Home News Live updates: UK election result could topple Conservative Party

Live updates: UK election result could topple Conservative Party


British voters headed to the polls on Thursday in frustration, with many expressing their dismay at the prospect of a Conservative government and doubts that any replacement would be able to solve the many problems plaguing the country.

Analysts say their skepticism is justified. Even if Labour wins a clear majority in parliament, as polls suggest, it will still face a host of challenges, from a sluggish economy to a failing National Health Service, and have few tools to address them.

Leader of the Labour Party, Keir StarmerRobert Ford, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester, said the Conservatives would inherit a “legacy of ashes.” Voters who overwhelmingly elected the Conservatives less than five years ago are unlikely to give Starmer much of a chance to turn things around.

“The message couldn’t be clearer: You have to change — or you’re screwed,” Ford said. “People are not going to be patient.”

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer at a campaign event in Cheshire, England, last week.Credit…Jason Cainduff/Reuters

The election will be a watershed moment in British politics. It will likely mean the end of the Conservatives, who have ruled for 14 years, and the rise of the Labour Party, which lost the election to the Conservatives less than five years ago in its worst defeat since 1935.

The dizzying reversal of political fortunes illustrates the turmoil Britain has been in since it voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Brexit has split the Conservative Party, which has become increasingly volatile and extreme as it faces the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis.

The difficult choices facing Labour, which is about to take power, reflect the legacy of those years: a country depleted, exhausted and in desperate need of change.

Rebuilding the economy

Labour’s core selling point is that it can boost the economy and generate enough extra revenue through taxation to avoid deep cuts to public services, higher taxes or more borrowing. But it has limited means to do so, especially after its ambitious multi-billion-pound plan to transform Britain into a “green economy” collapsed earlier this year because of the government’s dire finances.

Another option is to ease trade restrictions with the European Union that have hobbled British exporters since Brexit. However, Starmer ruled out rejoining the EU’s vast single economic market because that would mean allowing Europeans to live and work freely in Britain, or joining its customs union, which would mean accepting some of the bloc’s tariffs and customs rules.

New housing estates are being built in Bolsover, England. New homes are a priority for the Labour Party.Credit…Mary Turner writes for the New York Times

While analysts say a Labour government should be able to secure more limited deals, such as a new plant and animal trade agreement that would help British food exporters, such agreements would provide only a small boost to the economy.

Another key Labour goal is also in the spotlight: reforming Britain’s planning system to build more homes and speed up public works projects. Labour is expected to review which rural areas are still off-limits to developers and restore housing construction targets in urban areas.

Economists say a rewrite of planning rules could spark a building boom but anger voters who want to protect green space.

Budget pressures will also complicate Labour’s efforts to fix the NHS, which has failed to cut months-long waiting times. Labour has pledged to book 40,000 extra appointments a week, arguing it can do so by persuading NHS staff to take more appointments out of hours.

Junior doctors in Romford, England, went on strike in 2023. Doctors had gone on strike several times over pay, leading to a large number of surgeries being cancelled and waiting times being extended.Credit…Andrew Testa of The New York Times

Labour said it would also hire 8,500 medical staff to treat people with mental illness and double the number of CT scanners and MRI machines in hospitals. Labour would raise money by closing a loophole for people with non-domiciled status in the UK, which allows them to avoid paying some tax.

But its immediate challenge is to resolve a long-running pay dispute with junior doctors, who have been roiled by the government after it rejected their demand for a 35 per cent pay rise. Multiple strikes have resulted in a series of procedures being cancelled and waiting times being extended.

Solving immigration issues

Tackling immigration is another challenge for Labour, not least because of labour shortages in the NHS and across the economy. Controlling Britain’s borders was a major theme of the Brexit referendum, but net legal migration (the number of arrivals minus the number of departures) has roughly tripled since then. By 2022, the number will reach nearly 750,000and then fell back slightly.

Labour will benefit from reforms introduced by the Conservative government, which restricted the rights of students to bring relatives to the UK, and from a fall in the number of refugees from Ukraine, Hong Kong and Afghanistan. All in all, net migration is now expected to fall.

But against this backdrop, Labour must work hard to deliver on its promise to train more British talent to fill vacancies and dissuade employers from looking overseas for workers.

Migrants cross the English Channel in a small boat in March. Tackling immigration will be a challenge for Britain’s next leader.Credit…Tolga Akmen/EPA via Shutterstock

It will be harder to curb the number of asylum seekers arriving on British coastlines in small boats. Mr Starmer has vowed to scrap a costly policy under which some asylum seekers are put on one-way flights to Rwanda. Labour will instead target people smuggling gangs while also stepping up cooperation with authorities across the continent.

However, Britain has given France tens of millions of pounds to help them stop the small boats, with only partial success. It is unclear how much room there is for better cooperation with far-right, anti-immigrant parties Significant progress in France’s ongoing election.

At home, Britain faces a backlog of asylum applications and the cost of accommodation for refugees awaiting decisions, many of whom live in hotels. Approximately £8 millionLabour has pledged to hire 1,000 new caseworkers to help repatriate those whose claims have failed. But many come from countries with which Britain has no agreement to accept failed asylum seekers.

Facing uncertain allies

Any British leader would face an increasingly ambiguous political landscape in the United States. Questions about President Biden’s fitness to be a candidate The chances of his Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, regaining the presidency in the upcoming election have increased.

Labour’s top foreign policy official, David LamyHe tried to win over people around Trump, including Ohio Republican Senator JD Vance. But Lamy is best known in the United States for his close relationship with former President Obama. Both graduated from Harvard Law School, and Lamy campaigned for Obama during his first presidential campaign.

David Lammy (second from left) in London in April. Mr Lammy is the Labour Party’s top foreign policy official.Credit…Andrew Testa of The New York Times

Starmer’s ties to the U.S. are less deep. While he has not previously criticized Trump’s rhetoric, there is little sign that a 61-year-old former chief prosecutor would have a strong relationship with a 78-year-old man who is the defendant in multiple criminal cases.

On Wednesday, however, Starmer received another unlikely endorsement: Rupert Murdoch, whose influential London tabloid The Sun backed Labour at an election for the first time since 2005.

“It’s time for a new coach,” The Sun wrote on its front page as the England national team struggled but remained competitive in the European Football Championship, reaching the quarter-finals.

The newspaper said: “Sir Keir has won the right to take power by pulling his party back to the heart of British politics for the first time since Tony Blair entered 10 Downing Street.”

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