The Telegraph 2024-07-06 00:23:07

Sunak resigns as Tory leader in final speech as PM outside No10

  • Follow the latest election updates in the liveblog

Rishi Sunak has announced that he will stand down as Tory leader after taking the party to the worst result in its history.

The former prime minister said he would leave the role as soon as the arrangements to choose his successor have been put in place.

In his exit speech on the steps of No 10 he apologised to the country after Labour won a historic landslide, telling voters: “I am sorry.”

“I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility,” he said in his final address as his wife Akshata Murty watched on.

“This is a difficult day at the end of a number of difficult days but I leave this job honoured to have been your prime minister.”

Mr Sunak added: “I have given this job my all. But you have sent a clear message, and yours is the only judgement that matters. This is a difficult day, but I leave this job honoured to have been prime minister of the best country in the world.”

He arrived at Buckingham Palace at 11am to tender his resignation as prime minister to the King and hand over power to Sir Keir Starmer.

The moment marked the end of a torrid 20 months in Downing Street during which he failed to turn around the Tories’ political fortunes.

He inherited a hugely difficult legacy from Liz Truss, with inflation running high and public confidence rocked by the disastrous mini-budget.

But his time in office was also dogged by missteps and controversies, whilst his election campaign has been described as the worst in modern times.

In an exit address that was seen as one of his best speeches, Mr Sunak said: “To the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry.

“I have given this job my all, but you have sent a clear signal that the Government of the United Kingdom must change. And yours is the only judgement that matters.”

Mr Sunak is set to stay in post as Tory leader for the next few weeks while the party licks its wounds and decides how to choose his successor.

Before that can be done a new chairman of the 1922 committee, which sets the rules for leadership contests, will have to be elected.

Sir Graham Brady, who has been in charge of the powerful backbench group since 2010, stood down as an MP at the election.

Senior party figures may also want to discuss how the race will be run and the role members will play in picking the leader.

Some MPs have suggested that the power of members should be diluted after they picked Ms Truss over Mr Sunak in the 2022 contest.

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Starmer’s victory dubbed ‘a loveless landslide’ with fewer votes than Corbyn

Sir Keir Starmer is on course to win a lower share of the vote than Jeremy Corbyn in a “loveless landslide”, projections suggest.

Calculations based on the exit poll suggest that Labour will secure just 36 per cent of the vote despite a projected 170-seat majority.

A senior Tory said that such an outcome could create “a lot of tension” over the future of Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system.

Mr Corbyn, the former Labour leader, won 40 per cent of the vote when he led the party into the 2017 election, which he lost to Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

The exit poll has predicted that Sir Keir will win 410 seats in a landslide victory, with the Tories reduced to just 131 MPs in their worst ever result.

Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, is projected to win 13 constituencies, while the Liberal Democrats are predicted to enjoy a resurgence with 61 seats.

But the expected margin of Labour’s victory in parliamentary seats may mask a poorer than expected performance in terms of vote share.

Projections based on the exit poll, carried out by Electoral Calculus for GB News, suggested that the party could end up on just 36.1 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are calculated to have secured 25.8 per cent, while Reform is put in third on 17.2 per cent, despite likely only winning a handful of seats.

In stark contrast, the Liberal Democrats, who are predicted to make huge inroads in Parliament, are only projected to have won 9.4 per cent of the vote.

Rory Stewart, a former Tory Cabinet minister, told Channel 4: “Labour may well have got a staggering majority with quite a low percentage of the vote.

“Reform may have ended up with quite a high percentage of the vote and a low number of seats. The Lib Dems might have got fewer votes and five times the number of seats.”

When the result was described on the programme as a “loveless landslide” he said: “I think it’s a big problem – 36 per cent of the vote in historical terms has been nothing.

“Nobody has won anything like this in history with 36 per cent of the vote. This is barely more than a third of the population voting for you.”

‘Electoral geography’ led to big win despite low vote share

Sir Keir’s projected share of the vote would be the lowest required to secure any parliamentary majority in recent times.

When Sir Tony Blair won his 179-seat majority against the Tories in 1997, he did so on the back of a 43.2 per cent share of the vote.

