Rishi Sunak hustled out as UK LP sweeps to power in historic election

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Britain’s Labour Party swept to power Friday after more than a decade in opposition, as a jaded electorate handed the party a landslide victory — but also a mammoth task of reinvigorating a stagnant economy and dispirited nation.

Labour leader Keir Starmer will officially become prime minister later in the day, leading his party back to government less than five years after it suffered its worst defeat in almost a century. In the merciless choreography of British politics, he will take charge in 10 Downing St. hours after Thursday’s votes are counted — as Conservative leader, Rishi Sunak is hustled out.

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“A mandate like this comes with a great responsibility,” Starmer acknowledged in a speech to supporters, saying that the fight to regain people’s trust after years of disillusionment “is the battle that defines our age.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said opposition Labour Party has won the UK election as his Conservatives face a rout.

Speaking as drawn broke in London, he said Labour would offer “the sunlight of hope, pale at first but getting stronger through the day.”

Sunak conceded defeat, saying the voters had delivered a “sobering verdict.”

Labour’s triumph and challenges

With almost all the results in, Labour had won 410 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons and the Conservatives 118.

For Starmer, it’s a massive triumph that will bring huge challenges, as he faces a weary electorate impatient for change against a gloomy backdrop of economic malaise, mounting distrust in institutions and a fraying social fabric.

“Nothing has gone well in the last 14 years,” said London voter James Erskine, who was optimistic for change in the hours before polls closed. “I just see this as the potential for a seismic shift, and that’s what I’m hoping for.”

And that’s what Starmer promised, saying “change begins now.”

Anand Menon, professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, said British voters were about to see a marked change in political atmosphere from the tumultuous “politics as pantomime” of the last few years.

“I think we’re going to have to get used again to relatively stable government, with ministers staying in power for quite a long time, and with government being able to think beyond the very short term to medium-term objectives,” he said.

Britain has experienced a run of turbulent years — some of it of the Conservatives’ own making and some of it not — that has left many voters pessimistic about their country’s future. The U.K.’s exit from the European Union followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine battered the economy, while lockdown-breaching parties held by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff caused widespread anger.

Rising poverty, crumbling infrastructure and overstretched National Health Service have led to gripes about “Broken Britain.”

AP

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