Insight Analysis into the UK Elections 2024

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At A Glance

·        The Conservative Party’s 14-year reign has come to a crashing conclusion as Labour secured a landslide victory in the UK General Election with Sir Keir Starmer becoming the new Prime Minister.

·        In Northern Ireland, the DUP suffered losses as Ian Paisley was among those unseated

·        Sinn Féin has emerged as Northern Ireland’s largest party at Westminster as they secured increased majorities across their 7 seats.

A New Landscape

The UK has witnessed a seismic change in its political landscape as Labour have secured a landslide victory, with its leader Sir Keir Starmer becoming the new Prime Minister. Starmer will enjoy a majority comparable with Tony Blair’s in 1997 as the Conservative vote collapsed which was influenced by Nigel Farage’s Reform Party. In a confident tone Starmer told activists this morning at 5 a.m., “We did it!” and “it feels good, to be honest."

Sir Keir Starmer arrived at Downing Street earlier today and is expected to appoint his new cabinet this afternoon. Indeed, he will be jumping right into his first foreign engagement as Prime Minister nest week flying out to meet US President Joe Biden for the first time at the NATO summit on Tuesday.

Demise of the Tories

It was a personal D-Day for outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after a calamitous campaign that began in the rain in Downing Street and saw controversy around the PM’s non-attendance at a D-Day memorial event. The Conservatives are now looking for a new leader with Sunak left with no option but to take responsibility for the Tory capitulation and resign.

A highlight of the night for many, though not True-Blue Tories, was the sight of former Prime Minister Liz Truss losing her seat. A further fall from grace for the former ephemeral PM and party leader. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps and Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt were both victims of the Labour landslide, while former cabinet minister Jacob-Rees Mogg and Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross were also ousted.

While Labour’s overall percentage of the vote might not have been as large as expected, it claimed a whopping majority of more than 170 seats, winning 412 overall to the Tories 121. This was more than double Boris Johnson’s majority in 2019. Labour’s dominance was not limited to England as they surged in Scotland reducing the Scottish National Party to just 9 seats.

The Return of an Old Force and the rise of Reform

The Liberal Democrats have returned to the UK political fore as they claimed 71 seats, a huge increase on their 8 seats of the last term. The party will now be the third-largest party in Westminster for the first time since 2015. Reform’s Nigel Farage was elected an MP for the first time after eight attempts. Like a dog with a bone, Farage secured the Clacton seat with a 45% swing and will lead the Reform Party in an increasingly eclectic Parliament. The GB News host and former jungle resident in I’m a Celebrity, saw his party Reform UK win 4 seats.

Fall of a Dynasty in North Antrim

While Labour’s victory was almost a foregone conclusion, Ian Paisley Jr’s demise in North Antrim, a seat held by the Paisley family since 1970, was a huge surprise. He lost out to arch-rival Jim Allister, leader of the TUV. It was certainly a political earthquake, or as the BBC's Mark Carruthers put it, “whatever bigger than seismic is.” It’s clear that the people of North Antrim have spoken, and said, “North Antrim says no!” to the Paisley’s 54-year dominance. The DUP also lost seats in Lagan Valley to Alliance, and to the UUP’s Robin Swann in South Antrim. There was some positive news for the party as leader Gavin Robinson held his East Belfast seat fending off the challenge of Alliance leader, Naomi Long.

It was a good night for Sinn Féin as it completed a political hat-trick, becoming the leading NI party in Westminster having already become the leading party in local government and the Assembly. It retained all seven seats from the last elections with increased majorities despite running three new candidates. This will help buoy spirits within the party after a disappointing local and European election south of the border.

Elsewhere, the SDLP has retained both of its seats, although leader, Colum Eastwood, has seen his majority reduced in Foyle and the Alliance Party had a mixed night, gaining a seat through Sorcha Eastwood in Lagan Valley but losing their North Down seat to independent unionist Alex Easton.

What will a Labour Government mean for NI?

New Prime Minister Keir Starmer has a long-standing relationship with Northern Ireland having served as a human rights advisor to the NI Policing Board for four years. The party did commit to reversing the controversial Trouble’s Legacy Act while in opposition so their approach to this will be watched closely. While it’s unlikely that the party will get drawn on calls for a border poll, there are other early challenges for the administration not least the block grant and Barnett Formula and their approach to Casement Park funding.

While it is anticipated Hilary Benn will move from his Shadow position to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, there are other key figures within the Labour team who know Northern Ireland well not least his chief of staff and former Department of Finance permanent secretary Sue Gray who will have an intimate working knowledge of all the key players here. For Dublin relations Cork-born campaign manager Morgan McSweeney will likely be influential in improving Anglo-Irish Relationships. Interesting times ahead!


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