Boris Johnson won an 80-seat majority with 43.6 per cent at the last election in 2019, while David Cameron required 36.9 per cent in 2015 to secure a 10-seat majority.

Luke Tryl, the UK director at pollster More in Common, said the projected vote shares indicated “a desire for change but little confidence in anyone to deliver it”.

He added that “electoral geography” had led to Labour’s big win in spite of its low vote share.

Asked about her party’s projected low vote share, Dawn Butler, a Labour MP, told the BBC: “I think what the discussion will be about will be proportional representation.

“The public will be talking about proportional representation and whether we need to have a debate about it. I’ve always said that we do need to have a debate about it.”

The first-past-the-post system means that a relatively small number of votes spread out across the country can completely change the election result.

Pre-election analysis found that just 130,000 voters could have denied Labour its majority had they switched to the Tories.

Mr Corbyn’s former spokesman, Matt Zarb-Cousin, said: “Labour is already peddling a narrative that this victory is down to a changed Labour Party.

“The reality of course is Keir Starmer was holding the pass the parcel at the right time, when the Tories eventually imploded.

“So they’ve won by default, on a lower share of the vote than 2017.”

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It’s eighth time lucky for Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage has become an MP on his eighth attempt, declaring that the election result marks the “beginning of the end” of the Tories.

His party Reform UK has so far won four seats in the election, giving it the “bridgehead” in parliament that he was seeking as he tries to establish it as a force to rival the Tories.

Mr Farage declared that “the revolt against the establishment is under way” after he secured the Clacton-on-Sea seat in Essex.

Speaking after being elected to the Essex seat, he said: “They’ve been around for 190 years. They’ve been amazingly resilient. But this could be, I think this is the beginning of the end of the Conservative Party”.

Mr Farage secured the biggest single seat swing in modern election history, 45.1 percentage points, with his victory in Clacton in Essex.

‌He came away with 46.2 per cent of the vote, with no candidate from the Brexit Party having stood there in 2019.

‌Previously, the seat was held by Conservative Giles Watling, who had a 24,702 majority with 72 per cent of the vote share. This fell to 27.9 per cent last night.

‌Mr Farage won the seat with 21,225 votes, a majority of 8,405.

This election represents a major electoral breakthrough for the Right-wing party, marking its first real success in terms of seat gains.

Donald Trump congratulated Mr Farage on his election to parliament. The former US president, who has long supported Mr Farage’s political career, posted about the victory on his social media platform, Truth Social.

“Congratulations to Nigel Farage on his big win of a parliament seat amid Reform UK election success,” he said. “Nigel is a man who truly loves his country.”

Reform now holds four seats, as chairman Richard Tice secured Boston and Skegness, Rupert Lowe won Great Yarmouth and Lee Anderson became the party’s first-ever MP when he claimed the seat of Ashfield.

The exit poll had predicted that Reform would return 13 MPs, making it the most significant new political party in recent times.

However, they missed out on Barnsley North with Labour’s Dan Jarvis comfortably holding the seat by 8,000 votes.

It was the first major miss of the exit poll for the night, which predicted that Reform candidate Robert Lomas would scoop the seat.

However, Reform made huge inroads in Sunderland South, the first constituency of the night to declare, leapfrogging the Tories to finish in second place.

Labour held on to the seat, which is represented by Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, with a majority of 7,100. But the performance of Reform, which won 11,668 votes to Labour’s 18,847, suggested it was on course for a strong showing nationwide.

Mr Farage’s party also came runner-up in the second seat to declare, Blyth and Ashington, once again beating the Tories, who came third.

Labour comfortably held the seat with 20,030 votes but Reform came second on 10,857, ahead of the Conservatives on 6,121. Both results indicated that Reform had won over large numbers of former Tory voters who had become disaffected with the party under Rishi Sunak.

Reform was also runner-up to Labour in five other north-east seats that declared early. They were Sunderland Central, Washington and Gateshead South, Gateshead Central and Whickham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central and West, and Cramlington.

But it was a different picture in the South where the party came third behind the Tories in Swindon South, the former seat of Sir Robert Buckland, which was won by Labour.

