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Labour Party Wins UK Election as Keir Starmer Pledges Change and Reform

Photo : AFP

Keir Starmer has vowed to bring significant change to Britain as he prepares to take on the role of prime minister, following a comprehensive win by his Labour Party in the parliamentary elections held on Friday. This victory marks the end of 14 years of often tumultuous Conservative rule.

The centre-left Labour Party is poised to secure a massive majority in the 650-seat parliament, with Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party facing its worst performance in history. Voters punished the Conservatives for a cost-of-living crisis, failing public services, and numerous scandals.

"Change begins now," Starmer declared in his victory speech. "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."

Sunak conceded defeat earlier and congratulated Starmer 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."

Despite this convincing victory, polls suggest there is little enthusiasm for Starmer or his party. He comes to power at a challenging time for the country, with a high tax burden, net debt almost equivalent to annual economic output, falling living standards, and struggling public services, particularly the National Health Service, which has been plagued by strikes.

Starmer has had to scale back some of Labour's ambitious plans, including its flagship green spending pledges, and has promised not to raise taxes for "working people." "I don't promise you it will be easy," he 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."

Much of the damage to Conservative support was inflicted by the right-wing populist Reform UK party, led by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, who campaigned strongly on curbing immigration. Starmer has promised to scrap the Conservative policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda but will face pressure to find a solution to the influx of people arriving from France.

Within the Conservative Party, there is immediate debate and recrimination over its future direction. Some argue the failure stemmed from abandoning the centre ground, while others believe Reform won over voters who felt the party had deserted its roots. Reform has captured four seats, with Farage finally elected to parliament on his eighth attempt, winning more votes than the Conservatives in many areas.

"There is a massive gap on the centre-right of British politics, and my job is to fill it," Farage said triumphantly. "This is just the first step of something that will stun all of you."

The growth of support for a populist alternative echoes similar trends in Europe, where the far right has been surging. However, unlike in France, where Marine Le Pen's National Rally made historic gains, the British public has opted for a centre-left party to bring about change. Starmer has pledged to improve relations with the European Union to resolve Brexit issues, though rejoining the EU is not on the table.

Starmer may also have to work with Donald Trump if he wins the U.S. presidential election in November. Trump has already congratulated his friend Farage via Truth Social.

Domestically, Starmer has promised to continue London's support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, with foreign policies similar to Sunak's.

This election victory represents a remarkable turnaround for Starmer and Labour, which faced an existential crisis just three years ago. Conservative scandals, notably the Downing Street parties during COVID lockdowns, undermined Boris Johnson and eroded their poll leads. Liz Truss' disastrous six-week premiership further cemented the decline, and Sunak could not reverse Labour's commanding lead.

Sunak surprised many by calling the election earlier than necessary, with the Conservatives trailing Labour by 20 points in the polls. His campaign proved disastrous. "We deserved to lose. The Conservative Party appears exhausted and out of ideas," said Ed Costello, chairman of the Grassroots Conservatives. "But it is not all Rishi Sunak’s fault. It is Boris Johnson and Liz Truss that have led the party to disaster. Rishi Sunak is just the fall guy."

July 5, 2024 11:05 a.m. 471

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