British general elections: landslide victory for Labour, bitter defeat for the Conservatives

British general elections: landslide victory for Labour, bitter defeat for the Conservatives
British general elections: landslide victory for Labour, bitter defeat for the Conservatives

The results are expected to come in throughout the night, but exit polls released as polls closed leave little doubt about the outcome of this vote, which opens a new chapter in the country’s political history.

According to these projections by British television, Labour would win 410 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

While this is slightly less than Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997 (418), it is well ahead of the Conservative party of outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, disowned by voters with only 131 MPs elected. This is far from the 365 Tory MPs elected five years ago and the worst result for the party since the beginning of the 20th century.

The Liberal Democrats (centrists) would be strengthened with 61 MPs, but the surprise of the vote comes mainly from the anti-immigration and anti-system party Reform UK: it would win 13 seats, a much more resounding entry than expected for the party of the hard-right figure Nigel Farage.

With the far right likely to gain power in France and Donald Trump looking set to return to the White House, the British overwhelmingly chose a moderate centre-left leader.

Keir Starmer, a 61-year-old former human rights lawyer, is due to be tasked by King Charles III on Friday with forming a new government.

UK general elections: a sunny Thursday to punish the Conservatives

“To everyone who campaigned for Labour in this election, to everyone who voted for us and trusted our new Labour Party, thank you,” Keir Starmer soberly responded on X.

Just nine years into politics and four years into Labour’s leadership, he will face a considerable appetite for change.

As polls predicted throughout the campaign, the Conservatives are being punished after 14 turbulent years that have left Britons feeling in decline.

Brexit has torn the country apart and failed to deliver on its supporters’ promises. The price hikes of the last two years have left families impoverished, with more than ever relying on food banks for food.

People sometimes have to wait months for medical appointments in the NHS, and prisons are at risk of running out of places in the coming days.

Poker move

In an atmosphere of permanent fratricidal struggles among the Conservatives, the political scandals under Boris Johnson and the budgetary errors of Liz Truss, who only lasted 49 days in power, have ended up exasperating the voters.

In 20 months in Downing Street, their successor Rishi Sunak has never managed to turn things around in public opinion. He tried a last gamble by calling these elections in July without waiting for the autumn as many thought, but his campaign was disastrous.

The 44-year-old former investment banker and finance minister has made a series of blunders and appeared to lack political acumen, cutting short his appearance at celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings and slowing to respond to suspicions of fraudulent betting in his camp over the date of the elections.

Faced with inevitable defeat, his camp has been reduced in recent days to warning of the risk of a “super majority” leaving Labour without countervailing powers.

Opposite, Keir Starmer highlighted his modest origins – mother a nurse and father a toolmaker – contrasting with his multimillionaire adversary, and promised the return of “stability” and “seriousness”, with very rigorous management of public spending.

Not very charismatic but determined, he promises to transform the country as he turned Labour around, refocusing it economically and fighting anti-Semitism: methodically, without any show or qualms.

He says he wants to boost growth, fix public services, strengthen workers’ rights, reduce immigration and bring the United Kingdom closer to the European Union – without returning to Brexit, a taboo subject of the campaign.

“It doesn’t matter how big the majority is,” Labour’s number two Angela Rayner told ITV after the exit polls were released. “What matters is the mandate that Keir Starmer has, that we can move forward and turn the page on the chaos and decline that we’ve seen under the Tories.”

Next week, Keir Starmer, who is expected to continue Britain’s current foreign policy, will make his first steps on the international stage at the NATO 75th anniversary summit in Washington.

During his final campaign trip on Wednesday, he assured that his government would get to work immediately, acknowledging: “we will not benefit from any grace period.”

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