The projected result suggests that Reform was successful in poaching many voters who backed the Tories last time out under Boris Johnson.

In a video released on social media, Mr Farage described his party’s early results as “almost unbelievable” and predicted it would win more than six million votes. The Reform leader said it showed that “the revolt against the establishment is under way”.

“It means we’re going to win seats – many, many seats I think – right now across the country,” he added. “This is going to be six million votes plus; this folks is huge.”

Mr Farage was the leader of the UK Independence Party in 2015 when it won just a single seat, Clacton, despite securing 12.6 per cent of the national vote.

He was also in charge of the Brexit Party four years ago when it ended the 2019 election seatless after striking a pact with the Tories to ensure that Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Tice began Reform’s election campaign, announcing eye-catching policies including reducing net migration to zero and big cuts to income, corporation and inheritance tax. At that point, the party was averaging around 10 per cent in the polls, meaning it was already on course to make a sizeable dent in Tory support.

The turning point came when Mr Farage announced he was taking over the leadership and running as an MP. Just 10 days after he returned to the fray, the party overtook the Tories in the opinion polls for the first time.

Mr Farage’s return was seen as a ­disaster by Tories, all but ending the party’s hopes of narrowing the gap with Labour.

Mr Tice won Boston and Skegness with 15,520 votes, beating Conservative Matt Warman on 13,510. His victory was greeted with a raucous cheer from his supporters at the count.

When Mr Warman’s losing vote was declared one Conservative supporter shouted: “Bring back Boris.”

Mr Tice said his party’s success was proving “really quite extraordinary”.

In his acceptance speech after securing a 2,010 majority, Mr Tice said “millions and millions” of people were now voting for Reform.

He added: “It is, as Nigel said, a people’s revolt under way. It’s just the beginning. We are just warming up. This great country of ours can do much better.”

Mr Warman, whose 2019 majority of 25,000 for the Lincolnshire seat was obliterated, wished his successor well.

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America’s omen or uncharismatic robot: The world reacts to Starmer’s election win

Hillary Clinton said she hoped Sir Keir Starmer’s victory was an “omen” for America as leaders around the world reacted to Labour’s landslide victory. 

The former Democrat presidential candidate viewed the victory of the Left in Britain as a hopeful sign Donald Trump could be defeated across the Pacific. 

“Congratulations to Labour for a big victory in yesterday’s elections. Let’s hope it’s an omen and work to make it so,” she said. 

Joe Biden has yet to publicly congratulate Sir Keir as he faces mounting pressure to step aside as Democrat nominee for president. 

The New York Times declined to share Mrs Clinton’s enthusiasm, saying the “61-year-old former human rights lawyer lacks the star power of some of his predecessors” but did quote an analyst as saying he looks “relatively prime-ministerial”.

Shortly after the result on Friday, Trump hailed Nigel Farage for winning the constituency of Clacton for Reform UK.

The former US president, who has long supported Mr Farage’s political career, posted about the victory on his social media platform, Truth Social.

“Congratulations to Nigel Farage on his big win of a Parliament Seat Amid Reform UK Election Success,” he said.

“Nigel is a man who truly loves his country.”

One of the first world leaders to speak to Sir Keir as the Labour landslide became evident late on Thursday night was Emmanuel Macron.

The French president, who has acute political problems of his own to contend with, congratulated Sir Keir and added that he was “pleased with our first discussion”.

Le Monde was unsparing in its analysis of “an atmosphere of constant fratricidal fights” within the Tory party, as well as political scandals under Boris Johnson and budget miscalculations by Liz Truss.

The newspaper noted that there was no great enthusiasm for Sir Keir and that during the campaign he had “shied away from any boldness, modestly committing himself to a return to “stability”, with “no major departure from the trajectory set by the Conservatives”.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, congratulated the Labour leader on his party’s “convincing” election win. 

“Ukraine and the United Kingdom have been, and will continue to be, reliable allies through thick and thin. We will continue to defend and advance our common values of life, freedom, and a rules-based international order,” Mr Zelensky said.

Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister, was the first overseas leader to publicly congratulate his “friend”, in a message on X.

