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Change of guard in sight after UK general election

Photo: Andrew Milligan Associated Press Labor Party candidate Keir Starmer campaigning in Scotland on Wednesday July 3.

Stephanie Marin

Published at 0:00

  • Europe

Polling stations will be open across the United Kingdom on Thursday for citizens preparing to elect their MPs and, therefore, their future Prime Minister. This election has the potential to shake up the British political landscape as the Labor Party is in a strong position to form the next government and regain power from the Conservative Party that it has held for 14 years.

This election is the first since Brexit, which took place in January 2020. As for the last general election, it took place in 2019: British voters then chose the Conservatives of leader Boris Johnson, who had delivered the political party its biggest victory since that of Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

But the flow no longer seems to flow between the British and the Tories.< /p>

The political context has been tumultuous for years in the United Kingdom: there have been five prime ministers since 2010, including one who was in office for only 49 days. The country, as elsewhere, has suffered various upheavals, including the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine and the increase in the cost of living, in addition to the aftershocks of Brexit. It was the Tories who were at the helm of the country during these disruptions, and their decisions – such as David Cameron's austerity policies, his response to the 2008 crisis – have earned them various criticisms over the years. And then, the Conservatives had to deal with scandals that tarnished their image, such as “partygate”, so named for the parties held in the middle of the pandemic at 10 Downing Street, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while such gatherings were contrary to health rules.

Who is the favorite ?

The latest polls position the Labor Party as the big favorite to win the election. Its leader, Keir Starmer, a 61-year-old former lawyer who has been at the helm since 2020, is campaigning on the theme of change. The center-left political party has not been in power since 2010.

The conservatives are in second place and the populist Reform party is in third place. UK, led by Nigel Farage, who gained popularity in voting intentions throughout the election campaign. Accusing the Tories of having failed to control immigration, he seems to be succeeding in siphoning off votes, which could contribute to weakening the chances of the ruling party.

According to the most recent poll by the Whitestone Insight firm on voting intentions, released on Wednesday, the Labor Party would collect 38% of the vote compared to 21% for the Conservatives and 18% for Reform UK. The poll tracking system of the British daily newspaper The Guardian gives (as of Tuesday) 40.7% of the vote to Labor and 20.7% to the Tories, which which would result in 127 Commons seats for the latter and grant a record 428 MPs to Labor, well beyond the number they need to achieve a majority government.

Current Conservative Minister Mel Stride has already conceded defeat, even before the polls opened.

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Why an election now ?

Last May, the outgoing Prime Minister, the conservative Rishi Sunak, in office since October 2022, triggered a surprise election, throwing the country into an electoral campaign — as Emmanuel Macron recently did in France, illustrating despite himself that it is sometimes a risky bet.

Analysts suggest that the 44-year-old politician hoped to save the conservative furniture by banking on his migration policy as well as the recent economic improvement, the United Kingdom having finally emerged from recession in first quarter of 2024.

How the Prime Minister is chosen ?

The British electoral system is similar to that in Canada. Britons will go to the polls to choose an MP for their constituency – there are 650 in the UK, spread across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For this election, more than 390 political parties have been registered, several of which are only satirical candidates, including “Count Binface”, who is running in Rishi Sunak's constituency.

The United Kingdom has a “first past the post” electoral system like in Canada: in short, the candidate who obtains the most votes wins, even if he does not have the majority.

After the votes are counted, the king or queen usually asks the leader of the party that succeeded in electing the greatest number of MPs to become prime minister and form a government. A political party needs 326 seats to form a majority government.

What are the issues ?

Marked by a struggling economy, a national health service undermined by long waiting lists, a housing crisis and a sharp increase in the cost of living, the British have obviously the state of their portfolio at the top of their priority list. As the Labor leader has brought his party more to the center, he promises not to raise taxes on citizens, businesses or the sales tax – an approach similar to that of his conservative rival, who nevertheless promises to reduce public spending .

Immigration is also a concern for citizens as migrants continue to arrive on British shores in small boats. Rishi Sunak vows to put a cap on the number of legal migrants and reaffirms his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, a controversial plan that the Labor Party has promised to abandon if it comes to power, instead focusing to strengthen border security.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116