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The Conservative Party’s Downfall: Lesson from a Historic Defeat in UK Election By Kashif Mirza


Jul 8, 2024

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of All

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation



Britain elected its first Labour prime minister in 14 years, with a landslide victory for the opposition party during the July 4 elections. PM Keir Starmer takes the country’s top job from Rishi Sunak with projections suggesting his left-of-center party could have a majority of around 170 seats. Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, is the prime minister after Labour won the 2024 general election. In his first speech at Downing Street, he said he wanted to form “a government of service”. Starmer has had a rapid political ascent after entering the U.K. Parliament less than a decade ago. But many Britons still know little about the man who has positioned himself as the country’s change candidate. After postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford, Starmer began working as a barrister. Starmer also served as a human rights advisor during former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s landmark Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement. Starmer was knighted in 2014 for his services to criminal justice and was elected to Parliament the following year, serving as immigration minister and Brexit minister for the opposition. In 2020, he was appointed Labour leader and instigated a major overhaul of the party after the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn, who led the faction to a record loss in the 2019 election. In his 2024 election campaign, Starmer touted a “decade of national renewal” for the country following what Labour has described as years of spending cuts and falling living standards under the Tories. The UK general election is a pivotal moment for Britain after 14 years of Conservative Party government. Polls suggest that the centre-left Labour Party is set to return to power in what would be a fundamental realignment of British politics. With all of the 650 seats declared, Keir Starmer has taken office as the new prime minister with a large Labour majority. Millions of voters in 650 constituencies are voting for candidates to represent them as members of Parliament. The political party that wins the most seats usually forms Britain’s next government, and that party’s leader also becomes prime minister. To win an overall majority, a party must secure 326 seats. If the top party falls short of that, it can try to form a government with backing from others. UK new prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party won a landslide election victory, while the Conservative Party, which had held power for 14 years, suffered its worst-ever defeat. And outside 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak offered an apology. The House of Commons is the main lawmaking body for the United Kingdom, the other being the unelected House of Lords. It consists of 650 members, each of whom is elected by a geographical constituency of roughly equal population. In each constituency, the candidate with the largest number of votes wins. There is no need to win 50% of the vote, and votes for other candidates are in effect lost. This is known as first-past-the-post voting. The Commons also chooses the prime minister. By convention, the monarch invites the leader of the largest party to form a government. The prospective prime minister needs to have the support of the majority of MPs. This is possible if they lead a party with an overall majority or have the backing of other parties. A majority technically requires 326 MPs (half of all seats plus one), but a small number of MPs – including the speaker, his deputies and the members of Sinn Féin – do not usually vote. This means a working majority can be achieved with just under 50% of seats. Under Mr Sunak, the Conservatives have suffered stinging losses in parliamentary special elections and elections for mayors and local councils. Defenders of Mr. Sunak, say he is a victim of the global economic headwinds coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, and argue that he deserves credit for steadying the markets. But he never followed that up with a convincing strategy to recharge growth. Nor did he fulfil two other promises: to cut waiting times in the National Health Service and to stop the small boats carrying asylum seekers across the English Channel. Mr Sunak, a one-time Goldman Sachs banker whose wife is the daughter of an Indian technology billionaire, is simply not relatable. Labour has maintained a double-digit lead in the polls for more than 18 months. Mr Starmer, 61, a former public prosecutor and human rights lawyer, has methodically repositioned the party as a centre-left alternative to the divided, erratic, sometimes extremist Conservatives. If Labour prevails, Mr Starmer would become the party’s first prime minister since Gordon Brown left office in 2010. A Labour government would operate under strict financial constraints, which has raised questions about whether Mr Starmer would have to raise taxes to pay for promised investments in the N.H.S. and other public services. While he has issued a blanket promise not to raise taxes on “working people,” Labour is expected to raise taxes on oil and gas companies, private equity firms and high-income foreigners who live in Britain. A small anti-immigration party, Reform has risen in the polls in recent months, and Conservative officials fear it could siphon away supporters from their candidates. That has shaken up the race and could help Labour by dividing the right-wing vote. The Liberal Democrats, a small centrist party, are well placed to win seats in affluent areas like Surrey, where right-leaning voters find the party more palatable than Labour. The Lib Dems made health and social care major priorities of their campaign and were helped by Mr Davey, 58, who spoke movingly about his personal struggles, including caring for his disabled teenage son. He also subjected himself to publicity stunts, including bungee jumping and paddle boarding, trying to draw attention away from the party’s bigger rivals. In Scotland, the once-dominant Scottish National Party has been weakened by a funding scandal and the departure of Nicola Sturgeon as first minister, giving Labour a chance of picking up more seats there and easing Mr Starmer’s path to becoming prime minister. The Green Party made sizable gains in local elections in early May, and pre-election polling suggested that it was picking up support among left-wing voters, especially 18- to 24-year-olds, alienated by Labour’s move to the centre. In May 2011, there was a UK-wide referendum on whether to bring in an alternative voting (AV) system instead of first-past-the-post. It was known as the AV referendum. However, only 42 per cent of voters turned out to vote in the referendum, and nearly 68 per cent were against introducing AV. A number of more things happened. First of all, it’s important to remember that the Conservative Party had been in office for 14 years.

The Conservative Party’s landslide defeat teach us that Conservative Party worst-ever defeat indeed Britain’s Political Earthquake which takeaways from power to opposition.

