UK Election: Labour’s landslide victory masks threat from fragmented electorate | International

UK Election: Labour’s landslide victory masks threat from fragmented electorate | International
UK Election: Labour’s landslide victory masks threat from fragmented electorate | International

The two-party system of British politics has so far had the virtue of guaranteeing comfortable governability to the winner. And Thursday’s elections were no exception. The Labour Party has obtained a historic majority of 412 MPs, in a House of Commons with 650 representatives. Keir Starmer has the mandate, the legitimacy and the strength to undertake the changes and reforms he has promised.

But the results, not so much in terms of seats as in terms of votes, reflect worrying cracks that should put both the Conservatives and Labour on alert. Nigel Farage’s populist right could, over time, become as worrying a factor as other far-right forces in the rest of Europe. And the return of the Liberal Democrats, the third-largest parliamentary group in terms of MPs, calls into question the future prevalence of the two main parties in some regions of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, turnout was one of the lowest in the series, at 60%.

To appreciate the magnitude of these threats, it is worth comparing the figures for 2024 with those of some recent elections. The figures for 2019 are not valid, because the emergence of Boris Johnson and his promise to bring Brexit to a successful conclusion caused an earthquake that, five years later, has been restored. A comparison with the 2017 elections is more useful, to see how the balance of power has changed.

In those elections, the tories The left, led by Jeremy Corbyn, won 13.6 million votes (around 43% of the total). The left, led by Jeremy Corbyn, won 12.8 million votes (40% more than now). Seven years later, the figures are 6.7 (24%) and 9.6 million (34%) respectively. UKIP, the party led by Farage at the time, won almost 600,000 votes. On Thursday, Reform UK received 4 million votes (14%). The 2.3 million received by the Liberal Democrats in 2017 have this week fallen to approximately 3.5 (12%). The Scottish separatists’ million votes are now down to 685,000.

“There is no enthusiasm for the Labour Party, or for Keir Starmer. Half of the votes they have garnered were votes to punish the Conservative Party,” Farage explained on Thursday evening, after confirming that he had finally obtained his own seat in the Clacton-on-Sea constituency. “This Labour government is going to start having problems very, very soon, and we are going to go after their votes immediately. Have no doubt about it,” the populist politician threatened.

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Reform UK candidates finished second, behind Labour and ahead of the toriesin around 100 constituencies in the north of England. This is the famous red wall (red wall), the territories that had historically always voted Labour until they were seduced by Boris Johnson’s Brexit. Starmer has managed to win them back, thanks to the disappointment caused by five years of frustrated promises.

Blyth, Ashington, South Shields, Sunderland Central… in all these towns unemployment is high and economic prospects are weak. They all voted in favour of leaving the EU.

If the new Labour government does not immediately produce improvements and positive results, the far right may rise again in all these places with a vengeance.

The five Reform UK MPs, led by Farage, can make enough noise in the House of Commons on issues they feel more comfortable with than Labour, such as immigration, to scrape support for Starmer’s government in the ‘red wall’.

The resurgence of the liberal democrats

The decline of the Conservative Party has made the Liberal Democrats, in the eyes of many moderate voters, particularly in the south of England, a centrist – and above all, pro-European – option that is more permanent than strategic. “For the first time in recent memory, the first-past-the-post system has favoured the poor,” he said. lib-dems, “They have won more seats than at their peak in history, the 2005 elections, with around half the percentage of the vote,” explains Chris Hopkins, director of political research at the polling firm Savanta. In 2005, they needed 22.1% of the vote to win 62 seats. On Thursday, with the support of 12.2% of the electorate, they won 71 seats.

…and the Scottish twist

The Scottish National Party’s internal funding scandal, which led to the arrest of historic leader Nicola Sturgeon, and its confusing twists and turns in its independence strategy, have tired voters. Many of them have also seen in the Labour Party the useful option to finally get rid of the conservative government in London. In 2019, the left-wing party won only one of the 57 seats that Scotland sends to the Westminster Parliament. This Thursday it won 37. Five years ago the SNP won 48 of those seats. On Thursday it collapsed: it won only 9 representatives. “Voters are increasingly volatile, and they are more inclined to change the direction of their support. Parties are finding it increasingly difficult to understand and captivate voters who no longer automatically belong to them,” says Hopkins.

The lesson for Starmer from his undisputed and overwhelming victory is that it was not due to a structural and consolidated change in the tendency of the electorate, but to a factor as volatile and unstable as the desire to destroy the legacy of 14 years of conservative governments. The new prime minister now faces the complicated task of preventing voters from soon regretting his turn.

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