“We have a strong relationship between our two countries, but in Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner and so many others who I am very familiar with in the British Labour Party, I look forward very much to working with them. They have very similar views to us on a range of issues. I’m sure we’ll work closely on Aukus, where we worked very closely as well with the former government.”

Australia’s country’s biggest financial newspaper warned Mr Albanese that while his happiness for his “ideological bedfellow” will be genuine, victory for Sir Keir should make him wary. 

“Starmer did not win because Britain was hankering for a social democratic government,” the Australian Financial Review wrote. “He won merely because he wasn’t the government.”

In Germany, Olaf Scholz, the chancellor, said he was “delighted” about the election victory of “our sister party in the UK”.

Sir Keir “will be a very good, very successful prime minister,” he said. 

Germany’s Der Spiegel reported early on a “landslide” win for Labour that showed Britain’s “dissatisfaction” with the Conservatives.

“Many people have the impression that very little still works in the country, which has led to anger against the long-standing government,” it said.

“It threatens the end of the Tory Party as we know it.”

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s Right-wing prime minister, was more circumspect and paid tribute to Rishi Sunak, with whom she was often pictured enjoying herself at international summits. 

“I thank my friend Rishi Sunak for these years of intense cooperation and sincere friendship,” she said. 

Corriere della Sera, the Italian daily newspaper, published a story lamenting “the long debacle of the Tories”, blaming their crushing defeat at the polls on “14 years of government which impoverished the United Kingdom”.

In a comment piece, the newspaper said: “The party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher comes out of this electoral contest with broken bones and it will take years to recover.” 

Antonio Tajani, Italy’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, meanwhile hailed Sir Keir as a latter-day Sir Tony Blair. 

Although he comes from the centre-Right Forza Italia party founded by the late Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Tajani was fulsome in his praise. He described Sir Keir as a moderate and contrasted him with the “extreme” former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

In Spain, El País said on its front page that it had been a “historic triumph” for Labour. But its UK correspondent described Sir Keir as a “methodical and calculating” man who was considered by many to be “a robot, incapable of expressing even a minimal dose of charisma”.

Writing in El Mundo, Joaquim Coll, the historian, said Sir Keir could not be compared to Sir Tony in terms of “brilliance or popularity” but said the election result reflected the fallout from Brexit, which has left British society “poorer and deeply fractured”.

Charles Michel, the European Council president, congratulated Sir Keir on a “historic election victory” in Britain and said he looked forward to working with London under a Labour government.

He added that he would see Sir Keir at a European Political Community summit to be held in Britain on July 18 “where we will discuss common challenges, including stability, security, energy and migration”.

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Why pollsters overstated Labour’s victory

Pollsters overestimated the scale of the Labour victory by as many as 60 seats in the run-up to Thursday’s general election, official results show.

Final estimates earlier this week for the Tories varied from less than 50 seats to more than 126. Labour saw a similarly wide range, with forecasts from 430 to 480.

For the Conservatives, the election was fought against a backdrop of cataclysmic polling. In the final days of campaigning, the Tories warned that a vote for Labour would lead to a “supermajority” or, as Boris Johnson put it, a “sledgehammer majority”. Rishi Sunak insisted the result was not a “foregone conclusion”.

The Conservatives’ performance was ultimately better than projected, with 121 seats, while Labour’s victory was overestimated, with 410 seats gained.

Sir Keir Starmer’s majority of 172 seats is smaller than Sir Tony Blair’s record-breaking 179-seat majority in 1997, but larger than the party’s 2001 win.

Pollsters base their forecasts on surveys and a range of demographic data including estimated voting intention and turnout. The differing forecasts could be explained by a very slight overestimation of the Labour vote which could have resulted in a significant readjustment of seat numbers.

Polling firm More in Common was the most accurate, forecasting Conservative, Liberal Democrat and SNP seats within ten seats of their best estimate, compared to the final results. Their polling suggested the Conservatives would land 126 seats.

This was better than JL Partners, Survation and YouGov, which were out by up to 30 seats. In June, a few weeks before election day, Savanta forecast just 53 seats for the Tories.

All pollsters consistently overestimated Labour’s performance, with five of the nine major firms suggesting it would win more than 450 seats.

