Home NewsInternational A New Political Outlook? What To Expect Of The New British Government

A New Political Outlook? What To Expect Of The New British Government

by Vincent Gasana
11:53 pm

Keir Starmer with wife Victoria and supporters outside 10 Downing Street

 A new dawn, or at least that is how the new government in Britain wishes to see it. By the close of polling stations on Friday evening at 10 o’clock, Britain had not only a new government, with Sir Keir Starmer, as the new prime minister, but what in theory anyway, is a different political outlook. What should the world expect from the new government of a country, which despite claims to the contrary, remains one of the world’s most influential nations?

As of Friday, there was a new government for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the UK.

The customary smooth change of government, belied what has come as a bombshell for the Conservative party, under now former prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Acknowledged as the most successful political party, not just in the UK, but worldwide, this election handed the Conservative party, the worst election defeat in its two hundred year history.

The UK is a parliamentary democracy, and the party that wins the majority in the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons, is the party that is called upon by the monarch, to form the government. In a House of Commons of 650 members, Labour won 412 seats, and the Conservatives 121. It was a rout in which many former members of the cabinet, including former prime minister Liz Truss, lost their seats. A party normally needs 326 for a majority.

If a party does not manage to achieve that at the ballot box, but is still the largest party, it can still govern, working with smaller parties. Labour’s landslide win means it will not need any other party to get its programme through the House of Commons.

The new parliament will also have a strengthened Liberal Democratic party, with 71 seats, the most since 1923. The Greens have four members of parliament, the most they have ever had.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which campaigns for independence for Scotland, from the rest of the United Kingdom, managed only nine seats, while the independence party in Wales, Plaid Cymru, could only match the Greens on four.

The widely denounced as racist, hard right, Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, which campaigned mainly on anti immigration, won five seats in what was its first parliamentary campaign. Independent candidates, and other Northern Ireland parties, accounted for the remaining 23 seats.

Among independents, was the former leader of the Labour party, in 2019, Jeremy Corbyn, who ran against the official Labour candidate. Under Keir Starmer, Corbyn was denied party support as a candidate.

In a process that has often been described as brutal, the change of government took place the next day, after the incumbent prime minister had conceded defeat in the election.

As is customary, the outgoing prime minister, Rishi Sunak, drove to Buckingham Palace, to tender his resignation to the King, as head of state. On his way back, he could almost have passed the new prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer, on his way to the palace, to be invited by the King to form the new government.

At the same time, removal vans had already arrived at the prime ministerial residence, Number 10 Downing Street, to move out the former prime minister, as the new one moved in.

By today, Saturday, the new cabinet could be seated around the famous cabinet table, where the new prime minister welcomed his new team with the words, “we have a huge amount of work to do, so now we get on with our work.” Behind every cabinet minister, is a highly professional, apolitical civil service, that will enable that work.

We have already had some major policy decisions. The new Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development affairs, David Lammy, called for an immediate ceasefire in the war on Gaza.

And the new prime minister has declared the Migration and Economic Development partnership signed with Rwanda, as having been “dead and buried before it started…it’s never been a deterrent…And I am not prepared to continue with ‘gimmicks’ that aren’t a deterrent” he said.

To be fair to the new prime minister, he was responding to a question put to him by journalists, at a press conference. What is interesting however, is that of all the many grave issues that face the new government, journalists chose to ask one on migration.

In truth, the question had little or nothing to do with Rwanda. It was a question about what has become a culture in British politics. You would have to go back generations, to find an election in which immigration, and anti immigration sentiment did not play a part in an election, a general election especially.

New PM Sir Keir Starmer with King Charles III

Indeed, it would be fair to argue that all of Reform UK’s five seats, owe to its anti immigration credentials. The prime minister may talk of national renewal, but the media, and many among the electorate, are more focused on what he plans to do, to curb immigration. A question every government finds itself having to answer.

The win for Labour means more than just a new government, it is, in theory at least, a change of political outlook.

For the last fourteen years, the Conservative party, which can be described as rightwing or right of centre, has governed Britain. Under the party, Britain left the European Union, as well as embarking on a set of austerity policies that its opponents argue, left the majority of people more impoverished than before, while doing little to address the economic challenges facing the country.

The country’s major institutions, the National Health Service (NHS), schools, the transport infrastructure, are some of the areas Labour accuses the Conservatives of having run down. The new party’s landslide victory, suggests the country agreed with them.

The change in international relations, especially with African countries, is likely to be imperceptible. There is almost certainly bound to be a change in the new government’s relationship with the European Union, but that relationship is more of a domestic than international affair.

Beyond Europe, any difference will be barely discernible, except perhaps by policy makers. In theory, the Labour party is regarded as more progressive, more open to global concerns, like climate change, and perhaps more mindful of other nations’ legitimate interests, and concerns, and not just those of Britain. Whether or not theory will turn into practice, will depend on Sir Keir Starmer’s interpretation of progressive.

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