The New York Times 2024-07-05 04:10:25

Live Updates: U.K. Votes in Election That Could Drive Conservatives From Power

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London, England July 4, 9:09 p.m.


The polls close soon in Britain. Here’s the latest.

Millions of voters went to the polls across Britain on Thursday in a general election that was widely expected to usher in a new era in British politics, with pre-election surveys suggesting that a frustrated electorate would deliver a sweeping victory for the opposition Labour Party and end 14 years of turbulent Conservative rule.

The center-left Labour Party has held a double-digit polling lead over the Conservatives for more than 18 months, reflecting an electorate fed up with a turbulent era that spanned austerity, Brexit, the Covid pandemic, the serial scandals of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the ill-fated tax-cutting proposals of his successor, Liz Truss.

A victory for Labour would put Britain at odds with the hard-right, populist tide that is rippling across France and other European countries. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader who is set to become prime minister, has promised a fiscally prudent government “in the service of working people.”

Polling sites close across the country at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. Eastern), after which three major broadcasters are expected to announce the results of a national exit poll that should give a strong indication of the results. (The poll has accurately predicted the winner of Britain’s last five general elections.) Votes are counted overnight, with almost every district expected to declare a winner by 7 a.m. (2 a.m. Eastern).

Here’s what else to know:

  • Labour’s makeover: Mr. Starmer, a low-key human rights lawyer who only entered Parliament in 2015, has embarked on a four-year project to pull the Labour Party away from the left-wing policies of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, and rebrand it as a plausible alternative to the increasingly erratic rule of the Conservatives, also known as the Tories.

  • Unhappy electorate: Voters expressed frustration with the torpid economy, an influx of immigration following Britain’s departure from the European Union and an overburdened National Health Service, which resulted in long waiting times for patients.

  • Conservative struggles: Less than five years ago, the Conservatives won 365 seats, the most since 1987, when they were led by Margaret Thatcher. Lured by Mr. Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done,” disenchanted Labour voters in the Midlands and northern England switched to the Tories. With many of those voters deserting them, polls suggest they could secure their lowest share of seats in Parliament in perhaps a century.

  • Right-wing ferment: Reform U.K., an insurgent, anti-immigration party, was expected to siphon off some Conservative support. The party is led by Nigel Farage, the veteran political disrupter (and Trump supporter) who has failed in seven previous bids to get into Parliament. A win could anoint him as a power broker in the battle for the soul of the Conservative Party.

  • Sunak’s future: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s future as the Conservatives’ leader appeared dim. Polling suggested that several of his cabinet ministers could lose their parliamentary seats, which would leave the party without several of its so-called big beasts who have dominated British politics. Mr. Sunak himself was at risk of suffering the same fate, something that has never happened to an incumbent British prime minister in a general election.

After a long stretch of anemic growth, stagnant wages and weak investment, the health of the British economy has been one of the main issues in the election campaign. Buffeted by high energy, food and housing costs, voters have said in polls that the economy and the fate of the troubled National Health Service are the two most important issues facing the country. Read more about why Britons are feeling so concerned.

Here’s a guide to election night in Britain, and what comes next.

It’s been 14 years since an opposition party won a general election in Britain. Opinion polling strongly suggests that streak is about to be broken by the Labour Party. As the voting comes to an end, here’s a guide to what’s likely to happen tonight and over the next few days.

When will results come out?

The first indication of the outcome will come just after polls close at 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. Eastern), when the major British broadcasters reveal the national exit poll. It’s a survey of thousands of voters just after they have cast their ballots, and has come close to the final result in recent elections, though there’s always a chance of that streak being broken, too.

The votes are counted overnight. A first couple of parliamentary districts usually finish their work within two hours of polls closing, and almost every district is expected to declare a winner by 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. Eastern). Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Labour leader who hopes to replace him, Keir Starmer, would customarily speak when the results are declared in their own districts, probably after 2:30 a.m. local time for Mr. Starmer and after 4 a.m. local time for Mr. Sunak.

What happens next?

Should there be a clear opposition victory, the transition of power would take place with ruthless speed.

“If the election results in an overall majority for a different party,” says the Cabinet Manual, which sets out the official guidance on the process, “the incumbent prime minister and government will immediately resign and the sovereign will invite the leader of the party that has won the election to form a government.”

“Immediately,” in practice, would mean Friday morning.

By “recent custom,” according to the House of Commons library, departing prime ministers pose with their families for a final set of photographs in Downing Street, their home and workplace while in office.

There might be a last speech. “When the curtain falls, it’s time to get off the stage,” John Major, the last prime minister to give way to an opposition majority, said in 1997. “And that’s what I propose to do.”

Then comes a short drive to Buckingham Palace, usually trailed by news helicopters, to resign in a private meeting with the monarch, now King Charles III.

The next prime minister would be close behind: In 2016, according to the Commons library, the car of the incoming leader, Theresa May, arrived at the palace 32 seconds after her predecessor, David Cameron, had left.