Survation was the most accurate when it came to third parties, predicting 61 seats for the Lib Dems, and was the only pollster to suggest more than a handful of seats for Reform UK.

The firm projected seven seats for Nigel Farage’s party, but Reform won only 4.

Almost all pollsters projected the collapse of the SNP, but not necessarily to the extent of the nine seats they currently have. They are still disputing the constituency of Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire, expected to declare on Saturday.

Polling groups also provide voting intention data, which estimates the vote share of each party.

The latest of these forecasts put Labour on 41 per cent of the national vote share, ahead of Conservatives on 21 per cent, Reform on 15 per cent and the Lib Dems on 11 per cent.

The reality is slightly better for the Conservatives, but they are still facing their worst ever result by a considerable margin.

The seat forecasts are generally put out by pollsters using a method called multilevel regression with poststratification (MRP).

Votes across the UK and in your area

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This involves surveying thousands of individuals, with efforts made to capture a decent sample size in as many constituencies as possible. Results are then adjusted across all seats in the UK, taking into account demographics, previous voting trends and estimated turnout.

Forecasters will run hundreds of versions of these analyses, slightly tweaking variables such as turnout or voting intention. They will then produce constituency-level estimates based on the average outcome of these simulations.

Most pollsters also publish higher and lower estimates based on those different simulations, with the gaps often being considerable.

JL Partners, for example, which released its forecast on July 2, had a higher estimate for the Conservatives of 139 and lower estimate of 81 – a gap of 58 seats. Its upper estimates for Reform were also correct.

However, it was one of the few pollsters to factor that into its figures.

YouGov suggested that as few as 391 Labour seats could be won, one of the few firms to do so.

One of the clear signs from all the polling data is that this election will see very narrow margins across seats.

YouGov’s latest MRP, for example, forecast that 38 per cent of MPs would win their seats with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote. This is compared to just 2.5 per cent of MPs in 2019.

The rise of Reform, as well as a strong projected performance from the Greens, mean that these winning vote shares could be at record lows, making many seat forecasts well within the margin of error and too close to call.

It could, in part, help explain the fluctuations in seat forecasts because slightly different methodologies could swing those margins either way.

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Tory infighting erupts as Rishi Sunak says sorry for huge defeat

Rishi Sunak apologised to defeated Tory candidates as infighting broke out in the wake of the party’s worst general election result in modern history.

Speaking after winning his Richmond and Northallerton seat, he conceded defeat to Labour and said he had called Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory.

He said: “The British people have delivered a sobering verdict tonight. There is much to learn and reflect on and I take responsibility for the loss.

“To the many good hard-working Conservative candidates who lost tonight, despite their tireless efforts, their local records of delivery, and their dedication to their communities, I am sorry.”

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of the architects of Brexit, all lost their seats. 

Mr Shapps, who lost to Labour in Welwyn Hatfield, said it was “clear tonight that Britain will have a new government in the morning”.

Penny Mordaunt, tipped as a future Tory leader, lost her Portsmouth North seat to Labour. The Commons Leader, a centrist, represented the Conservatives in television debates during the campaign. She said her party had “taken a battering because it failed to honour the trust that people had placed in it”.

Rishi Sunak is expected to signal his intention to resign as Tory leader on Friday morning after leading his party to a historic defeat, sparking what could be a vicious battle to succeed him.

The arguments began on Thursday night, with the Right of the party accusing the Prime Minister of not having been Conservative enough, and the Left accusing the Right of putting off young, liberal voters.

Suella Braverman, a former home secretary who is seen as a likely Tory leadership contender, said the party “didn’t listen” to the British people and had “let you down” as she was re-elected in Fareham and Waterlooville. 

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former Cabinet minister, echoed the sentiment, saying: “It is clearly a terrible night for the Conservatives. I’m afraid I think the Conservative Party took its core vote for granted.

“We have no divine right to votes. We need to win voters at every single election. And if you take your base for granted, if you don’t manage to stop the boats coming over, if you don’t manage to control migration when that’s what your voters are concerned about, your voters will look to other parties.

“So I think failing to deliver on Conservative core principles did us a lot of harm.”

