Labour’s landslide win a rejection of austere economics

Voters did not just repudiate Rishi Sunak’s government—they voted on how all five Conservative prime ministers since 2010 have reshaped Britain.
Britain's Labour Party Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria arrive in Downing Street and greet supporters in London, Friday, July 5, 2024.
Britain's Labour Party Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria arrive in Downing Street and greet supporters in London, Friday, July 5, 2024.Associated Press

The irony was not lost on everyone. On July 4, the day Americans commemorate the ratification of their independence from British rule, the soul of the now-diminished kingdom, suppressed under austere Conservative policies for 14 years, found utterance. The British Labour Party swept aside the Tories with the largest parliamentary majority in a quarter century.

Many records tumbled through the night of counting. As support for the Conservatives cratered across the isles, a dozen cabinet ministers lost their seats, the highest since the second world war; Liz Truss became the first former prime minister to lose. The presence of 26 Indian-origin MPs in the UK House of Commons is now an all-time high.

Voters did not just repudiate Rishi Sunak’s government—they voted on how all five Conservative prime ministers since 2010 have reshaped Britain. Productivity and real wages have stagnated, welfare measures have been slashed, homelessness has soared, and investment rates have fallen to the lowest among the G7. A report estimates Brexit has cost the UK economy £140 billion between 2016 and 2023.

This was as much a vote for Labour as one against Conservatives. Labour won almost two-thirds of the seats off just a third of the votes, that too on the lowest turnout in more than two decades. For the first time ever in the UK, four parties bagged more than 10 percent of the votes and five others got more than 5 percent. Support for the three-party primacy, which includes the Liberal Democrats, has been sliding since 1987; this time it made way for a truly plural polity for the first time.

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader now sworn in as prime minister, has nudged his party towards the centre-ground of British politics since 2020, much like Tony Blair did in the 1990s. The shift, in part, meant that Starmer refused to unequivocally condemn Israel’s carnage in Gaza, which lost him up to a fifth of the Muslim vote. Jeremy Corbyn, the earlier Labour leader who broke from his party’s line, won his old seat as an independent. So when Starmer pledged to “deliver change”, his promise to reinvest in public services topped the British voter’s wishlist more than foreign policy. But we are sure some endearing things will not change. Larry, the 10 Downing Street cat, will be one of the few to survive this tectonic shift.

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