UK’s Labour Party set for landslide election win

Sunak’s Tories would only get 131 in the 650-seat House of Commons -- a record low -- with the right-wing vote apparently spliced by Nigel Farage’s anti-immigration Reform UK party, which could bag 13 seats

Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer arrives for the declaration of results at the Camden Council count centre in London early on 5 July, 2024 as polls close in Britain’s general election. Britain’s main opposition Labour party looks set for a landslide election win, exit polls indicated, with Keir Starmer replacing Rishi Sunak as prime minister, ending 14 years of Conservative ruleAFP

Keir Starmer on Friday said Britain was “ready for change”, as his main opposition Labour party looked set to sweep to power in a landslide election win, ending 14 years of Conservative rule.

The Labour leader won re-election in his north London constituency with ease, while around the country Labour snatched a swathe of seats from Rishi Sunak’s beleaguered Tories.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was the highest-profile scalp of the night so far, with the seats of other Cabinet ministers also under threat as results trickled in overnight.

“Tonight, people here and around the country have spoken, and they’re ready for change, to end the politics of performance, a return to politics as public service”, Starmer said in London, adding: “You have voted. It is now time for us to deliver.”

An exit poll for UK broadcasters published after polls closed at 2100 GMT on Thursday put Labour on course for a return to power for the first time since 2010 with 410 seats and a 170-seat majority.

Sunak’s Tories would only get 131 in the 650-seat House of Commons -- a record low -- with the right-wing vote apparently spliced by Nigel Farage’s anti-immigration Reform UK party, which could bag 13 seats.

In another boost for the centrists, the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats would get 61 seats, ousting the Scottish National Party on 10 as the third-biggest party.

The projected overall result bucks a rightward trend among Britain’s closest Western allies, with the far right in France eyeing power and Donald Trump looking set for a return in the United States.

British newspapers all focused on Labour’s impending return to power for the first time since the days of Gordon Brown.

“Keir We Go,” headlined the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror. “Britain sees red,” said The Sun, the influential Rupert Murdoch tabloid which swung behind Labour for the first time since 2005.

Not everything went Starmer’s way: former hard-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, ousted by his successor for anti-Semitism, was re-elected as an independent.

Tory future

Counting of ballots from some 40,000 polling stations across the country stretches into the night, with official results expected into Friday morning.
Under Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs 326 seats to win an overall majority in parliament.

The leader of the winning party is expected to meet head of state King Charles III on Friday morning, who will ask the leader of the largest party to form a government.

The Tories worst previous election result is 156 seats in 1906. Former leader William Hague told Times Radio the projections would be “a catastrophic result in historic terms”.

But Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary, University of London, said it was “not as catastrophic as some were predicting” and the Tories would now need to decide how best to fight back.

Farage, who finally succeeded in becoming an MP at the eighth time of asking, has made no secret of his aim to take over the Tories.

“There is a massive gap on the centre-right of British politics and my job is to fill it,” he said after a comfortable win in Clacton, eastern England.

To-do list

Labour’s resurgence is a stunning turnaround from five years ago, when Corbyn took the party to its worst defeat since 1935 in an election dominated by Brexit.

Starmer, 61, took over in early 2020, and set about moving the party back to the centre, making it a more electable proposition and purging infighting and anti-Semitism that lost it support.

Opinion polls have put Labour consistently 20 points ahead of the Tories for almost the past two years, giving an air of inevitability about a Labour win -- the first since Tony Blair in 2005.

Starmer -- the working-class son of a toolmaker and a nurse -- has promised “a decade of national renewal” after post-financial crash austerity measures, Brexit upheaval and a cost-of-living crisis.

But his to-do list is daunting, with economic growth anaemic, public services overstretched and underfunded due to swingeing cuts, and households squeezed financially.

Starmer has also promised a return of political integrity, after a chaotic period of five Tory prime ministers, including three in four months, scandal and sleaze.

Rachel Reeves, his likely finance minister, said there were “no quick fixes and hard choices lie ahead”.

“We are under no illusions about the scale of the challenge that we face, or about the severity of the challenges that we will inherit from the Conservatives,” she said.