Change of Govt in U.K.: Labour’s Election Landslide Reflects People’s Hopes and Difficulties

It can be said that the British people, suffering the adverse effects of withdrawal from the European Union and the COVID-19 pandemic, have rejected the continuation of the Conservative government and opted for change.

The Labour Party, which was the largest opposition party, enjoyed a landslide victory in the U.K. House of Commons elections, winning more than 400 of the house’s 650 seats, with each seat representing a single constituency. This brought about the first change of government in 14 years. Keir Starmer, leader of the party, became the new prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party, led by now former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, lost many seats, winning fewer than half the number of seats it held before the dissolution of the Parliament. This is a historic defeat.

The United Kingdom left the EU in a referendum led by the Conservative government. However, social division and confusion deepened over this choice, and many British citizens have been unable to feel the hoped-for fruits of departing the EU. This disappointment may be reflected in the election results.

The Conservative Party had argued that leaving the EU would give the United Kingdom greater fiscal and policy freedom. However, the economic slowdown and inflation have not been halted, and the United Kingdom’s own regulations on immigration have in fact led to a serious labor shortage.

It is undeniable that the poor governance of recent prime ministers has accelerated the people’s distancing themselves from the Conservative Party. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticized for holding parties at the U.K. Prime Minister’s Office during the pandemic. Former Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss was forced to step down after she abruptly announced a major tax cut and lost the confidence of the market.

The Labour Party suffered a heavy defeat in the previous general elections in 2019, and Starmer took over as party leader. He dropped the radical leftist pledges of the previous leader, including the nationalization of the water supply system, and has indicated that he will pursue more centrist policies.

This shift to a more pragmatic approach may have been accepted by a wide range of voters. Going forward, the party will have to tackle the difficult task of clearing away the negative legacy of the Conservative Party era and of achieving results.

It is commendable that the Labour Party has indicated a policy of continuing the Conservative Party’s policies in the areas of foreign affairs and security.

The new government will support Ukraine, which is suffering from Russian aggression, and will continue sanctions against Russia. It will also promote the improvement of relations with the EU. It is hoped that the United Kingdom under the new administration will continue to demonstrate its leadership as a major European country in the effort to stabilize the international community.

In recent years, the United Kingdom has been increasing its involvement in the Indo-Pacific region. With China’s aggressive maritime expansion in mind, it is placing importance on Japan as a partner. Japan and the United Kingdom, together with Italy, are jointly developing a next-generation fighter jet.

Japan and the United Kingdom share universal values such as democracy and the rule of law. It would be in the interests of both countries as well as the whole world if Japan develops cooperation in a wide range of areas with the new U.K. administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2024)