A new leader’s appointment would also take the form of a private meeting with the king, usually right after the resignation. It’s known as “kissing hands,” though it involves little ceremony and no kissing.

Expect a photographed handshake, followed by another speech in Downing Street, where the new prime minister would move in straight away, applauded by the permanent civil service staff on arrival.

The prime minister would then appoint other ministers. It’s not usually a matter with much suspense: British oppositions maintain a “shadow cabinet” of candidates for government positions.

The new Parliament would meet for the first time in the next couple of weeks.

All this, of course, assumes a change of prime minister. If Mr. Sunak’s government unexpectedly maintains its majority, there’s no ceremony — he would simply continue in office.

What if no one wins a majority?

If no party were to win a majority of parliamentary seats, Mr. Sunak would stay on as a caretaker while parties negotiated with one another to decide who could govern.

It might not be a long delay, however: It took five days to reach an agreement in 2010, when Mr. Cameron fell short of a majority, and a couple of weeks in 2017, when Mrs. May did. And then, if the deal put someone else in charge, the cars would set off for the palace.



Voters in one bellwether district ‘just want to see change.’

Follow our live updates on the U.K. election.

Voters streamed into a polling station in Portsmouth, a city nestled along England’s southern coast that is known for its naval base and historic dockyard, on Thursday morning as ballot workers greeted them warmly.

Older couples walked hand in hand into the local church, which had been temporarily fitted out with ballot boxes, alongside parents with children in strollers, and young adults rushing in on the way to work.

One by one, they weighed in on the future of the nation in a vote that polls suggested could end 14 years of Conservative-led government.

“I just want to see change,” said Sam Argha, 36, who was outside the polling station on Thursday morning. “I just really want to see us do something differently.”

Many people in the city expressed a similar desire for a new start at a moment of intense national uncertainty. Polls have predicted that the election could be a major turning point, with the center-left Labour Party expected to unseat the right-wing Conservative Party, possibly with a crushing landslide.

Portsmouth North is considered a bellwether seat — the area has voted for the winning political party in every general election since 1974.

It also serves as a microcosm of the broader national challenge facing the governing party: a longstanding Conservative constituency held by a popular candidate that is now at risk of being lost, and a largely disillusioned electorate that expressed frustrations with their quality of life and what many see as a lack of leadership.

The seat has been held since 2010 by Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative lawmaker whose prominent role at the coronation of King Charles III last year, when she wielded a heavy, jewel encrusted ceremonial sword, drew international attention to her steadiness and poise.

Ms. Mordaunt, who is seen as a possible contender for her party’s leadership, is widely liked in Portsmouth, and some locals said they had no intention of heading in a new direction. But polls have suggested that Labour voters in the constituency could still overtake Conservative support in Thursday’s vote.

The centrist Liberal Democrats — considered the third most popular party here — and the hard-right Reform U.K. party could also siphon off votes from the Conservatives.

“My hopes are for a much more compassionate government from Friday,” said Grahame Milner, 62, who was walking in the city center with his husband of three decades on Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the shops surrounding the couple were vacant or boarded up. Graffiti marked the sides of shuttered department stores. There is little to attract people to the area, other than the bookmakers, charity shops and small stores selling vapes, Mr. Milner said.

He first came here to serve in the Navy — the city is home to the country’s biggest naval base — and was deployed during the 1980s Falklands War as a chef aboard a military vessel. He was pushed out of the military because of his sexual orientation, he said, and later became deeply involved in union work after returning to civilian life. He had already cast his ballot by postal vote last week.

“The austerity program has been absolutely crippling to working-class people,” Mr. Milner said, pointing to the number of working people relying on food banks just to get by. “This is just not the Britain that I served in the military for.”

Concerns about the hollowing-out of the National Health Service, a cost-of-living crisis that has left many struggling, debates about immigration, and the fallout from Britain’s withdrawal from Europe were front of mind for many locals.

Some said they had no plans to vote at all, disillusioned by politicians from across the spectrum.

“It’s always been Labour for us, but I am not voting this year,” said Tracy Patton, 59, who has lived in the city all her life and said she was fed up with politics. She sat outside a cafe on Wednesday evening, reminiscing with friends about how the once busy marketplace had changed.

“It was bustling, there was atmosphere,” she said. “But now, it’s going through decline. There is just no money in England anymore.”

For some younger voters, the prospect of an uncertain future has weighed heavy. Daisy Quelch, 28, and Kiran Kaur, 24, were packing up after an outdoor boxing class near the waterfront on Southsea Common.

“Sometimes it feels like our world is crumbling,” Ms. Quelch said, adding that she was particularly worried about climate change and the environment. “We want to see changes, but it can’t happen quickly enough.”

Earlier this year, residents were warned not to swim in the sea as the local water company had released raw sewage along the coastline, contaminating the water.

