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A Labour Landslide and a Lesson for Conservatives

Forget the spin, here’s why the Tories lost.

The results are in for the UK election, and the Labour Party has secured a historic victory and a huge majority in Parliament. Winning an estimated 410 seats out of the 650 total, Britain’s left-leaning party will now form the new government, leaving 14 years of Conservative Party (Tory) rule in the dust. This was a stunning result for Labour, one made possible by the total collapse of the Tory voting base. However, the fine print spells out a few uncomfortable home truths for both the leading parties in British politics.

How Well Did Labour Really Do?

The headline number of 410 seats does not paint the entire picture. The Labour Party has won around 63% of the parliamentary seats (similar to congressional seats) – an increase of more than 200 seats on its 2019 performance. Yet its share of the vote is approximately 33.9% – just one-and-a-half percent higher than the 32.2% they won last time around. So where does this outsized sway in seats come from?

In reality, there was not a massive swing towards Labour – the numbers show that in 2019, the party earned a little over 10.3 million votes. Last night, this dropped to 9.6 million, meaning Labour actually lost votes. This was not a surge towards Labour, but rather a flood away from the Conservative Party.

The last election saw the Tories win 365 seats with 43.6% of the vote – quite the discrepancy. Yesterday, the party won just 6.7 million compared to 2019’s 14 million, a more than 50% reduction.

Certainly, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer deserves his victory lap. However, one wonders how stable a government he will now form considering he had fewer people vote for his party this time around.  The implosion of the Conservative Party has granted Starmer a huge mandate, but the British people are famously fickle when it comes to parties utilizing their power. Case in point: In 2019, the Tories won a historic mandate; in 2024, they suffered an equally historic loss.

What Spooked the Tory Voters?

The aftermath of a poor election result is often a time for reflection and regrouping – with just 119 Tory members of parliament remaining, one might rightly ask what there is left to regroup. Yet it seems that the electoral lessons are falling on deaf ears.

General Election campaign 2024Reform UK leader Nigel Farage gives a speech to supporters on Clacton Pier in Essex, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Wednesday July 3, 2024. (Photo by Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images)

(Photo by Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images)

The Conservatives were wiped out because their voter base saw them as not being conservative enough. Whether it was implementing the highest tax rate of the last 70 years or overseeing the mass uncontrolled illegal immigration that it seemed to be powerless to confront, the difference between Labour and Conservative was hard to define.

In fact, on issues like Net Zero, the green agenda, and identity politics, Britain’s two leading parties often appeared like two sides of the same coin. And that’s where Reform UK entered the fray.

Headed by the man behind Brexit, Nigel Farage, the nascent Reform became a protest vote with teeth. While the newcomer only won four seats – which incidentally, is something that has not happened for 100 years – it earned more than four million votes nationally. Having just himself won a seat to British Parliament, the Reform Party leader explained the issue succinctly:

“There’s no enthusiasm for Labour, there’s no enthusiasm for Starmer whatsoever. In fact, about half of the vote is simply an anti-Conservative vote.

“This Labour government will be in trouble very, very quickly and we will now be targeting Labour votes. We’re coming for Labour, be in no doubt about that.

“Believe me folks, this is just the first step of something that is going to stun all of you.”

What Mr. Farage was openly hinting at was that the Conservative Party, as it is now perceived across the country, is a spent electoral force. More importantly, it is ripe for a takeover. In fact, recent polling suggested that more than 70% of Tory members would welcome Farage to the party with open arms, and many would even embrace him as the new leader.

Nigel Farage’s intent in this election was to teach the Tories a lesson they will not soon forget and to position himself as ready for the top job come 2029. And while some may lay the blame for a Labour victory squarely at his feet, it appears that the Conservatives’ abdication of a conservative position is the real culprit.

Election Apathy

Turnout in this election was the second lowest since 1885 – suggesting the British public is largely fed up with the status quo. Despite its huge majority, the Labour Party got fewer votes than it did when it faced a crushing loss in the last election. The Conservative Party was decimated by an upswell of resentment for what traditional Tory voters saw as its rejection of conservative principles.

Political norms are finished in the United Kingdom. While fearmongers will decry the coming Labour government, the reality is that policy-wise, there will be little difference between last year and the next. What is different is that the two-party system is effectively on notice. The Conservative Party has proven that it cannot win an election when it fails to distinguish itself from Labour, and Farage’s Reform Party has proven that it can, indeed, create a “bridgehead” in the closed shop of Parliament.

It’s a lesson that political parties across the world may be wise to consider.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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