Home Economy News UK’s Labour sweeps to power as leader Starmer vows to bring change

UK’s Labour sweeps to power as leader Starmer vows to bring change


By Andrew MacAskill, Elizabeth Piper and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – Keir Starmer will become Britain’s next prime minister on Friday with his Labour Party set to win a massive majority in a parliamentary election, an exit poll indicated, forecasting Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives would suffer historic losses.

Centre-left Labour was on course to capture 410 of the 650 seats in parliament, an astonishing reversal of fortunes from five years ago when it suffered its worst performance since 1935.

The result would give Labour a majority of 170 and would bring the curtain down on 14 years of increasingly tumultuous Conservative-led government.

“Tonight, people here and around the country have spoken and they’re ready for change, to end the politics of performance, a return to politics as public service,” Starmer said after winning his seat in London.

“The change begins right here … You have voted. It is now time for us to deliver.”

Starmer will come to power facing a daunting challenge, with a sluggish economy, creaking public services, and falling living standards – all factors which contributed to the Conservatives’ demise.

Sunak’s party were forecast to only win 131 seats, the worst electoral performance in its history, as voters punished them for a cost-of-living crisis, and years of instability and in-fighting which has seen five different prime ministers since the Brexit vote of 2016.

“What is crystal clear to me tonight is it is not so much that Labour won this election, but rather that the Conservatives have lost it,” defence minister Grant Shapps said after he lost his seat.

“We have tried the patience of traditional Conservatives voters with a propensity to create an endless political soap opera out of internal rivalries and divisions, which have become increasingly indulgent and entrenched.”

The centrist Liberal Democrats were predicted to capture 61 seats but it was the right-wing populist Reform UK party, headed by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, which was dealing heavy damage to Sunak.

Results from more than 200 seats confirmed Labour and the Lib Dems were making gains from the Conservatives, but Reform also picked up four victories, including Farage himself, with the party winning more votes than the Conservatives in many areas.

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

Overall, results confirmed the picture that British voters were returning an internationalist centre-left party to power, unlike in France where Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally made historic gains in an election last Sunday.

It was not just the Conservatives whose vote was predicted to have collapsed. The pro-independence Scottish National Party was forecast to win only 10 seats, its worst showing since 2010, after a period of turmoil which has seen two leaders quit in little over a year.


Sunak stunned Westminster and many in his own party by calling the election earlier than he needed to in May with the Conservatives trailing Labour by some 20 points in opinion polls.

He had hoped that the gap would narrow as had traditionally been the case in British elections, but instead had a fairly disastrous campaign.

It started badly with him getting drenched by rain outside Downing Street as he announced the vote, before aides and Conservative candidates became caught up in a gambling scandal, and Sunak’s early departure from D-Day commemorative events in France further fuelled criticism.

Election victory would represent an incredible turnaround for Starmer and Labour, which critics and supporters said was facing an existential crisis just three years ago when it appeared to have lost its way after its 2019 drubbing.

But a series of Conservative scandals – most notably revelations of parties in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns – undermined then prime minister Boris Johnson and its commanding poll leads evaporated.

Liz Truss’ disastrous six-week premiership, which followed Johnson being forced out at the end of 2022, cemented the decline, and Sunak was unable to make any dent in Labour’s now commanding poll lead.

“We deserved to lose. The Conservative Party just appears exhausted and out of ideas,” Ed Costello, the chairman of the Grassroots Conservatives organisation, which represents rank-and-file members, told Reuters.

“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.”

The predicted Labour result would not quite match the record levels achieved by the party under Tony Blair in 1997 and 2001 when the party captured 418 and 412 seats respectively.

“The electoral mountain that Labour have needed to climb is bigger than Tony Blair had to climb and he (Starmer) has climbed it with room to spare,” Peter Sloman, a professor of politics at the University of Cambridge, told Reuters.

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