UK elections 2024: Labour sweeps to power as Keir Starmer vows to bring change
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UK elections 2024: Labour sweeps to power as Keir Starmer vows to bring change

UK elections 2024: Labour sweeps to power as Keir Starmer vows to bring change

Despite a convincing victory, polls have suggested there is little enthusiasm for Starmer or his Labour party

Gulf Business
UK elections 2024 - Labour Party

Keir Starmer vowed to bring change to Britain as its next prime minister after his Labour Party surged to a comprehensive win in a parliamentary election on Friday, ending 14 years of Conservative government.

As of 5 am GMT Friday, the Labour Party had won 326 of the 650 seats in the UK parliament, securing a majority, reported the Associate Press.

While counting was still underway, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded to his loss, saying the British people have “delivered a sobering verdict.”

Meanwhile, Starmer used his poll plank to deliver his victory speech, “Change begins now.” 

“We said we would end the chaos, and we will, we said we would turn the page, and we have. Today, we start the next chapter, begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal and start to rebuild our country.”

Other notable wins include the hard-right Reform UK party’s Nigel Farage winning a seat after seven failed election attempts. Additionally, Labour’s former leader Jeremy Corbyn, who contested as an independent, held onto his north London seat.

A heavy defeat

The Conservative Party has seen a heavy defeat and retained just 114 seats from their 365 seat majority in 2019.

Notable losses include Liz Truss, the former prime minister whose premiership lasted just 49 days. Truss lost her Norfolk South West seat to Labour by several hundred votes.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, long a key figure in the Conservative Party, lost his seat in the general election.

Sunak earlier conceded defeat and said he had called Starmer to congratulate him on his victory.

“Today power will change hands in a peaceful and orderly manner, with goodwill on all sides,” Sunak said after regaining his seat. “There is much to learn and reflect on and I take responsibility for the loss to the many good hardworking Conservative candidates … I am sorry.”

Daunting challenges ahead

Despite a convincing victory, polls have suggested there is little enthusiasm for Starmer or his Labour party, and he comes to power at a time when the country is facing a series of daunting challenges.

Britain’s tax burden is set to hit its highest since just after World War Two, net debt is almost equivalent to annual economic output, living standards have fallen, and public services are creaking, especially the much cherished National Health Service which has been dogged by strikes.

He has already had to scale back some of Labour‘s more ambitious plans, such as its flagship green spending pledges, while he has promised not to raise taxes for “working people”.

“I don’t promise you it will be easy,” Starmer said. “Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. It’s hard work. Patient, determined, work, and we will have to get moving immediately.”

Read: UK election winners will inherit 7 urgent tasks

Rise of reform

Much of the heavy damage to the Conservative support was inflicted by the right-wing populist Reform UK party, headed by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, who campaigned strongly on curbing immigration.

Starmer has promised to scrap the Conservative’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, but with migration a key electoral issue, he will be under pressure himself to find a solution to stopping tens of thousands of people arriving across the Channel from France on small boats.

Within the Conservative Party, the recriminations and debate over its future direction began immediately, with some saying its failure stemmed from abandoning the centre ground while others argued Reform had won over voters who felt the party had deserted its roots.

Reform has captured four seats, with Farage himself finally being elected to parliament at his eighth attempt, and won more votes than the Conservatives across swathes of the country.

There is a massive gap on the centre right of British politics and my job is to fill it, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” a triumphant Farage said. “Believe me, folks, this is just the first step of something that is going to stun all of you.”

The growth in support for a populist alternative echoed recent similar results in Europe, where the far right have been surging.

But, unlike France where Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party made historic gains in an election last Sunday, overall the British public has plumped for a centre-left party to bring about change.

A ‘right’ neighbourhood

Starmer has promised to improve relations with the European Union to resolve issues created by Brexit, just as far-right politicians are enjoying success. However, despite opposing Brexit, rejoining the EU is not on the table.

He may also have to work with Donald Trump in the US if he wins November’s presidential election. Trump has already sent his congratulations to his friend and supporter Farage, via his social media platform Truth Social.

While he has promised to bring change domestically, Starmer has vowed to continue London’s unequivocal support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. On many foreign issues, his policies are similar to Sunak’s.

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