The Conservative Party in the United Kingdom suffered its worst-ever defeat in the recent elections, losing to the Labour Party, led by Sir Keir Starmer. The British party system may be fragmenting but voters delivered a coherent message. Several factors contributed to this loss, including Long tenure; The Conservative Party had been in power for 14 years, making it difficult for them to secure a fifth consecutive election victory; Divisive policies: The party implemented austerity measures, navigated the divisive Brexit, and faced challenges during the pandemic and the Ukraine war. Unpopular leadership; Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss made unpopular decisions that alienated voters. Johnson’s staff held lockdown parties during the pandemic, and Truss’s mini-budget was seen as disastrous; Split on the right: The emergence of the Reform Party, led by Nigel Farage, split the right-wing vote and took 14% of the vote, damaging the Conservative Party; Anti-incumbency sentiment: Across Europe, there is an anti-incumbency trend, which affected the Conservative Party as the incumbent party in the UK. Some more reasons that contributed to the Conservative Party’s loss in the UK general election; The Conservative Party’s handling of Brexit led to rising living costs, shrinking household budgets and skyrocketing accommodation prices, which lost them support; The Conservative Party’s confusing and ineffective immigration policies lost them support among their voters; The Conservative government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the initial strategy and the handling of lockdowns, was heavily criticized; The deterioration of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) under the Conservative Party’s rule was seen as a broken promise; The Conservative Party’s handling of the economy and the rising cost of living was criticized for favoring the wealthy and not doing enough for the broader population; Liz Truss’s mini-budget caused financial turmoil and damaged public trust in the Conservative Party; Rishi Sunak’s perceived wealth and lack of political charisma made him seem out of touch with ordinary people and unable to make strong, decisive decisions; No British political party has ever won a fifth successive term in office, and voters were ready for a change; British politics tends to work in cycles, with the two main parties usually getting a run of between 10 to 15 years before the public votes in the opposition. No British government has ever won five consecutive election victories on the bounce. So the odds were stacked against them. On top of which, they’d been very difficult years, and had a period of austerity, which saw big cuts to public services. The UK had Brexit, which was obviously terribly divisive. And then, in the wake of the pandemic and the Ukraine war, had bad inflation, the cost of living crisis and further strain on public services. On top of that, the UK had two prime ministers, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who alienated the public. Boris Johnson by holding – his Downing Street staff holding lockdown parties during the COVID pandemic, having set a rule for everybody else – his people didn’t obey themselves. And then Liz Truss, who was very briefly prime minister, held a disastrous mini-budget, which shattered the Conservatives’ reputation for economic confidence. So all of those things together meant that the country was just fundamentally sick of them. It certainly didn’t help that you had this split on the right, which ate terribly into their vote.

Historically, in Britain, there has only really been one important party of the right, and that’s the Conservatives. Whereas, the parties of the left have been split between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in particular. Well, this time, there was a major party of the right, which took 14% of the vote and did untold damage to the Conservative Party across the country. The question that’s not entirely clear and we’ll only begin to understand in the months ahead is whether that’s a permanent feature now or whether that was simply a manifestation of the anger felt by former conservatives, and those people might over time be coaxed back. The point is that there’s been an anti-incumbency element to what’s going on across Europe, and obviously, the incumbents in Britain were the Conservatives. Therefore, the natural alternative historically has always been the Labour Party. The question now is whether Britain’s Conservative Party, which has been a broad coalition of right-wing groups or sort of moderate right moving rightwards – whether that now becomes more like some of the parties that you’re seeing in the European Union or, indeed, in the Republican Party in America, whether they move towards being that more nationalistic radical right grouping or whether they attempt to stay as a sort of broad coalition. There will be a big debate now that the Conservative Party has lost a lot of leaders in this election. So a lot of people who might have been potential leadership contenders have lost their seats. There will be a big debate as to the real causes of their defeat. Those on the right will argue that they lost because they opened up space for Nigel Farage. They betrayed conservative principles, and they needed to get back to them and take his votes from him. Others in the mainstream will say they essentially lost because they lost their reputation for competence, for governing well and because people in Britain were not feeling better off. That’s the debate that’s got to be had. And, of course, there’s a bit of truth in both. Fundamentally, they lost because the country thought they were doing a very bad job and was fed up with them. But that debate will focus on which way they go in terms of their future leadership and, obviously, their future direction more generally. The UK’s Conservative Party’s worst-ever defeat offers several lessons that long tenure in power can lead to arrogance and disconnect from voters’ concerns; Polarizing decisions like Brexit and austerity measures can alienate significant voter segments; Unpopular leaders can harm the party’s image and electoral chances; Failure to address economic woes and inequality can erode voter trust; Scandals and perceived corruption can significantly damage a party’s reputation; Failing to acknowledge and address voter dissatisfaction can lead to electoral defeat; Parties must evolve and respond to changing public sentiments and needs to remain relevant; Infighting and ideological splits can weaken a party’s electoral prospects; A strong and united opposition can capitalize on the ruling party’s weaknesses and win elections; and voters can punish parties that become too comfortable or out of touch, ensuring accountability and fresh perspectives in government. This highlights the significance of the event, emphasizes the lessons that can be learned from it, and invites readers to explore the insights and implications of the Conservative Party’s historic defeat in the UK election. The Conservative Party’s landslide defeat teaches us that the Conservative Party’s worst-ever defeat is indeed Britain’s Political Earthquake which takes away from power to the opposition.

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