General Election 2024 – First Thoughts


General Election 2024 – First Thoughts

The politics team offers its – admittedly sleep deprived – first thoughts on what the election results mean.

Dr Dele Babalola – “Stop taking us for fools”: British voters tell politicians

The just concluded general election in the United Kingdom, like the 1997 election, delivered a clear message to the political establishment: British citizens are no longer ready to be underestimated. In an unprecedented display of democratic engagement, the electorate strongly rejected the status quo, demanding greater responsibility, less broken promises, and practical answers to the nation’s critical questions. Throughout the election campaign, there was a consistent push for increased political honesty and openness. The electorate was visibly frustrated with scandals, corruption, and a lack of responsibility among state officials.

The Labour Party’s overwhelming win shows widespread unhappiness with the previous administration’s handling of key issues such as the cost of living, healthcare, and public services. Voters were clearly disillusioned by bogus promises and political rhetoric. They were deeply unhappy with the disastrous state of their beloved NHS, the high unemployment level, and the underfunding of public institutions, particularly higher education.

It must be admitted that the election was a protest against the Conservatives, rather than an endorsement of Labour policies and ideas. A considerable section of the British public was displeased with Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic response, and the party’s policy on immigration. The Labour Party may not be the solution, but its stance on immigration undoubtedly played a role in their win. The party’s position on developing a fair and humane immigration system appealed to a diverse voter base. Events beyond the UK also contributed to the Conservatives’ catastrophic poll results. Some voters were especially unhappy with the government’s role in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The general election was a rallying cry from British voters to their politicians: “Stop taking us for fools.” It emphasised the electorate’s yearning for genuine leadership, politics of honesty, and responsive governance. As the new administration takes office, the onus is on them to put their promises into action and demonstrate that they are truly listening to those with the power to hire and fire.

Dr Sarah Lieberman – Who are the winners here?

Reform this, Reform that… You would think from the amount of media coverage that The Reform Party and its beer swilling, flat cap wearing leader Nigel Farrage, had won the General Election.

No. The Labour Party won the general election. Keir Starmer’s Labour Party won a huge landslide – bigger it would appear than in 1997 when Tony Blair won the biggest landslide majority since sliced bread. The Labour Party won 412 seats and 34% of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats have also ‘won’. Wiped out in 2015 after their unpopular coalition with the Conservative Party, they were reduced to four seats in Westminster. This morning they have 12% of the national vote and 71 seats, one of which is in Kent, our own county, which for so long has been awash with blue.

The Conservatives have definitely not won. They have lost 250 seats in Westminster, securing only 24% of the popular vote, coming from an 80 seat majority in 2019.

The Green Party have done well. They have secured 4 seats in Parliament, the most they have ever had meaning that environmental views will be well represented.

And this is exactly what Reform have also done. They have won 4 seats in Parliament. Yes, they have split the vote on the right and therefore taken a higher percentage of the vote than the Green Party (14% for Reform, versus 7% for the Greens), but they have won nothing more and nothing less than the Green Party.

In our first past the post electoral system, percentage means nothing and having the biggest share of the vote in particular bordered, boundaried areas means everything. The Liberal Democrat Party, for so long the 3rd Party in the UK have become accustomed to fighting elections by prioritising certain winnable seats – and their outcome today demonstrates this perfectly. The Reform Party have a bigger percentage, by 2%, but have focussed on challenging important Tory seats.

Nigel Farage has, and will continue, to claim his part in the Labour landslide, and yes, by splitting the vote on the right of the electorate he has indeed helped to bring about change. But let us not overstate his importance: voters who wanted change, voted for change, not necessarily for Nigel. The views of this section of the electorate will now be represented in Westminster, to exactly the same extent as those of the Green Party. If these seats truly reflect the feelings of 14% of the population, their views deserve to be represented in Parliament where they can be heard, discussed, and their fears addressed.

While their right wing economics are uncomfortable and racist views are frankly unpleasant, we must not underestimate the power of the UK political system to address this. Do not over-blow Nigel Farage’s success, that is exactly what he wants.

Dr Muzaffer Kutlay – A fascinating new chapter

On a rainy morning in London, the Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, delivered his victory speech. He said election results brought “the sunlight of hope” after 14 years of uninterrupted Conservative Party governments. The Labour Party won a landslide victory with 412 seats. This is no doubt a critical point in the political history of the UK. There is, of course, a lot to take about the election results —and experts are busy doing so. For me, three points are particularly interesting to watch.

First, Labour certainly has a landslide, but this is primarily because of the electoral system in the UK. The Party secured two-thirds of the seats in the parliament by receiving about one-third of the votes. How long the first-past-the-post-system will hold under the increasing challenge of non-major parties will be interesting to watch.

Second, after 14 years in government and several significant shocks, it was arguably inescapable for the Conservatives to take a major hit. The question is how Labour will cope with immediate challenges such as economic stagnation, migration issues, cost-of-living crisis, and poor state of public infrastructure and healthcare system.

Third, as a researcher working on European politics and the EU foreign policy, it would be interesting to follow how Labour will organise the UK-EU relations at a time when far-right is on the rise, given that the Party has already promised that the UK will not seek to re-join the EU, single market, or the Customs Union. This is certainly a new chapter and only time will tell whether the country “will get its future back”, as the new Prime Minister promised.

Dr Susan Kenyon: A jump to the left AND a step to the right

We are waking up to a new political landscape in the UK. But the message isn’t as simple as it may first seem.

After watching the results emerge live throughout the night, with our friends at KMTV, three observations jump immediately to mind.

The first is the extent to which this is a victory for the left, or the right.

In terms of seats in parliament, there has been a sizeable jump to the left. Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has almost two-thirds of seats, larger even than Tony Blair’s share in 1997. The Conservatives have fewer than 20% of seats.

However, there has simultaneously been a step to the right, when we look at the share of the vote. Labour have received around 35% of the votes. However, parties of the right – Conservative and Reform – have received around 40% of the vote, a remarkably stable percentage share.

Going forward, Labour will need to pay careful attention to building their support, speaking across political divides, if they are to take the country with them, consolidate their victory and avoid a swing back to the right in future elections.

The second is that turnout is substantially lower than in recent years. This is surprising – changes of government are usually accompanied, if not facilitated, by large turnouts. If disaffection with politics is to blame, all parties must work hard to restore faith and trust. Starmer’s key campaign message – that politicians are here to serve – must not only be heard, but also experienced, by the electorate, to restore belief and participation.

Finally, there was a common theme in victory and concession speeches, at counts across the country: the return of civility and compassion. At a time when our politicians are subject to constant verbal and physical threats – including Rosie Duffield MP in our constituency here in Canterbury – the importance of calm, respectful political participation, with passionate not poisonous debate, cannot be overstated.

As we look across the channel to east and across the pond to the west, we can see how close we are to countries for whom liberal democracy may be under threat. Starmer’s victory in parliament is an opportunity to restore political, not personal, politics and political, not populist, debate. This ‘return to the political’ is undoubtedly the most pressing task for the incoming government.

Share this page:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *