Jeremy Corbyn wins seat as an independent; Galloway ousted

UK’s Labour wins landslide election victory; incoming PM Starmer: Change begins now

Conservatives projected to suffer historic losses; incumbent Rishi Sunak concedes; right-wing Reform UK leader Nigel Farage wins seat at 7th attempt

  • Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer delivers a speech at a victory rally at the Tate Modern in London early on July 5, 2024.(AP/Kin Cheung)
    Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer delivers a speech at a victory rally at the Tate Modern in London early on July 5, 2024.(AP/Kin Cheung)
  • Britain's outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak closes his eyes as he waits for the declaration of results for  his seat in the general election at the Richmond and Northallerton count center in Northallerton, England, July 5, 2024. (Darren Staples, Pool via AP)
    Britain's outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak closes his eyes as he waits for the declaration of results for his seat in the general election at the Richmond and Northallerton count center in Northallerton, England, July 5, 2024. (Darren Staples, Pool via AP)
  • Victorious UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer kisses his wife Victoria after speaking to his supporters at the Tate Modern in London, July 5, 2024. Labour swept to power after winning the country's general election. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Victorious UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer kisses his wife Victoria after speaking to his supporters at the Tate Modern in London, July 5, 2024. Labour swept to power after winning the country's general election. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
  • Reform UK leader Nigel Farage (C) celebrates after being elected to become MP for Clacton at the Clacton count centre in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, early on July 5, 2024.(HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)
    Reform UK leader Nigel Farage (C) celebrates after being elected to become MP for Clacton at the Clacton count centre in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, early on July 5, 2024.(HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)
  • Britain's former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn poses outside Islington Town Hall in London on June 5, 2024 after submitting his nomination papers to officially stand as an Independent candidate in Islington North for the July 4 general election. Corbyn defeated the Labour candidate to win the seat on July 4. (Justin Tallis/AFP)
    Britain's former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn poses outside Islington Town Hall in London on June 5, 2024 after submitting his nomination papers to officially stand as an Independent candidate in Islington North for the July 4 general election. Corbyn defeated the Labour candidate to win the seat on July 4. (Justin Tallis/AFP)
  • Members of the media watch the results of the general election exit poll on a large TV screen at the count for the Holborn and St Pancras constituency where the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is standing for election, in London, Thursday, July 4, 2024. An exit poll suggests the Labour Party is headed for a huge majority in Britain's election, ending 14 years of Conservative rule. The poll released moments after polls closed on Thursday indicates that Labour leader Keir Starmer will be the country's next prime minister. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
    Members of the media watch the results of the general election exit poll on a large TV screen at the count for the Holborn and St Pancras constituency where the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is standing for election, in London, Thursday, July 4, 2024. An exit poll suggests the Labour Party is headed for a huge majority in Britain's election, ending 14 years of Conservative rule. The poll released moments after polls closed on Thursday indicates that Labour leader Keir Starmer will be the country's next prime minister. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
  • Britain's Labour Party leader and incoming prime minister Keir Starmer gives a thumbs up to his supporters after he was elected for the Holborn and St Pancras constituency, in London, Friday, July 5, 2024.(AP/Kin Cheung)
    Britain's Labour Party leader and incoming prime minister Keir Starmer gives a thumbs up to his supporters after he was elected for the Holborn and St Pancras constituency, in London, Friday, July 5, 2024.(AP/Kin Cheung)

Keir Starmer will become Britain’s next prime minister on Friday after the Labour Party won the required 326 seats, achieving a parliamentary majority as results indicated that Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives were on track to suffer historic losses.

“We did it! Change begins now,” Starmer said in an early morning victory speech.

He had earlier thanked the electorate for putting its trust in his “changed Labour party,” which he took over in 2020. He then battled to rout antisemitism from the party, and suspended its former far-left leader Jeremy Corbyn. In his victory speech, Starmer said the fight for trust would be the “battle that defines our age” and he would be judged on his ability to show that politics could be a force for good in the world.

Center-left Labour was on course to capture 410 of the 650 seats in parliament, an astonishing reversal of fortunes from five years ago when it suffered its worst performance since 1935 under Corbyn’s leadership.

The result would give Labour a majority of 170 and would bring the curtain down on 14 years of increasingly tumultuous Conservative-led government.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded defeat on Friday morning after the vote showed he had successfully retained his parliamentary seat in northern England.

