Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer, UK prime minister, after delivering the first speech of his premiership, following the general election, outside 10 Downing Street in London, UK, on Friday, July 5, 2024. Image Credit: Bloomberg

It’s hard to fathom the sheer scale of Labour’s victory in the UK elections.

Roughly two-thirds of the seats in the House of Commons will be occupied by Labour MPs when Parliament returns on July 9 — and the Conservatives, “the natural governing party of the UK” as they like to call themselves, will be reduced to a mere 120 seats after 14 years in power. That is a legacy few could have conceived in December 2019 when Boris Johnson led them to an 80-seat majority with a promise to “Get Brexit done”.

But it’s the Tories who are done now. Done like toast.

Barely 120 of them will take their seats in the new Parliament, handed a drubbing by voters who shunned them by the millions, punishment for Johnson’s antics during Covid lockdowns, Liz Truss’ disastrous 45-day reign as Prime Minister, and Rishi Sunak’s not-so-impressive leadership and damp squib of a campaign that started in the rain outside 10 Downing Street six weeks and ends Friday morning with a trip to Buckingham Palace to formally hand in his resignation to King Charles III.

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UK on the global stage

This is a landslide of historic proportions for Sir Keir Starmer, leading his Labour Party to a general election win that emulates the scale of that achieved by Tony Blair in 1997. Then it ushered in an era of Cool Britannia, a promise to raise the profile of the UK on the global stage.

Sir Keir? He’s promising to get to work straight away, fixing a nation where the health system is broken, ambulances don’t arrive, police can’t deal with basic crime complaints and won’t respond to mental health calls, where rivers and beaches are hit by sewage dumping from water companies, where trains don’t run on time, buses are as rare as hen’s teeth in rural areas, and most people are struggling with a cost of living crisis that has left them broke, depressed, or both.

This is a victory that has been apparent for the past two years, ever since Truss’ budget meant soaring interest rates, higher mortgage costs and erased any lingering notion that the Tories were a party who could be trusted with the economy.

This was an election too where Reform, anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and the voice of mostly angry men were supposed to break the mold of British politics. Yes, four of the angriest men in the party — leader Nigel Farage takes his first seat in the Commons on his eighth attempt — will now have a presence in Parliament, a bridgehead to cajole Conservatives that lurching further to the right is their future.

Tory slide is complete 

The reality is that many of those who voted for the party’s right-wing agenda did so because of the ineptitude of Sunak’s campaign and dissatisfaction with his pledges to turn back the tide of both legal and illegal immigration to UK shores.

But the Liberal-Democrats, who enjoyed their greatest electoral success since 1923, who made significant headway, claimed more than 70 seats on a promise to provide more social care and to restore the UK’s position in the European Union.

Thursday’s election also stemmed the tide of Scotland’s independence for now, with the Scottish Nationalist Party being reduced to single figures as Labour reclaimed its former dominant position north of the border. The SNP leadership had pledged to make this vote as a bargaining chip for a new referendum. Now, it has a snowball’s chance in hell of making that case anytime soon.

In the 32 seats in Wales, there will be no Conservative MP. Labour shook off its troubled leadership in the regional Senedd in Cardiff and took 27 seats. Plaid Cymru, which advocates an independent Wales, returned four MPs on the western extremities.

And in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, already the largest party in the province’s power-sharing Assembly in Belfast, earned most seats. Between its seven MPs and two from the other nationalist SDLP, a majority of representatives from the province now want to see its future tied to a united Ireland.

In a sign that the province might be slowly moving from its hard lines and divisive past, the Alliance party won a seat. It takes no position on the question of Irish unity but instead seeks to build a common future for all the people of the province.

But above all, this is an election of change.

Change has come in the form of a Labour Party that, in 2019, reeled from its worst ever post-Second World War result under its left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn. He was ousted as Sir Keir set about moving the party to a centrist position, building relationships with business and commerce, listening to disgruntled voters fed up with living in a broken Britain, and ran a steady campaign that was built on trust and competency rather than gimmicks and promises.

Corbyn held his seat, and four pro-Palestinian candidates also took seats that were otherwise Labour.

For now Labour is digesting the outcome of a historic win. The future begins today.