UK election: Exit polls show landslide win for Labor; Tories out after 14 years in power – National & International News – THU 4Jul2024

UK election: Exit polls show landslide win for Labor; Tories out after 14 years in power

Polling places across the UK closed just minutes ago and votes are yet to be officially tallied. An exit poll which is usually accurate within a margin of 1-7 seats has predicted that the Labor Party, led by centrist Keir Starmer, has won a major victory. Polls predict an outright majority for Labor, meaning they will have the seats to rule without forming a coalition with another party. The Conservatives (Tories), led by current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have not only lost their government, the poll predicts that they will have the fewest seats they have held in Parliament since World War II (about 130).

The Tory government has been plagued by scandals and two years ago had a messy changing of the guard. Former PM Boris Johnson stepped down following a scandal over a party held at his official residence during Britain’s harsh COVID lockdown during which such gatherings were prohibited. He was succeeded by Liz Truss (whose premiership was famously outlasted by a head of lettuce). Rishi Sunak then took over in October 2022.

New boss same as the old boss?

The Tories and their policies of austerity and privatization have been blamed for growing economic hardship and public sector dysfunction in the UK. In particular, the Tories’ drive to privatize parts of the National Health System while reducing staff (and refusing to give pay rises to staff) have contributed to a breakdown in a publicly-funded health system that was once the envy of the world.

It’s not clear yet whether a new Labor government under Starmer will bring any remedy for these problems. Starmer has been widely criticized, even by Labor voters, for leaning too far to the right. In the weeks leading up to the election, Starmer scrambled to put together a domestic agenda that would set Labor apart from their Tory rivals. However, with regard to reforming the NHS, a priority for many Labor voters, Starmer has embraced a policy of leaning into “public-private partnerships”. Rather than committing to rolling back privatizations which many believe have eroded the NHS’s effectiveness, Starmer is likely to continue under his government.

There’s not much daylight between Starmer and Sunak on foreign policy issues either. For example, Starmer has fully backed Sunak’s policy of unflinching support for Israel despite widespread protests across the UK (especially on the left) against what many see as a genocide being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza.  

Jeremy Corbyn returns as Independent

Former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has reclaimed his seat as an Independent, soundly defeating a Labor challenger. Corbyn is a socialist whose progressive anti-austerity platform drove the Labor Party to its highest-ever membership during his time as leader from 2015-2020. However, centrist elements of the party who favored neoliberal policies openly opposed him.

In 2019, Corbyn, a longtime champion of the Palestinian cause, was accused of tolerating antisemitism within the Labor Party. Corbyn vehemently denied the accusations and even took steps to try to combat antisemitism and other forms of racism within the party. It is now widely recognized that these accusations were overblown and trumpeted in the British press in an effort to undermine Corbyn’s leadership. Unfortunately, it worked and in the 2020 elections, Labor not only failed to unseat the Tory government but actually lost seats. Corbyn then stepped down from leadership.

Shortly after Keir Starmer took over the Party in 2020, Corbyn was suspended as a member of the Labor Party. The suspension essentially muzzled Corbyn, preventing him from speaking on the floor of Parliament, until he was finally formally expelled earlier this year. However, when Israel’s military assault on Gaza commenced in October, Corbyn and others spoke out calling for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Starmer defended actions by Israel that are widely condemned as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yesterday, Corbyn was one of a handful of independent pro-Palestinian candidates who managed in this election to defeat Labor candidates in districts that have been Labor strongholds for decades. Their presence in Parliament is sure to create waves and set the stage for a sharp public policy contrast on the conflict.

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