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Labour Party and New Prime Minister Take Over in U.K.

Changes may be on the horizon for our neighbor across the pond. By a landslide, the Labour Party will now control the British Parliament. The voters spoke after 14 years of Conservative rule in the U.K.—plagued with tough economic times and political dissent.

On Friday, new Prime Minister Keir Starmer took the reins over at 10 Downing Street from outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The initiation of the Labour Party, which is center-left, indicated that the British were weary of the Conservative majority in the House of Commons—the government arm the people voted for. However, PM Starmer won by the lowest voter turnout in years—35% of votes, according to the BBC.

Pollsters predicted that voter turnout would be at least 60% for the Parliamentary election—but that was decidedly wrong. Pundits said the low turnout is a bold indication of the public's dissatisfaction with the status quo in the United Kingdom. Brits indeed want a change. According to the New York Times, even former PM Sunak acquiesced to voters that he "heard your anger."

Mr. Starmer, an attorney who is described as low-key and even noncharismatic by some observers, has shifted the focus of his Labour Party from far-left leaning that borders on Socialism to more centrist.  Labour now holds 412 seats in Parliament. By contrast, the Conservative Party now has 121 seats—which is less representation than the Party has had in more than 200 years. The Centrist Liberal Democrat Party now has 71 seats. Various other parties hold seats in the People's House as well.

One of those parties is Reform U.K., a new anti-immigration party led by Donald Trump ally Nigel Farage. Reform U.K. was able to garner 14% of the vote, equalling five seats. This was a victory for the up-and-coming party and secured its place as the third-largest party presence in the House of Commons.

One heavily contested policy in the U.K. was Brexit when the United Kingdom exited the European Common Market. The move undoubtedly made some Brits feel isolated from their European neighbors because reciprocity was cut off.  Nationalists applauded the policy. With Brexit and the aftermath of the pandemic, the economy in Great Britain is struggling, and inflation remains high.

Many other changes in the country have occurred. The death of Queen Elizabeth II resulted in King Charles III, her oldest son, taking over her position, which was a huge adjustment for the Brits considering the Queen had ruled for over seven decades. Although the Monarch is more of a figurehead in the British government, Buckingham Palace still tremendously influences world politics and British morale. The tradition of pomp and circumstance is run impeccably by the Monarchy, and the public loves it. An outpouring of love for Princess Katherine when she was recently diagnosed with cancer, and her husband Prince William, next in line to be King, is a manifestation of Britain's respect and loyalty to the Royals—who are here to stay.

But what of the new government majority? How will it impact the economy and policies in the U.K.? I think a 'time will tell' approach will answer those questions. I am not an economist by any stretch of the imagination and don't have a crystal ball. I feel an affiliation with the U.K. because I was born there.

The British are a proud and resourceful group. Brexit, in my view, has caused some challenges for a country that is already geographically isolated. It's too soon to tell if the U.K. will re-enter the EU. If I could make an educated guess, I would say probably not. No matter what, the new PM will have his hands full managing a country that needs a healthcare system overhaul, a look at pensioners' struggles and a strong need to inject more hope into young British voters who strongly supported the Labour Party majority.

A Labour Party victory might be more influential than some might initially think. Europe seems to be turning toward a right-wing Populist surge. Elections over Europe last month saw an uptick in right-leaning candidates put into office. Both the Netherlands and Italy made such political choices. Populist groups tend to blame faltering economies, the high cost of energy and immigrants flooding into their country on political groups categorized as more left-leaning. This ideology conflicts with the British decision to put a less conservative party in control. But the "British right is far from dead," said CNN.

That statement is decidedly true. The Labour Party has made some lofty promises. When elected, they committed to growing the economy, not increasing taxes for the working class and closing tax loopholes for the rich, reducing wait times for the National Health Service and boosting other social services, lowering net immigration, boosting defense, adding more teachers and doubling investments in energy and climate measures.

In the U.S., we are currently in an election cycle where conflicting Party values and an outcome could spell major changes in the U.S.  It will be a wait-and-see position for our country and our ally across the Atlantic.

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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