British voters’ anger

British voters’ anger

It was a thrilling night. Not long after the polling stations closed and the first results were announced, it was clear that Labour was heading for victory. And not just by a slim margin – but by a landslide. Not since 1997, when Tony Blair was voted in, has there been such anticipation that things can now get better.

The keynote throughout Labour’s campaign has been “change” and this is what Sir Keir Starmer, the new prime minister, says he will deliver. He told the country Friday morning: “We said we would end the chaos, and we will … Today we begin the work of change … and start to rebuild our country.”

Behind this result, however, is not only a need for something new. It’s also a matter of crime and punishment. The former Conservative government committed multifarious crimes (breaking laws, corruption, cronyism, even illegal betting) and the electorate have now had the opportunity to thoroughly punish them after a total loss of trust in their integrity and competence. This is the worst defeat in the history of the Tory party and is solid evidence of the electorate’s anger.

After 14 years of Conservative government (with five Tory prime ministers during that period), the electorate have literally booted them out (even very safe Conservative seats have fallen to Labour). First, we had David Cameron, who staged the Brexit referendum; then Theresa May (the best of a very bad lot); then Boris Johnson, who brought standards in public life to an all-time low and was found guilty of lying to the House of Commons; Liz Truss, who was in power for 49 days before being thrown out by her party for losing the economy £30 billion (yes, not a typo), and finally Rishi Sunak, whose personal wealth far exceeds King Charles’ and who was out of touch with reality. Between the five of them, they are responsible for broken promises, broken schools and a broken health service. Not to mention the cost-of-living crisis and real poverty in many sectors of the population.

Brexit, a legacy we have to live with, has had disastrous results economically. Most (even if they voted to leave the European Union back in 2016) now realize it was a huge mistake. Not just for financial reasons but because everyone now sees that unity in Europe is also about security. With countries on the borders of Europe now descended into bloody conflict, we should be united with this family of countries, not separated.

So, now we have Starmer, a former human rights lawyer. He appears (surely the safest word to use when describing politicians) clever, dedicated, honest, safe – and humane. He has not promised miracles to the less well-off, and he has not terrified the wealthy. Is this not a sensible strategy from a new leader? We hope he is moderate; we hope he will make society a better, fairer place. This is his task and, in order for him to fulfil it, we accept that he will have to raise taxes as well as promote business to fill the coffers.

Another issue at the back of the new prime minister’s mind is the growing far-right party Reform UK, whose leader, Nigel Farage (an admirer of both Trump and Putin), won a seat for the first time. I don’t want to ruin my mood with apocalyptic thoughts but his growth in popularity is alarming. Let’s hope this is balanced by the gratifying rebuilding of the Liberal Democrats, who have had their best result for over one hundred years.

Today, rather than being depressed by the gray skies, we are seeing the rain that’s falling as a way of cleansing and refreshing the UK and nothing will dampen the optimism that’s sweeping the country. We all know that a honeymoon doesn’t last forever, but we will enjoy it while we can.

This is a day for positive thinking, celebration and optimism and the moment to wish Starmer the best of luck as he takes his toothbrush into Downing Street.

Victoria Hislop is a British author and a member of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.