July 17th, 2024

Labour is hopeful and Conservatives morose before voters deliver their verdict on UK’s election day

By Jill Lawless, The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

LONDON (AP) – British voters are picking a new government Thursday, voting in a parliamentary election that is widely expected to bring the Labour Party to power against a gloomy backdrop of economic malaise, mounting distrust in institutions and a fraying social fabric.

A jaded electorate is delivering its verdict on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, which has been in power since 2010.

The center-left Labour Party led by Keir Starmer has had a steady and significant lead in opinion polls for months, but its leaders have warned against taking the election result for granted, worried their supporters will stay home.

“We cannot afford five more years under the Conservatives. But change will only happen if you vote Labour,” Starmer said on Wednesday night.

The Conservatives have conceded that Labour appears headed for victory and urged voters not to hand the party a “supermajority.”

In the final days of campaigning Sunak insisted “the outcome of this election is not a foregone conclusion.”

But in a message to voters on Wednesday, Sunak said that “if the polls are to be believed, the country could wake up tomorrow to a Labour supermajority ready to wield their unchecked power.” He urged voters to back the Conservatives to limit Labour’s power.

Labour has not set pulses racing with its pledges to get the sluggish economy growing, invest in infrastructure and make Britain a “clean energy superpower.”

But nothing has really gone wrong in its campaign, either. The party has won the support of large chunks of the business community and endorsements from traditionally conservative newspapers, including the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun tabloid.

The Sun said in an editorial that “by dragging his party back to the center ground of British politics for the first time since Tony Blair was in No. 10 (Downing St.), Sir Keir has won the right to take charge,” using the formal title for Starmer, who was knighted.

Former Labour candidate Douglas Beattie, author of the book “How Labour Wins (and Why it Loses),” said Starmer’s “quiet stability probably chimes with the mood of the country right now.”

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have been plagued by gaffes. The campaign got off to an inauspicious start when rain drenched Sunak as he made the announcement outside 10 Downing St. Then, Sunak went home early from commemorations in France marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Several Conservatives close to Sunak are being investigated over suspicions they used inside information to place bets on the date of the election before it was announced.

It has all made it harder for Sunak to shake off the taint of political chaos and mismanagement that’s gathered around the Conservatives since then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff held lockdown-breaching parties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, rocked the economy with a package of drastic tax cuts and lasted just 49 days in office. There is widespread dissatisfaction over a host of issues, from a creaking public health care system to crumbling infrastructure.

But for many voters, the lack of trust applies not just to Conservatives, but to politicians in general. Veteran rouser of the right, Nigel Farage, has leaped into that breach and grabbed attention with his anti-immigration rhetoric.

The centrist Liberal Democrats and environmentalist Green Party also want to sweep up disaffected voters.

“I don’t know who’s for me as a working person,” said Michelle Bird, a port worker in Southampton on England’s south coast who was undecided about whether to vote Labour or Conservative. “I don’t know whether it’s the devil you know or the devil you don’t.”

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tibedik308
tibedik308
13 days ago

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