“The Labour Party has won this general election and I have called Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory,” Sunak said after winning his parliamentary seat in northern England.

“Today, power will change hands in a peaceful and orderly manner, with goodwill on all sides. That is something that should give us all confidence in our country’s stability and future,” he said.

Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak arrives for the declaration of results for Richmond and Northallerton in Northallerton, north of England, early on July 5, 2024. (Darren Staples / AFP)

After winning his London seat, Starmer said that the still incomplete results proved that “tonight, people here and around the country have spoken and they’re ready for change, to end the politics of performance, a return to politics as public service.”

As is the custom in the UK, where prime ministers and prime minister-hopefuls often find themselves facing comic candidates, Starmer also shared the stage with Nick the Incredible Flying Brick, of the Monster Raving Looney Party, who gained 162 votes; and Bobby “Elmo” Smith, who won 19 votes while dressed as the beloved Sesame Street character.

“The change begins right here,” Starmer added. Because this is your democracy, your community and your future. You have voted. It is now time for us to deliver.”

Britain’s Labour Party leader Keir Starmer delivers a speech during a victory rally at the Tate Modern in London early on July 5, 2024. The UK’s Labour Party swept to power after winning the country’s general election. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Several hours later, as the votes continued to trickle in showing a landslide Labour victory, Starmer pledged to begin a period of “national renewal” in the UK.

“Today we start the next chapter — begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal and start to rebuild our country,” Starmer said in a triumphant victory speech in London.

“Our task is nothing less than renewing the ideas that hold this country together: national renewal,” he told supporters. “The fight for trust is the battle that defines our age. It is why we’ve campaigned so hard on demonstrating we are fit for public service.”

Britain’s Labour Party leader and incoming prime minister Keir Starmer shakes hands with comic candidates who stood in his constituency after his election for the Holborn and St Pancras constituency, in London, July 5, 2024.(AP/Kin Cheung)

Starmer will come to power with a daunting in-tray, a sluggish economy, creaking public services, and falling living standards — all factors that contributed to the Conservatives’ demise.

Starmer’s predecessor Corbyn retained his seat in Islington North after standing as an independent candidate, winning 24,120 votes. The constituency’s Labour candidate, widely seen as Corbyn’s strongest contender, trailed far behind with 16,873 votes.

The far-left lawmaker was suspended from Labour in 2020 due to remarks he made following an investigation into antisemitism in the party under his leadership.

Britain’s former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn poses outside Islington Town Hall in London on June 5, 2024 after submitting his nomination papers to officially stand as an Independent candidate in Islington North for the July 4 general election. Corbyn defeated the Labour candidate to win the seat on July 4. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

Corbyn’s fellow exiled Labour member George Galloway was less successful than the Islington North MP, and lost his seat in the northern constituency of Rochdale, just months after winning a by-election.

The leader of the fringe Workers Party of Great Britain ran a campaign largely focused on the war between Israel and Hamas, aiming to capture the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian vote in his constituency, which has a 30 percent Muslim population.

In an unusual move, Galloway declined to appear on stage with the rest of the Rochdale candidates as the constituency’s results were announced.

File: Newly elected Rochdale MP George Galloway makes a statement to members of the media outside of the Houses of Parliament in London on March 4, 2024, after his swearing-in ceremony. (Adrian DENNIS/AFP)

The result of the Labour Party’s decisive shift away from Corbyn-era policies was apparent in the constituency of Finchley and Golders Green, home to one of the UK’s largest Jewish communities, where Jewish Labour Party candidate Sarah Sackman won a parliamentary seat with 44.3% of the vote.

Sackman’s win was in stark contrast to the Labour Party’s showing in the 2019 elections when the party received just 24.2% of the vote in Finchley and Golders Green.

Her victory returned the constituency to Labour for the first time since 2010. Conservative MP Mike Freer, who served as the constituency’s MP for 14 years, announced earlier this year that he would not be standing for reelection due to relentless threats and attacks he has faced, including an arson attack on his office in December last year.

Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak closes his eyes as he waits for the declaration of results for his seat in the general election at the Richmond and Northallerton count center in Northallerton, England, July 5, 2024. (Darren Staples, Pool via AP)

Sunak’s Conservative party was forecast to win just 131 seats, the worst electoral performance in its history, as voters punished them for a cost-of-living crisis and years of instability and in-fighting which has seen five different prime ministers since the 2016 Brexit vote.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps became the first senior Conservative member to lose his parliamentary seat on Friday, winning 16,078 votes compared to Labour candidate Andrew Lewin’s 19,877.

The centrist Liberal Democrats were predicted to capture 61 seats while the right-wing populist Reform UK party, headed by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage was forecast to win 13, far more than expected.

Farage’s party won its first-ever parliamentary seats in the early hours of Friday morning, as Farage himself won his first election bid after seven failed attempts.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage (C) celebrates after being elected to become MP for Clacton at the Clacton count centre in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, early on July 5, 2024.(HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP)

After a campaign that drew many voters away from the Conservatives, Farage promised in his speech after winning that the party would be coming for Labour voters next, and estimated that Starmer’s party would soon run into problems, saying that there was “no enthusiasm” for the party under his leadership.

Results from more than 120 seats confirmed Labour and the Liberal Democrats were making gains from the Conservatives, while Reform also claimed its first victories, and pushed the Conservatives into third place in many areas.

Members of the media watch the results of the general election exit poll on a large TV screen at the count for the Holborn and St Pancras constituency where the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is standing for election, in London, Thursday, July 4, 2024. (AP/Kin Cheung)

“Reform has clearly done well tonight and I know the reaction of some of my colleagues will be that we should lurch to the right,” one Conservative lawmaker, who declined to be named, told Reuters. “But Labour have won this election in the center and we need to remember that lesson.”

Overall, the exit poll did suggest British voters had shifted support to an internationalist centre-left party, unlike in France where Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party made historic gains in an election last Sunday.

It was not just the Conservatives whose vote was predicted to have collapsed. The pro-independence Scottish National Party was forecast to win only 10 seats, its worst showing since 2010, after a period of turmoil which has seen two leaders quit in little over a year.

“If this exit poll is correct, then this is a historic defeat for the Conservative Party,” Keiran Pedley, research director at Ipsos, which carried out 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 ‘Fall Guy’

Sunak stunned Westminster and many in his own party by calling the election earlier than he needed to in May with the Conservatives trailing Labour by some 20 points in opinion polls.

He had hoped that the gap would narrow as had traditionally been the case in British elections but instead had a fairly disastrous campaign.

It started badly with him getting drenched by rain outside Downing Street as he announced the vote before aides and Conservative candidates became caught up in a gambling scandal, and Sunak’s early departure from D-Day commemorative events in France further fuelled criticism.

If the exit poll proves right, it represents an incredible turnaround for Starmer and Labour, which critics and supporters said was facing an existential crisis just three years ago when it appeared to have lost its way after its 2019 drubbing.

Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer at a live TV debate hosted by The BBC, in Nottingham, on June 26, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4, 2024. (Phil Noble / Pool / AFP)

But a series of scandals — most notably revelations of parties in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns — undermined then prime minister Boris Johnson and its commanding poll lead evaporated.

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

“We deserved to lose. The Conservative Party just appears exhausted and out of ideas,” Ed Costello, the chairman of the Grassroots Conservatives organization, which represents rank-and-file members, told Reuters.

“But it is not all Rishi Sunak’s fault. It is Boris Johnson and Liz Truss that have led the party to disaster. Rishi Sunak is just the fall guy.”

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

“The electoral mountain that Labour has needed to climb is bigger than Tony Blair had to climb and he (Starmer) has climbed it with room to spare,” Peter Sloman, a professor of politics at the University of Cambridge, told Reuters.

Victorious UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer kisses his wife Victoria after speaking to his supporters at the Tate Modern in London, July 5, 2024. Labour swept to power after winning the country’s general election. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Under Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party needs 326 seats to win an overall majority in parliament.

The leader of the winning party is expected to meet head of state King Charles III on Friday morning, who will ask the leader of the largest party to form a government.

The Tories worst previous election result is 156 seats in 1906. Former leader William Hague told Times Radio the projections would be “a catastrophic result in historic terms.”

British newspapers all focused on Labour’s impending return to power for the first time since the days of Gordon Brown.

“Keir We Go,” headlined the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror. “Britain sees red,” said The Sun, the influential Rupert Murdoch tabloid which swung behind Labour for the first time since 2005.

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