Andrea Leadsom, another former Cabinet minister, said: “Perhaps the problem is the Conservatives have not been conservative enough.

“Maybe it was wrong not to go after Reform straight away but again, all of these are very carefully thought through as to what is the right approach and what we wanted to do was focus on what Labour would be doing with people’s taxes.”

But Sir Robert Buckland, a former Cabinet secretary on the other wing of the party, said a Tory lurch to the Right would only help Labour.

Speaking after becoming the first Conservative to lose his seat to Labour, in Swindon South, he said the coming leadership election would be a disaster, warning: “With the Conservatives facing electoral armageddon, It’s going to be like a group of bald men arguing over a comb.”

He hit out at Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, for writing an article in The Telegraph that called the result of the election before voters went to the polls. “We’ve seen, in this election, astonishing ill-discipline within the party,” he said. “It’s spectacularly unprofessional and ill-disciplined.”

One Tory peer on the Tory Left said the party was “in danger of being drummed out” of London. Lord Johnson, the brother of Boris Johnson, said: “That’s a terrible indictment of their appeal to metropolitan open-minded liberal voters. They have got to appeal to the people who live in our big cities.”

The Tories’ share of the vote was projected by Electoral Calculus to be just 25.8 per cent – worse than the previous lowest of 29.2 per cent recorded by the Duke of Wellington in 1832.

George Osborne, the former chancellor, said on Thursday night that Mr Sunak had led the Tory party to its “Waterloo”.

But he told ITV, the results were not quite as bad as some polls had been predicting, adding: “There’ll be a bit of a sign of relief, even though it’s the worst results since 1832, when the Duke of Wellington was running the Tory party. So this one feels more like the Tory party’s Waterloo, frankly.”

The Duke of Wellington’s forces beat those of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 before he took the party to a historic defeat.

Michael Fabricant, the former Tory vice chairman, tweeted: “Never in the history of general elections have so many been let down by so few.”

Baroness Davidson, a former leader of the Scottish Tories, said Rishi Sunak had run “one of the worst election campaigns in living memory”.

She told Sky News: “We upset pensioners by making the cut to National Insurance over income tax, we upset mortgage payers because of the Liz Truss year.

“We upset Remainers by being the party of Brexit in 2019. We upset Brexiteers this time around because we promised immigration would go down and it went up.”

“How do you cobble together a group of people who are going to vote for a party if you don’t have a coherent narrative of what the last 14 years is like if you’ve broken your promises, if you run probably one of the worst election campaigns in living memory, and if you have also lost your reputation for competency in government?”

Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister, said he believed the former prime minister “will do what he believes is in the national interest”, adding that Mr Sunak’s early exit from D-Day commemorations was “plainly a mistake”.

Discussing the Electoral Calculus prediction of a Tory vote share of only 25.8 per cent, Lord Hague, a former Tory leader, told Times Radio: “That would of course be a catastrophic result in historic terms for the Conservative Party.

“It’s also set against the expectations of all those predictions over the last few weeks, many of which have been that the Conservatives will get even fewer seats than that, even down to 64 seats in one prediction a couple of days ago.

“And one of the things on my mind has been… can they form a viable opposition? And if it is 131 seats, you can just about mount an effective opposition with 131 seats.”

He said the party would have to “build again for the future”, adding: “The Conservative Party at its greatest [has been the] governing party of the country because it could command the centre ground of politics, people of all walks of life, people of all age groups, and it will have to be able to do that,” he said.

“It will take a long time to be able to do that. But it will have to be able to do that.”

Sir Brandon Lewis, a former Tory chairman, told GB News: “He didn’t wait until the very last minute for an election and then call it when he had to call it. He chose when to call an election and he’ll know that he made that decision. That’s nobody else’s issue – the prime minister makes that decision.

“I suspect right now that’s weighing on him very, very strongly… He will go down as the Conservative prime minister and leader who had the worst election result in over a century.”

A Tory spokesman said: “If these results are correct it is clear that Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner will be in Downing Street. 

“That means your taxes will rise and our country will be less secure. ⁠It’s clear that based on this result we will have lost some very good and hard-working candidates.”

