UK general election: Labour hammers Tories with historic election win

10:09 06.07.2024 •

Keir Starmer (centre) to become prime minister after biggest victory.
Photo: Getty Images

A triumphant U.K. Labour Party is headed back to power in Britain after winning a historic landslide election victory over the ruling Conservatives, POLITICO stresses.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded his party had lost the snap election he called six weeks ago and said Labour would form the next government.

The scale of the result is extraordinary, with Labour on course for a 170-seat majority in the House of Commons — the biggest since Tony Blair’s famous win in 1997.

It means Britain’s new PM will be 61-year-old human rights lawyer Keir Starmer, who has transformed his party’s fortunes after 14 years in the political wilderness. He will be appointed prime minister by King Charles at Buckingham Palace on Friday.

For the Tories, the result — though widely predicted — is crushing, a disastrous end to PM Rishi Sunak’s audacious snap election gambit. It looks likely the Tories will collapse to the lowest total in the party’s illustrious history.

A Labour victory in the U.K. bucks the trend of center-left decline in many prosperous Western economies. Growing numbers of voters in countries including France, Italy and Germany have embraced the far-right at recent elections. In France, the party of Marine Le Pen is one step away from taking power in parliamentary elections for the first time in a vote this Sunday.

That trend was on show in the U.K., too — albeit not to the same extent as elsewhere.

Right-wing populist Nigel Farage won a seat in the House of Commons at the eighth attempt, with his upstart Reform UK party projected to win millions of votes. Reform’s biggest impact, however, was to deny the Tories dozens of normally-safe seats around the country by splitting the right-wing vote and allowing Labour or the centrist Lib Dems to claim the prize.

This Tory bloodbath swept away many key Conservative figures. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss lost her seat in a humiliating defeat which saw her seemingly-impregnable 26,195 majority overturned by Labour. The Conservatives lost many other heartland seats, including those previously held by former prime ministers Boris Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron.

The first high-profile Cabinet casualty of the night was Grant Shapps, the defense secretary.

He blamed his own party’s recent record of infighting for putting voters off. The public, he said, were sick of the “endless political soap opera”  and the “internal rivalries and divisions”  that warring Conservatives have played out in public.

“It’s not so much that Labour won this election, but rather that the Conservatives have lost it,” said Shapps, clearly shaken by his ousting.

Arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt — widely considered a likely future leadership contender if she had held her seat — were also kicked out.

The scale of Labour’s victory makes Starmer the U.K.’s most powerful leader since Blair, with complete command of parliament and a second term beckoning in five years’ time.

Over the course of the six-week campaign, Starmer urged voters to give him their backing and “turn the page” on years of scandal, division and economic turmoil under former PMs Johnson and Truss.

The Labour leader was regularly criticized for his pedestrian debating style and for giving few details of his plans for power. But none of that mattered in the end — simply not being a Tory seemed to be enough for many voters, with pollsters identifying a widespread public mood for change.

In his own acceptance speech in the seaside resort of Clacton, Reform UK Leader Farage hailed a “truly extraordinary” result and vowed to “build a mass national movement over the next few years” to challenge Labour for power at the next election, expected in 2029.

“Something very fundamental is happening,” Farage declared. “There is a massive gap in the center-right of British politics, and my job is to fill it.” He added: “This is just the first step of something that is going to stun all of you.”

Within Tory circles the blame game was already underway, with key figures blaming global crises like Covid-19 as well as Sunak and his ill-fated campaign. The outgoing PM is certain to quit as Tory leader after the defeat, triggering a bitter struggle over the future direction of the party.

Asked about his party’s future, defeated Tory Steve Baker said there will “undoubtedly be recriminations, there will be shock, there will be anger, there will be denial.”

But other Tories were simply relieved the result was not even more dramatic. Some pre-election polls suggested the party could effectively be wiped from the electoral map. “I had feared worse,” a second outgoing Tory minister admitted.

“Help us take the first really big step”, Reform UK Nigel Farage (photo) says on the final day of his last-minute, four-week campaign to get a foothold in Britain’s Parliament with Thursday’s national election.

“A vote for Reform UK is not a protest vote, it’s not a fantasy vote, it’s not a wasted vote. It’s a vote to change Britain for good.”

Far from just being an election, Mr Farage said, it had become a referendum on “on the corrupt political establishment” and the “rotten two-party system”.

In normal times and for a century the positions of government and opposition change hands between just two parties, Labour and the Conservatives. Yet the Conservative Party has cynically betrayed its own voters to a degree possibly unprecedented in history, and even worse in the internet age where the legacy media can no longer be relied upon for avoiding scrutiny.

So having promised to reduce mass migration to the “tens of thousands” a year but actually boosted it to a million every 18 months, and having promised to deliver on Brexit but squandered it, and having promised to cut taxes but having actually increased the burden to post-war highs, the moral authority of the Conservatives appears comprehensively broken.

Enter Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. There’s no doubt this very short surprise election campaign has damaged Reform, just as Farage predicted itself at the beginning, but nevertheless the party is regularly polling at-parity with the Conservatives and has been for weeks. This is a remarkable achievement for a party that barely existed two months ago, to be menacing one of the oldest and most established political parties on planet earth.

The Sun newspaper published short calls to action by leaders this morning and in his Mr Farage emphasised the plan he’s been talking about on the campaign trail, that the ambition is to take over the British government. He said: “this is just the start. Over the next five years I am serious about building a mass movement for real change.

The ex-UK prime minister drew ridicule after he appeared on TV just after Britain’s “most tattooed mom” on the eve of the election.

Rishi Sunak, 44, appeared on ITV’s “This Morning” to talk about his favorite foods and slam his political opponents — just before his conservative party appears likely to get booted from government in the July 4 election.

But it was the fact that he was scheduled behind the bikini-clad Becky Holt, an inked-up OnlyFans model and mom who has spent nearly $45,000 on the tattoos, that raised eyebrows among observers — especially after the two were caught on camera chatting.

One veteran Tory operative even suggested that This Morning had purposely put the prime minister in an awkward situation by hosting him just after Holt.

“That’s what power draining away looks like,” the person said. “I mean, how are you supposed to know where to look?”

Another strategist told the British newspaper that this is “what happens when you are down” in the polls.

“That never would have happened if he was a [prime minister] in waiting,” the strategist said. “They wouldn’t have done it to him.”


read more in our Telegram-channel