Keir Starmer Poised to Become UK’s Next Prime Minister as Labour Party Eyes Major Victory

Keir Starmer is projected to be Britain’s next prime minister, with his Labour Party expected to secure a significant majority in the parliamentary election, according to an exit poll on Thursday. In contrast, Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are forecast to endure historic losses.

The centre-left Labour Party is on track to win 410 of the 650 seats in parliament, marking an extraordinary turnaround from five years ago when it experienced its worst performance since 1935.

This result would give Labour a 170-seat majority, concluding 14 years of increasingly tumultuous Conservative-led government.

“To everyone who has campaigned for Labour in this election, to everyone who voted for us and put their trust in our changed Labour Party – thank you,” Starmer said on X/Twitter.

Sunak’s party is predicted to win only 131 seats, the worst electoral performance in its history. Voters appeared to punish the Conservatives for the cost-of-living crisis and years of instability and in-fighting, which have seen five different prime ministers since the Brexit vote in 2016.

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer walk outside a polling station during the general election in London, Britain, July 4, 2024. Credit: Reuters/ Claudia Greco
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer walk outside a polling station during the general election in London, Britain, July 4, 2024. Credit: Reuters/ Claudia Greco

The centrist Liberal Democrats are anticipated to secure 61 seats, while the right-wing populist Reform UK party, led by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, who pledged to destroy the Conservative party, is forecast to win 13.

While the prediction for Reform is better than expected, the overall outcome suggests the disenchanted British public has shifted support to the centre-left, unlike in France where Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party made historic gains in an election last Sunday.

It wasn’t just the Conservatives whose vote was predicted to collapse. The pro-independence Scottish National Party is forecast to win only 10 seats, its worst showing since 2010, following a period of turmoil with two leaders quitting in just over a year.

In the last six UK elections, only one exit poll has been wrong. Official results will follow in the next few hours.

“If this exit poll is correct, then this is a historic defeat for the Conservative Party, one of the most resilient forces we have seen in British political history,” Keiran Pedley, research director at Ipsos, which conducted the exit poll, told Reuters.
“It looked like the Conservatives were going to be in power for 10 years and it has all fallen apart.”

Sunak surprised Westminster and many in his own party by calling the election earlier than necessary in May, with the Conservatives trailing Labour by about 20 points in opinion polls.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, May 22, 2024. Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville.
Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are forecast to suffer historic losses. Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville.

He had hoped the gap would narrow, as traditionally happens in British elections, but the deficit remained in a fairly disastrous campaign.

It began badly with him getting drenched by rain outside Downing Street as he announced the vote, before aides and Conservative candidates became embroiled in a gambling scandal over suspicious bets placed on the election date.

Sunak’s early departure from D-Day commemorative events in France for a TV interview angered veterans, and even members of his own party said it raised questions about his political judgement.

If the exit poll proves accurate, it represents an incredible turnaround for Starmer and Labour, which critics and supporters said faced an existential crisis just three years ago after its 2019 defeat.

However, a series of scandals, notably revelations of parties in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns, undermined then prime minister Boris Johnson, and commanding poll leads evaporated.

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

“That turnaround is pretty unprecedented in British history and just goes to show the scale of volatility with voters at the moment when they think their promises have been broken,” Pedley said.

While polls suggest there is no great enthusiasm for Labour leader Starmer, his simple message that it was time for change appears to have resonated with voters.

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

Mibenge Nsenduluka

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