is just one of many factors psephologists will be watching next week, with voter turnout typically boosted by dry weather.

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Before you kick back and enjoy this week’s sunshine, though, there are some important steps you need to take before polling day, from getting your finances in order to deciding which party to vote for. 

If you are still undecided, we have done a round-up of all the main parties’ manifesto promises. See our analysis on Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, Reform UK and the SNP

Here are seven things you need to know, seven days before the general election. 

1. Get your personal finances in order

Taxes have been in focus this election season. Labour has promised not to hike income tax, National Insurance or VAT. The Conservatives have pledged the same, while also promising a 2p cut to National Insurance and no hikes to capital gains tax or pension taxes. 

However, the truth is that voters will suffer a bigger tax bill no matter who gets into office. Frozen tax thresholds have conspired with fiscal drag in recent years, meaning that more and more people are finding themselves dragged into a higher tax bracket.

With this in mind, it makes sense to make use of all the allowances available to you. Make sure you are using your annual £20,000 ISA allowance, if you can, to shield your savings and investments from income and capital gains tax. 

Also consider topping up your pension. Currently, savers receive tax relief on pension contributions at their marginal rate. This means that HMRC gives you a valuable top-up each time you put money in your pension pot (up to a certain limit). 

Voters should also remember that manifesto promises don’t necessarily give the full picture of what a party will do once it is in government – and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has accused both parties of a “conspiracy of silence” when it comes to taxes. 

A heavier debt burden and higher spending requirements mean the next government will need to either hike taxes, increase national debt, or cut spending, the independent think tank warns. 

It is worth making use of any personal allowances you have now in case the next government is forced to change the current rules.

2. Don’t panic when it comes to your investment portfolio 

At election time, there is always a lot of noise around what an incumbent government could mean for the fortunes of the stock market. But you should remember that investing is less about timing the market than time in the market. 

While there could be some short-term volatility (particularly if markets are surprised by the election outcome), politics generally has less of an impact on market performance than economic developments. The thing you should be watching more closely is the timing of interest rate cuts.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is comfortably ahead in the polls at the moment, and has been vocal about the fact that he is leading a “changed Labour”, which is “pro-growth” and “pro-business”. 

With this in mind, “the prospect of a government spearheaded by Sir Keir and Rachel Reeves is unlikely to spark the sort of fear that would have been inspired by an administration whose driving forces were Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell,” says Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. 

See our recent pieces: “What could the general election mean for UK equities?”, “Are the Conservatives or Labour better for the stock market?”, and “What would a Labour supermajority mean for capital markets?

3. Consider whether there are any stocks you’d like to buy

As we have established, an election is no reason to buy or sell a load of stocks. However, it is worth thinking about whether any companies or sectors could be given a long-term boost by a shift in policy or regulation. 

One sector that has been highlighted by several commentators is UK housebuilding. Both Labour and the Conservatives have voiced commitments to building more homes in an attempt to tackle the housing shortage and boost affordability. Labour has promised planning reforms and 1.5 million new homes over the next parliament, while the Conservatives have promised 1.6 million.  

Two stocks that Hargreaves Lansdown highlights are Taylor Wimpey and Vistry. Vistry is an affordable housing specialist, and so is in “a good position to benefit from a Labour administration”, according to Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at the investment platform. 

As well as a supportive political backdrop, housebuilders should benefit from falling interest rates. The Bank of England kept rates frozen at its June meeting, but could start cutting the base rate as soon as 1 August. 

4. Think about fixing your savings

The Bank of England said its decision to hold the base rate at 5.25% last week had nothing to do with the timing of the general election. However, some commentators have suggested the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) would have been nervous about its decision getting politicised.

Many expect rates to be cut at either the August or September MPC meeting. By August, the general election will be out of the way, however we won’t have the full picture on what the incumbent government plans to do with fiscal policy. 

If Labour wins the election, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has indicated there wouldn’t be a Budget until mid-September (to give the Office for Budget Responsibility time to prepare an independent forecast). It is unclear whether the MPC would want to wait for this before cutting rates, however it is a possibility that is worth considering. 

“Whoever makes it into Number 10 will be changing policy, taxes and the fortunes of the UK economy, all of which play into the economic data the Bank scrutinises every month,” says Laura Suter, director of personal finance at AJ Bell. 

While the exact timing of cuts is hard to call, it is hard to dispute the fact that they are close on the horizon. This means you may only have a matter of weeks to lock in higher savings rates while they last. 

See our round-up of the best one-year fixed savings accounts

5. Decide who you are going to vote for

Don’t leave it to chance on the day. Read up on each party’s policies so that you are well informed when you head to the ballot box. As well as looking at each party’s manifesto, you should read up on your local candidates as it will be their names on the ballot paper on 4 July. 

MoneyWeek has published extensive analysis on each of the major parties through the lens of what they could mean for your money. See our analysis on Labour, the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, Reform UK and the SNP

6. If you haven’t sent your postal vote in time, you can still vote in person

All postal votes need to be received by the elections team at your local council by 10pm on polling day to be counted, so the advice is always to return this as soon as possible. 

However, if you don’t think your postal vote will get there in time, you can still vote in person. 

To do this, you can just take your postal vote to your local polling station on 4 July. The team working there will ask you to complete a form detailing your name and address, how many postal votes you are handing in, and why you are handling these votes.

You are permitted to handle your own postal vote, as well as those of close relatives and people for whom you provide care. You are restricted to handing in postal votes for up to five other people.

7. Bring ID to the polling station

Don’t get caught out like Boris Johnson did at the local and mayoral elections on 2 May. You are now legally obliged to bring a form of photo ID with you when you turn up at the polling station to vote. 

Acceptable forms of ID include a UK or EU passport, a UK or EU driving licence, or a Blue Badge. The other forms of acceptable ID are listed on the government website.

Katie Williams
Staff Writer

Katie Williams has a background in investment writing and is interested in everything to do with personal finance, investments, and financial news. Before joining the MoneyWeek team, Katie worked as an investment content specialist at Invesco EMEA, a global asset management firm, which she joined as a graduate in 2019. While there, she enjoyed translating complex topics into “easy to understand” stories. She studied English at the University of Cambridge and loves reading, writing and going to the theatre.