Rishi Sunak resigns as Prime Minister of Great Britain after a historic loss. Source: Flickr

Labour’s Resurgence: Understanding the Conservative Downfall

Rishi Sunak resigns after historic defeat, years of Conservative missteps paved the way for Labour's landslide victory

3 mins read

Mia Boykin

Rishi Sunak, the outgoing UK Prime Minister, has apologized to the nation and his Conservative Party following their worst-ever election defeat. Labour, led by Sir Keir Starmer, won in a landslide, with former prime minister Liz Truss and numerous Cabinet members losing their seats in a Tory bloodbath.

In his final Downing Street address, Sunak expressed remorse: “To the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry. I have given this job my all, but you have sent a clear signal that the Government of the United Kingdom must change. And yours is the only judgment that matters.”

Sunak announced his intention to step down as party leader once formal arrangements for selecting his successor are in place. He emphasized the importance of the Conservative Party rebuilding and taking up its role in opposition effectively.

The conservative party has been in hot water the past few years, with Boris Johnson’s Partygate starting issues in 2020. When quarantine measures were under effect, the former PM Boris Johnson attended and hosted parties for himself and other political allies. When the story broke, the nation was furious at the attempt by their government to hide the scandal. 

In 2022, Liz Truss became the PM, a leader of the Conservative party as well. However, her power was short-lived, as she was only in office for 50 days before resigning. She was met with significant backlash from citizens and other political leaders. Then, Rishi Sunak took over. 

Sunak was not as controversial as the former PMs, but he eventually got himself in hot water as he struggled with financial decisions and immigration reform. Sunak’s campaign in 2022 ran on halting inflation rates, which after Liz Truss was at 11% for the nation. Now, inflation has dropped to 2%.

But inflation economic success wasn’t enough for Sunak, as housing prices and heat bills continued to spike. His popularity steadily dropped in the polls, taking a huge hit after he missed visiting Omaha beach in memorium of D-Day with other Western leaders. Polls have made it clear over the past few weeks that clear that Sunak would leave 10 Downing Street. 

New Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer arrives at 10 Downing Street upon the election results. Source: Flickr

Starmer presents a stark contrast to the recent political turmoil. Knighted for his services to criminal justice, Starmer has projected an image of steady, almost dull managerialism throughout years of Conservative chaos. 

The new PM’s background is rooted in working-class values. Born to a toolmaker father and an NHS nurse mother in Surrey, he was the first in his family to attend university. His journey from running a left-wing magazine to becoming the head of public prosecutions and eventually entering politics in 2015 has shaped his pragmatic approach to leadership.

As Labour leader, Starmer has moved the party towards the center, sometimes at the cost of criticism from the party’s left wing. He has backtracked on several key pledges, including increasing income tax and nationalizing public services, in favor of what he calls a “down payment” on Labour’s future offerings.

Starmer’s election promises include addressing tax avoidance, reducing NHS waiting lists, and recruiting more teachers and police officers. He also aims to negotiate a better deal with the European Union, acknowledging the economic impact of Brexit. 

Sunak praised Sir Keir Starmer as a “decent, public-spirited man” whom he respects, wishing him well in his new role. Sunak also thanked his family for their support during his tenure.

The election results saw a significant number of Cabinet ministers losing their seats, including Penny Mordaunt, Grant Shapps, and David TC Davies. Some, like party chairman Richard Holden and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, managed to retain their seats by narrow margins.

The Conservative Party now faces the challenge of rebuilding after 14 years in government. As Sunak prepares to leave office, he reflected on the diversity and inclusivity of British society, noting the significance of his own journey to becoming Prime Minister as a descendant of immigrants.

In his concluding remarks, Sunak said, “We must hold true to that idea of who we are. That vision of kindness, decency, and tolerance that has always been the British way. This is a difficult day at the end of a number of difficult days. But I leave this job honored to have been your Prime Minister.”

The election results mark a significant shift in UK politics, with Labour returning to power after more than a decade in opposition. As the Conservatives begin their process of selecting a new leader, they will need to address the concerns raised by voters and rebuild their party’s image and strategy for the future.

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