A bummer the Tories haven't had in 120 years



The British Conservatives have suffered a resounding defeat in the general elections. What will the Labour government do?

Elections in the UK traditionally take place on Thursdays. It’s believed that if they were held on Fridays or weekends, there would be too many drunk voters. But this time everything is as clear as glass.

The Tories had their worst performance in the House of Commons elections since 1906, thereby ending their 14-year rule. Labour’s main goal was to win back the voters who had massively shifted to the Conservatives in 2019, particularly in the Midlands, central England, and the North, where traditionally working-class voters supported Labour.

Neither party focused on Brexit during the campaign, a topic that irritates and increasingly divides British society. Currently, 57% believe that Brexit was a mistake.

«This is the most dishonest campaign in our history, as both sides stubbornly avoid discussing our main issue — Brexit», says Michael Heseltine, former Deputy Prime Minister. «You can’t talk about the economy, defense, immigration, or the environment without returning to Brexit. We are cut off from external markets and our main partners, which is at the core of the crisis our country is facing».

Even the Reform UK party, considered a driver of Brexit, did not prioritize this issue in their campaign. Instead, their main topics were migration and exiting the European Convention on Human Rights, which they argue hinders migration control. Their strategy seemed successful, as they achieved a convincing result, coming fourth despite previously hovering around 3–4% in polls.

In the coming days, Keir Starmer is set to travel to Washington for a NATO summit, which will serve as his introduction to heads of state and government he will need to interact with. On July 18, he will host 27 state leaders at Blenheim Palace for the European Political Union summit, a new informal platform initiated by Macron. Thus, within a month, Starmer will personally meet almost all his counterparts.

Starmer will then need to build relations with Brussels. He has promised to review some agreements, calling the current EU deal «sloppily drafted». However, he ruled out major changes like rejoining the single market or restoring visa-free travel. Likely, he will start with revising agreements on financial services, as Britain faces a severe shortage of accountants, or with the ETS, the European Emissions Trading System.

«When you delve into what they want to do, you realize these are not the most significant issues», says Ian Bond, Deputy Director of the Centre for European Reform. «But even these will be difficult to negotiate».

Brussels is also interested in improving relations with Britain. For instance, it seeks a youth mobility agreement to allow British and European citizens to freely cross borders for study and work.

More crucial, however, is the UK-EU security and defense agreement beyond NATO’s framework.

«Despite the complex UK-EU relationship, it’s important to understand that the UK has one of the largest armies in Europe», says Olivia O’Sullivan, Director of the UK Global Program at Chatham House. «It spends over 2% of its GDP on defense and already closely cooperates with Baltic and Northern European countries».

Domestically, Starmer and his cabinet’s plans are quite predictable. Much will depend on the state budget. Economically, this includes raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations. No surprises there. Increasing the minimum wage. Supporting workers’ rights and unions. Investing in infrastructure and green technologies, which Labour believes will stimulate economic growth.

The British public health system has become a major issue in recent years. Surgery wait times stretch to months, if not years. There is a critical shortage of doctors and nurses, leading Sunak to urgently invite Indian specialists. People are leaving the profession due to heavy workloads and low pay. Labour plans to increase NHS funding and eventually carry out a significant reform to improve access to medical services.

Education will also see increased budget allocations, with investments in both public schools and universities. Notably, over 40% of developers of public education programs in Europe send their children to private schools. The upper middle class in England almost exclusively considers private schools, with their graduates often taking key positions in business, politics, or media. Thus, public education is geared towards less affluent and immigrant children.

Labour also plans to support student programs, which is crucial for the UK, as Brexit has cut off access to many European scientific projects and internship opportunities for British students.

In housing and social policy, Starmer aims to significantly increase social housing construction and support those renting such apartments. Labour’s plans vaguely outline «providing tenant assistance» without much detail. Rent and utility costs in England (outside of London, where it’s even higher) are skyrocketing and unaffordable for many.

On environmental issues, the aim is to set even more ambitious goals and, naturally, fund them. Green programs, like combating greenhouse gas emissions, face increasing scrutiny and criticism. They require significant funding, but their impact is not yet felt. Climate change funds exhibit a gourmet taste for financing.

What will happen to Sunak? His cabinet ministers have asked him to remain as Tory leader at least until September to ensure «consistency and stability», helping to avoid the chaos that might now erupt within the Conservative Party and the ensuing shadow cabinet reshuffle.

Several potential successors are vying for the leadership. Notably, these include Business Minister Kemi Badenoch, Home Secretary James Cleverly, his predecessor Priti Patel, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat, and Health Minister Victoria Atkins. To become leader, one must be a sitting Member of Parliament.

Ultimately, the party leadership and the «1922 Committee» — a group of backbench MPs — will decide the minimum number of candidates, from which two finalists will emerge.