Against the odds, the Tories manage to hold onto 121 seats which should ease their rebuilding efforts

Michael Taube: UK Tories face a long rebuilding process, but ...The July 4 United Kingdom general election is over. A change in government occurred that led to a supermajority and a massive shift in the country’s political compass and economic direction.

As for the previous government, while humiliated on election night and facing the prospect of a long rebuilding process, the faintest of silver linings did somehow materialize.

Keir Starmer and the Labour Party won 411 out of 650 seats in the election. This was an increase of 206 seats from the previous session of the House of Commons, effectively doubling their size. Labour now has a 174-seat majority in the new Parliament, ensuring the new Prime Minister can safely pass government policies for the next four years.

Rishi Sunak and the Tories went from 344 seats at dissolution to 121. It’s the worst result in the party’s 190-year history and ends 14 consecutive years of Tory rule. This embarrassing result had been predicted during the entire campaign – and, truth be told, expected for the past couple of years.

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Smaller parties had a mix of positive and negative outcomes.

Ed Davey and the Liberal Democrats achieved their best-ever election result with 71 seats. John Swinney and the Scottish National Party fell from 48 to nine seats. Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin won seven seats, becoming Northern Ireland’s biggest party, but they maintained their abstentionist policy for Westminster. Nigel Farage and Reform UK ended up with five seats, the first MPs ever elected under their party banner, and finished third overall in the popular vote. Gavin Robinson and the Democratic Unionist Party also won five seats, down three. Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay’s Green Party, which had never won more than a single seat in a general election, earned four seats, while Rhun ap Iorwerth’s Plaid Cymru maintained its previous four seats.

Starmer, the new PM, is by most accounts a decent, honourable person. Unfortunately, his party’s views range from centre-left to hard-left on politics, economic and cultural issues. That’s how he will surely lead the country while in office.

Labour may implement some of the policies mentioned in its political manifesto, Change, at the very beginning. While the new government claims to be “pro-business and pro-worker,” only one of those approaches is believable. This manifesto touts many left-leaning ideas, including setting up a “publicly owned clean power company” called Great British Energy, initiating a “Green Prosperity Plan” for the environment and a “Clean Power Alliance,” taxing private schools and siphoning this money into state education, strengthening workers’ rights, new reforms to railways by “bringing them into public ownership,” lowering the voting age to 16, and so forth.

The voters have spoken, and they ultimately wanted something different. Not necessarily any of this, however.

“Labour has won 411 constituencies – 63.7 percent of the seats available – with a vote share of just 33.8 percent,” the Daily Telegraph noted on July 5. Hence, it’s fair to say the “30-point gap between the popular vote and seat share makes this the most skewed result ever, far outpacing the previous 22-point gap recorded in 2001 under Tony Blair.”

It’s also worth pointing out that Starmer and Labour received 9,731,363 total votes in 2024, which is lower than what Jeremy Corbyn, a far more controversial political figure. received as party leader in the 2019 election (10,269,051 votes) and 2017 election (12,877,918 votes). It’s not even significantly higher than what Ed Miliband received as Labour leader in the 2015 election (9,347,324 votes), either.

This gives credence to the position that the election result wasn’t as much of an overwhelming Labour win as a massive Tory collapse.

Meanwhile, the Tories didn’t get completely obliterated in the election as some pollsters and publications had predicted. Electoral Calculus’s June 26 poll had Labour leading the Liberal Democrats by 450 to 71, with the Tories lagging behind at 60. The Financial Times showed Labour ahead of the Tories by 459 to 91 on June 28, while The New Statesman suggested on June 29 that Labour’s lead was 436 to 90.

As badly as the Tories were decimated on July 4, and as unpopular as this government was, they should thank their lucky stars that they ended up with over 100 seats. Had they fallen below this number, it would have severely damaged the party’s chances of a full recovery and given Reform UK, which won five seats and finished second in 98 others, more ammunition for the next election cycle. Both things could still happen, of course, but the odds have been reduced.

Sunak resigned as Prime Minister on July 5. He’ll stay on as Tory leader and Leader of the Opposition until arrangements to choose his successor are in place. It will likely take a couple of elections for this party to rebuild and recover from this debacle. Fortunately, there’s a small ray of hope for the next Tory leader that it could potentially happen a bit sooner.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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