Asked whether he was to blame for the Tory defeat because he had been chancellor during Ms Truss’s disastrous premiership, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “It’s on the whole party. It’s on 14 years.”

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The 12 hazards waiting to trip up Keir Starmer

One year from now, our new Labour government may be finding it as hard as the outgoing Conservatives to govern effectively, despite its substantial mandate. Here are the principal problems likely to sour its staggering success from day one:

The economic bind

During the campaign the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) accused both main parties of ignoring reality, contending that “spending on many public services will likely need to be cut over the next five years if government debt is not to ratchet ever upwards or unless taxes are increased further.” The Institute also spotted various cans being kicked down the road by promises of “reviews and strategies” in Labour’s manifesto, rather than immediate action. 

The party’s client groups – notably in the welfare lobby – have already expressed dismay at the lack of promises. The likelihood is that within 12 months they will not only face the predictable annoyance of those who did not vote for it, but the outrage of many who did. And economic problems are not all that await.


The Tories’ defeat was partly caused by their ineffectuality over illegal migration. Labour too may find this impossible to handle without leaving the European Court of Human Rights, which would outrage its supporters. Yvette Cooper, the putative Home Secretary has refused to set a target for reducing migration but talks of a “new border security command” to “smash the criminal gangs”. 

Also promised are new investigators, intelligence officers and cross-border police officers; the last would involve the party working with a government probably run by the French Rassemblement National, to which it is highly antipathetic. Labour would set up a “returns unit” to remove failed asylum seekers, clear the asylum backlog and end asylum hotels. All that costs money, which the party thinks will come out of its £5.23 billion windfall tax on oil and gas companies. 

The deportations of failed asylum seekers – those who have entered Britain illegally for economic reasons and not because of persecution – will need to be swift and plentiful if public anger is to be contained. And if they are, that element in the party that believes in entirely open borders will be angry too. A large majority will help them act divisively. The party promises to end reliance on overseas workers in health and construction, which would mean taking off benefits for many who choose not to work: which would open up another front with the Labour left.


Labour is cautious about raising social security benefits: Rachel Reeves knows doing so is unaffordable, but every pressure group demands it. As a sop, Labour has promised to “review” universal credit and have a “strategy” to cut child poverty. ‘How would that be funded?’ asked the IFS during the campaign, and received no answer. 

As it is, the two million receiving disability benefits in 2019 is now three million and estimated to be four million by 2028-29. The money will have to be found or some disabled people will need jobs. The party has said the minimum wage must become a living wage, with age bands scrapped. It has also promised to ban zero-hours contracts and create more workers’ rights. The likely effects of both policies will be to drive up unemployment and costs and reduce profits and tax revenues.

Tax rises

Labour has signed up to a fiscal rule of the outgoing government, which entails cuts in “unprotected” public services and investment: but as the IFS has said, proceeding without tax rises is unrealistic, and has predicted a continued freeze of thresholds. What Sir Keir Starmer calls “working people” will not feel better off. Nor has a revaluation prior to raising council tax been ruled out. 

Labour promises to boost growth by reforming planning to build housing and infrastructure. That will trigger endless local disputes and litigation. Windfall taxes on un-green energy companies are a certainty, and Labour promises a National Wealth Fund that will create 650,000 jobs in “clean” energy industries: how quickly such jobs will materialise is unclear. The party also hopes to raise £7 billion by limiting tax avoidance: previous such initiatives have driven people abroad and actually reduced revenues.


Reducing NHS waiting lists is a priority. Labour says there will be 40,000 more appointments a week, by paying staff more to work weekends and evenings. It promises thousands more medical training places, modernised equipment and buildings to help detect cancer and other conditions earlier. It guarantees face-to-face appointments with GPs and a modernised booking system, 700,000 more NHS dentistry appointments each year and a “supervised toothbrushing scheme for three-to-five year olds”. 

This cannot all be funded out of the proposed windfall tax. Wes Streeting, the probable Health Secretary, has said that it’s not about spending more money, it’s about spending more effectively. But unless a social care system is created rapidly (which is unlikely) hospitals will contain elderly people unnecessarily: Age UK reported a year ago that up to 14,000 were “stranded” in hospital for want of care, three times the figure of four years earlier. Also, unions continue to demand big pay rises for everyone from doctors downwards. They have been told they will be disappointed: a confrontation with reality is looming. 


