Editorial: Healthy Change in the UK

The United Kingdom experienced a profound electoral shift on Thursday. Its dimensions are many, but two stand out as central: the great parliamentary victory for the Labour Party, and the massive defeat for the Conservative Party, the most humiliating in its history almost two centuries ago. At midday on Friday, King Charles asked Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, to form a government. He was soon appointed prime minister and the new occupant of his official residence, 10 Downing Street.

The change was expected. It is also necessary and welcome. After 14 years of erratic Conservative governments, which accelerated many of the country’s challenges, Starmer and a revitalized Labour Party offer a more responsible and credible roadmap. Its commitment to a responsible, realistic and modern centre-left that steers clear of populism and transforms the UK into a bastion of European stability.

Labour will win 411 seats in the 650-seat Commons, up 214. The Conservatives will fall from 373 to 121. The centrist Liberal Democrats have their best performance in history, winning 71 seats, cementing themselves as the third force. The hard-right reformers, who have an anti-immigration agenda, will enter parliament for the first time, led by their theatrical leader Nigel Farage.

His strong majority will allow Starmer to push his government’s programme hard. During the election campaign, he avoided the grandiose or extreme promises made by his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. The main aim will be to boost stagnant economic growth and weak productivity. This implies, among other things, greater rapprochement with business, which has traditionally been sceptical of Labour. So far, their reaction to the election result has been overwhelmingly positive.

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If the new government can get on with this task, it will create the conditions necessary to attack challenges of various dimensions. These include the crisis in the National Health Service, the reactivation of large public works projects that have been frozen, the fragility of university funding, the housing shortage in several cities, and problems with water and sanitation services. At the moment, the budget is seriously constrained, and the ability to raise taxes is almost exhausted, given the current high margins. For this reason, Starmer has tried to temper expectations of immediate solutions, saying that change is only just beginning.

He also faces two very big challenges. The first is the deep discontent among voters and their loss of trust in politicians and rulers. The other is managing relations with the European Union.

Under Conservative governments, there have been multiple events that have led to a loss of credibility. These include the deeply damaging campaign for the 2016 referendum, which led to the abandonment of the EU, the terrible management of the pandemic, the scandals surrounding some prime ministers and their inept economic management. So restoring trust in government performance will be a slow and difficult process.

Nearly two-thirds of his legislative representation, the product of a single-member electoral system, will give Starmer a strong political capacity to govern. However, behind these numbers lies a much more complex reality.

Labour barely won 34% of the popular vote, but its influence was compounded by the loss of support from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats and Reform, who undermined Labour from the centre or right in many of its strongholds. In contrast, although the Reform Party won a small number of seats, it won 14% of the popular vote. This would give Farage, its main representative, considerable political manoeuvre outside parliament.

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Today, four years after leaving the European Union, nearly 60% of Britons believe that leaving the EU was a mistake. Brexit Which was chosen by 51.89% in the referendum. The reason is clear: none of the promises of those who promoted Brexit have been fulfilled, and the economic impact has been very serious. At the moment, there is no turning back, as Starmer has repeatedly said. However, it is possible and necessary to give greater flexibility to relations with the EU, especially in the trade area.

The task before the new government is enormous. The context in which it will have to operate is fraught with risks and challenges. However, the path is clear and reasonably sensible: take control of Parliament by force; the country’s resources and potential are enormous. All this portends better times for the UK and Europe.

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