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The day after the night before

Rishi Sunak called the election in the pouring rain and it looks like Keir Starmer will walk up Downing Street in similar sodden conditions later this afternoon. But make no mistake, the political weather has been transformed. 

Labour’s victory is nothing short of staggering, securing a majority of more than 170 while redrawing the political map across the UK. Addressing jubilant supporters this morning, the man who will become Britain’s fourth Prime Minister in two years spoke of “the sunlight of hope… shining once again.” He shall meet the King later today before heading to No 10 from where he will address the nation and, crucially, start putting together his government. 

After 14 years in power, the Conservatives have crumbled to just 119 MPs, suffering around 250 losses including such senior figures as Liz Truss, Grant Shapps and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Rishi Sunak managed to hold his Yorkshire seat, but he says he takes responsibility for his party’s calamitous defeat. He will almost certainly announce his resignation as leader of the Tory party later today, but he may in fact stay in the role for weeks or even months as senior Conservatives plot the process and timings by which they will search for a new leader. They may not have suffered the wipeout some polls predicted (there was talk yesterday of the party falling to fewer than 70 MPs) but it’s not much of a silver lining. The battle for the future of the Conservative party – and of the political right in Britain – is just beginning. 

A dramatic night at the polls also saw a surge in Liberal Democrat MPs, with Sir Ed Davey picking up at least 63 new colleagues. They will become a substantial political presence in Westminster once again, comfortably the third largest party. The SNP has lost nearly 40 MPs and Nigel Farage will take up a seat in Parliament, flanked by three other Reform UK MPs. There will also be a larger than usual number of independent MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn who managed to hold off the Labour tide in Islington North. 

But the story of the night – and the story of the months ahead – is all about Labour. Starmer has taken his party from the depths of defeat in 2019 to the giddy heights of total victory in just five years. It’s true that he benefited hugely from the collapse in support for the Conservatives, and from the fracturing of the Tory vote, but his achievement should be recognised for what it is; a political tsunami. 

Cabinet positions may become clear towards the end of the day while a host of ministerial appointments will take place over the weekend. The new Parliament – full of new faces – will meet for the first time on Tuesday, with the formal State Opening set for July 17, when the new government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead will be outlined. 

The Labour campaign has been criticised by many for being light on detail, but as of today, there’s nowhere to hide. This is now Starmer’s Britain; let’s see what he makes of it.

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