With a promise to “provide Ukraine with the support it needs following Russia’s invasion,” and Putin remaining a threat, Labour’s manifesto says it will “set out a path to raise defence spending to 2.5 per cent of national income.” That means the budget rising from £64.6 billion in 2024-35 to £78.2 billion in 2028-29, but the situation is urgent now. The Tories planned to fund this by cutting civil service payroll and reducing defence research and development: Labour talks of expanding parts of the state payroll.


Ideological issues divide Labour, and those divisions will flare up. Sensibly, it wants a ceasefire in Gaza, but holds back from promising sanctions on Israel. The party’s anti-Israel wing has been mostly silenced during the campaign. It will not remain so. 

Culture wars

On women’s rights, the Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, abused in the campaign by trans rights activists, is not alone. Many Labour women take JK Rowling’s view that its policy on gender is anti-women, and quite rightly hate it. 

The novelist and long-term Labour member Joan Smith wrote recently: “The party has taken an inexplicable decision to treat women, who make up half the population, as less deserving than the tiny population who are transgender. When journalists ask leading Labour figures to commit to supporting women’s rights, they all…start talking about what trans people want.” 

There are 100,000 Britons identifying as trans but around 34 million women and girls. “Men who claim to be women dictate what Labour’s priorities should be,” she said. Labour’s policy of enabling what are effectively falsified birth certificates, and eliminating single-sex spaces, will meet fierce resistance.

Foreign policy

Foreign policy issues are fraught with problems. The rightward shift in the EU, which may now be compounded by an RN victory in France, will make the bloc harder for Labour to deal with. The EU that Britain left is not the EU Labour now has to handle. And polls suggest Donald Trump will become President of the United States in November. Just imagine Barack Obama’s friend, David Lammy, if he becomes Foreign Secretary, sitting down with the Donald.

Net zero

Labour has already backtracked on a £28 billion net zero initiative and on ripping out gas boilers. However it wants to revert to banning sales of petrol or diesel cars by 2030, a policy whose abandonment gave Rishi Sunak a rare moment of popularity. Those who can afford these policies least are Labour’s “working people.”

The new British Energy will, it says, generate “almost all” the country’s zero-carbon electricity by 2030. It will refuse new North Sea oil and gas fields and coal licences, and ban fracking, rejecting wealth creation. Its windfall tax on oil and gas companies will, it says, help fund a £5bn “green prosperity plan”. However, this depends on borrowing costing £17.5 billion over five years that will keep debt high. Compromises look certain, with Labour’s eco-fringe gravely upset.

School fees

VAT on private school fees will not, Labour has hinted, happen until next year. The IFS’s research played down problems: it accepted Labour’s assumption that £1.5bn would be raised, including from business rates, with a mere 3-7 per cent of the 570,000 private pupils in England joining the state system. The schools themselves regard that figure as wildly optimistic. 

The IFS also assumed that money not spent on fees would be spent on other VAT-bearing goods: which forgets that people might use it to pay off additional loans taken out to pay fees, or that generous grandparents would keep it in their savings. A fall of 700,000 overall pupil numbers is predicted by 2030, so the 6,500 more teachers Labour says the tax will fund will be spread less thinly. However, in the short term, the plan could cause chaos in some areas with oversubscribed schools. In the long run, it could undermine a private sector that currently saves taxpayers billions.

Law and order

Finally, Labour inherits a law and order problem. Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan closed three-quarters of London’s police stations. A surge in violent crime and street robbery followed. Yvette Cooper says police will be “back on the beat” and will “halve knife crime” with tougher sanctions (unspecified) within 10 years: but even that would still leave 25,000 incidents a year, and people won’t happily wait a decade for such results. 

New prison places are promised, but without indications of when they will come, or when the backlog in the courts will be cleared. Such vagueness typifies Labour’s entire manifesto. As with every other aspect of governance, the public is already impatient. They will not allow the new ministers long before turning on them too.

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