Water pollution has become a campaign issue in many parts of Britain, as some blame the government for its inability to stop the water industry — which was privatized during the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s — from releasing untreated waste into the waterways.

Some formerly stalwart Conservative supporters said they were rethinking their vote. Several were considering casting their ballots for Reform U.K., the populist anti-immigration party led by Nigel Farage, a brash and polarizing figure who has shaken up the general election campaign.

But others defended the Conservative Party. In Dixie’s Pub just off the high street, a group of patrons played pool on the eve of the election, the clack of billiard balls mingling with chatter.

Andrew Revis, 57, was enjoying a pint at the bar after finishing work at his nearby accountancy office, and said he felt that the Conservatives and Ms. Mordaunt, who he described as a capable and committed lawmaker, were receiving undue criticism.

“They are getting a lot of stick, but I don’t think it’s entirely been in their control,” he said, pointing to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine that created unexpected hardship.

“It’s the cost of living,” said Kerry Harris, 36, who sat outside the Iceland supermarket with her niece Shanice Bakes, 19, on Wednesday evening. She gestured to their bags. There was a time, Ms. Harris said, when a full shopping cart of groceries would cost about 50 pounds, or $65, but now she couldn’t fill one bag for that price.

“And they don’t put your wages up, do they?” she added.

Israel Will Join Renewed Gaza Cease-Fire Talks, Amid New Hezbollah Attacks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told President Biden on Thursday that he is sending a new delegation of negotiators to Gaza cease-fire talks, Mr. Netanyahu’s office and the White House said, but the prime minister reiterated that Israel would end the war “only after achieving its goals.”

The cease-fire talks, which are based on proposals laid out by the Biden Administration and backed by the United Nations, ground to a halt in June. Israel’s stated goals include destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities in the Gaza Strip, and ensuring that the Palestinian enclave cannot again pose a threat. Both aims could still take substantial time to achieve, if at all.

In a phone call, “the Prime Minister informed President Biden of his decision to send a delegation to continue negotiations for the release of the hostages and reiterated the principles to which Israel is committed, chief among them Israel’s commitment to ending the war only after achieving all of its goals,” the statement from Mr. Netanyahu’s office said.

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U.S. Justice Department Opens Criminal Investigation in Chinese Doping Case

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The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into how antidoping authorities and sports officials allowed elite Chinese swimmers who had tested positive for a banned substance to escape punishment and win a slew of medals — including three golds — at the last Olympics, according to two people briefed on the matter and swimming’s international governing body.

The decision to move forward with a criminal investigation is a dramatic escalation by the United States against the Chinese, world antidoping authorities and the Olympic movement, and will cast a shadow of criminality over the Summer Games, which are scheduled to begin later this month in Paris.

Eleven of the swimmers who tested positive — and who have never been suspended for doping — are again members of the Chinese Olympic team. Several are favorites to again win medals.

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Why More French Youth Are Voting for the Far Right

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In the 1980s, a French punk rock band coined a rallying cry against the country’s far right that retained its punch over decades. The chant, still shouted at protests by the left, is “La jeunesse emmerde le Front National,” which cannot be translated well without curse words, but essentially tells the far right to get lost.

That crude battle cry is emblematic of what had often been conventional wisdom not only in France, but also elsewhere — that young people frequently tilt left in their politics. Now, that notion has been challenged as increasing numbers of young people have joined swaths of the French electorate to support the far-right National Rally, a party once deemed too extreme to govern.

The results from Sunday’s parliamentary vote, the first of a two-part election, showed young people across the political spectrum coming out to cast ballots in much greater numbers than in previous years. A majority of them voted for the left. But one of the biggest jumps was in the estimated numbers of 18-to-24-year-olds who cast ballots for the National Rally, in an election that many say could reshape France.

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Some Countries Are Trying a Four-Day Workweek. Greece Wants a Six-Day One.

As the rest of the world zigs toward a four-day workweek, Greece is opting to zag.

On Monday, a law came into effect that allows some companies to enforce a six-day workweek, a shift that is intended to prop up the country’s aging work force and compensate strapped workers, while respecting workers’ rights.

The law applies to private sector workers in certain industrial and manufacturing sectors, or to those who work in a business that operates continuous shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with some exceptions. And it would be allowed only “in exceptional circumstances,” like an unexpectedly increased workload.

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Iranians’ Demand for Their Leaders: Fix the Economy

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In the working-class neighborhood of Tehran surrounding Imam Hussein Square, the side streets and alleys are lined with secondhand stores and small repair shops for refurbishing all manner of household goods. But with little to do, most shopkeepers idle in front of their stores.

A 60-year-old man named Abbas and his son Asgar, 32, lounged in two of the secondhand, faux brocaded armchairs that they sell. Asked about their business, Abbas, who did not want his surname used for fear of drawing the government’s attention, looked incredulous.

“Just look down the street,” he said. “Business is awful. There are no customers, people are economically weak now, they don’t have money.”

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