Why Labour’s victory hides a historic breakthrough for the far right

Why Labour’s victory hides a historic breakthrough for the far right
Why Labour’s victory hides a historic breakthrough for the far right

If Keir Starmer is to become Prime Minister and replace Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street, Reform UK, Nigel Farage’s party, achieved significant scores in the general elections and now intends to embody an alternative to the Conservatives, who were heavily defeated.

Has the UK map turned completely red? The Labour Party won the general election in Britain on Thursday 4 July, securing a majority of at least 400 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons and returning to power for the first time in 14 years.

But the victory of the party of Keir Starmer, the lawyer set to replace Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, is not as large as expected: according to the first results, Labour has a lower percentage score than Jeremy Corbyn, who was beaten in 2017, with less than 40% of the vote. In his constituency, the future tenant of 10 Downing Street is re-elected but loses 18,000 votes compared to 2019.

Nigel Farage elected after seven failures

Above all, the Labour victory is marred by a clear breakthrough by the far right. Nigel Farage’s party, Reform UK, only won about ten seats, but garnered around 15% of the vote across the country, according to initial results. That is 13% more than the score of his “Brexit Party” in 2019.

Nigel Farage himself was elected in the constituency of Clacton-on-Sea, a seaside town east of London, after seven failures. During the night, the man who led the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union hailed a “revolt against the establishment”.

Better than UKIP

His party made a spectacular entrance into the House of Commons with around ten elected members. Above all, Reform UK caused the Conservatives to fall heavily, who suffered a sanction vote like they had never experienced before. Tories, around 20% of the votes this Thursday, suffered their worst defeat since the beginning of the 20th century and will have barely 140 elected representatives, compared to 365 in 2019.

In many constituencies where the Conservative Party was in opposition to Labour, Reform UK came in second, sometimes up more than 20 points from the 2019 poll.

Five years ago, the gap between the Conservatives (43%) and the Brexit Party (0.07%) was 13,322,197 votes. A gulf that has narrowed this Monday to a few million. Before Reform UK, the only recent strong performance by a party to the right of the Conservatives in a general election was that of the UKIP Party, with 3,881,099 voters (12.6%).

“This is the start of a big movement,” Reform deputy leader David Bull said. “This is a political revolt. If we can go from zero to 13 seats in four years, imagine what we can do in five years,” he told Sky News, presenting himself as an alternative to a Conservative party “that is no longer Conservative”.

Conservatives suffer historic defeat

The Tories, for their part, are the big losers of the political sequence in the United Kingdom. After five Prime Ministers, Brexit, austerity, the cost of living crisis, the public health system at the end of its tether, the Conservatives have attracted so much grievance from the British that the campaign has led them to simply aim to limit the damage.

Although re-elected in his constituency of Richmond in North Yorkshire, Rishi Sunak saw his campaign turn into a Stations of the Cross. He had nevertheless tried to take the initiative at the end of May by calling voters in July without waiting until the fall as expected and had brandished the threat that a Labour “supermajority” in the House of Commons would represent, which would leave Labour without a countervailing power, effectively admitting defeat.

These results will have potentially serious consequences for the future of the Tories, who will have to rebuild after their historic defeat, at a time when they appear divided, torn between a more right-wing wing and a more centrist current.

Several former ministers and senior figures in the outgoing British Conservative government, such as British Defence Minister Grant Shapps and Minister for Relations with Parliament Penny Mordaunt, were defeated.

“I don’t promise you it will be easy”

It remains to be seen what Keir Steimer, who is categorized as centre-left on the political spectrum, will do as prime minister. In a sign of the diversity of the British left, his rival and former leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, managed to get elected as an independent in his constituency, against a Labour candidate.

During the night, the future Minister of Finance already warned that the government will have to make “difficult choices”. And therefore unpopular? Keir Steimer promised during the campaign a very rigorous management of public spending, but without tax increases.

“Change starts now,” the future prime minister insisted, thanking his supporters and renewing his promise of “national renewal” after his victory. “I don’t promise you it will be easy. It’s not enough to press a button to change a country. It takes hard work, patient work, determined work.”

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