Tory party crushed in UK elections but no enthusiasm for pro-big business Labour landslide

Outgoing Tory prime minister Sunak and junior doctors' picket line

Not just booted out. The Tories (Conservative Party) have been crushed. The electorate has punished them for fourteen years of austerity, attacks on the working class, lies and corruption. Less than seven million people went out and voted for the Tory Party, its lowest vote in a century. Ten cabinet ministers and 250 Tory MPs have lost their seats, the biggest losses ever suffered by an outgoing government in Britain. Rishi Sunak’s only achievement is that there is still a Tory MP in his constituency – alone among the constituencies of the last five Tory prime ministers. Over breakfast on 5 July, millions got to enjoy seeing ex-prime minister Liz Truss booted out as MP for South West Norfolk – a seat which previously had a 24,180 majority.

The result, in terms of the number of seats, is a Labour landslide, just shy of Tony Blair’s New Labour victory in 1997. But enthusiasm for Keir Starmer’s Labour was absent from this general election. The absolute vote for Labour was 9.6 million, lower than the 10.2 million vote Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour got in 2019, never mind the 12.8 million he got in 2017. Labour’s vote share, at around 34%, is the lowest ever for a general election victor, whereas in 2017 Corbyn got 40% of the vote, the biggest jump for a national party in one election since 1945.

The turnout, at less than 60%, was at least as low as 2001, and perhaps the lowest ever in a general election. None of this, of course, has stopped spokespeople for Labour, echoed by the capitalist media, spending election night endlessly repeating how it was only Starmer’s successful ‘change’ in the party (in reality into pro-capitalist New Labour) that had allowed them to go from the allegedly ‘worst election result since 1935’ in 2019 to victory in 2024.

Anti-Tory weapons

In reality, voters picked up whichever they saw as the most effective weapon they could find to defeat a government which has presided over a massive fall in living standards. In 2022/23 the government faced the biggest strike wave since the 1980s: now came the electoral follow through. In Scotland that also meant using Labour to punish the SNP Scottish government, but in England it was the Tories that were the governmental enemy. As a result, Labour’s vote share in England was no higher than in 2019. While in many Tory seats there were significant swings to Labour, in seats Labour already held record numbers stayed at home or voted for other parties. In Wales the process was similar, although Labour’s vote share actually fell from 2019, reflecting anger at the austerity that has also been inflicted by the Labour-led Senedd: the Welsh parliament.

In other seats, particularly in the so-called Surrey ‘stockbroker belt’ and the south west of England, it was the Liberal Democrats who were seen as the best means to defeat the Tories. As a result they gained an extra 63 seats, while only increasing their overall share of the vote by 0.6%.

However, for many trade unionists and socialists, the most concerning thing about the election result will be the support for Nigel Farage’s right-populist Reform Party. Reform won four MPs, but it’s absolute vote was just over four million, half-a-million higher than the Liberal Democrats. This is a warning for the future, and the danger of right-populist, racist forces stepping into the vacuum as anger with the incoming Labour government grows. Nonetheless, at this stage Reform’s vote was not the breakthrough that the capitalist media are suggesting. The direct predecessor of Reform, the Brexit Party, got more than five million votes in the 2019 European Elections, and its incarnation before that – UKIP – got close to four million votes in the 2015 general election.

Tory collapse

What has changed in 2024 is the complete collapse of the Tory vote. Historically this was the most successful capitalist party on the planet. In the 1950s it had almost three million members, now it has been reduced to little more than a few rats fighting in a sack. Without doubt, in the aftermath of the election, there will be further battles in and around the Tory party, as the more serious representatives of capitalism fight with the Tory populist right for control of the wreckage of their party.

However, ultimately the Tories unpopularity stems from their acting in the interests of British capitalism, which has presided over falling real wages, rising living costs, and collapsing public services. Today, on 5 July, 2024, the mood of millions has been lifted by the successful eviction of the Tories, but unfortunately the incoming government has promised, in essence, a continuation of Tory policies. Sticking by the Tories ‘fiscal rules’, as Starmer has pledged to do, would mean – if growth averages 1.1% per year, as it has since 2008 – a ‘black hole’ in the public finances of around £60 billion. In other words Starmer’s Labour, acting in the interests of British capitalism, is set to oversee a new era of yet more austerity, including tax rises and attacks on the living conditions of the working-class majority. That is why the Sun, the Sunday Times, The Economist and the Financial Times all supported Starmer, reflecting the majority of the capitalist classes’ preference for a Labour government, something unimaginable when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.

Workers prepare to fight for change

What conclusion does the workers’ movement need to draw from this? Not that nothing will change, but that we will have to be prepared to fight for things to change. One YouGov poll in the week of the election found that only 2% of Labour voters expect the incoming Labour to cut public services. That shows that, despite all of Starmer’s attempts to dampen workers’ expectations about how very little ‘change’ he will actually deliver, it is inevitable that some hopes are raised by the Tories exit. Starmer, however, has made clear that he does not intend to restore the 40% of government funding cut from councils, or make up for the 10% plus real-terms pay cut suffered since 2010 by teachers, nurses, civil servants, doctors and other public sector workers. Nor has he pledged to renationalise steel, mail, water, or other privatised utilities.

The strike wave against the Tory government demonstrated graphically how collective action can win results, but now the trade union movement needs to prepare to fight for workers’ interests under Starmer’s Labour, rejecting the inevitable attempts of some trade union leaders to try and act as a cover for Labour when it attacks workers’ interests. A Starmer administration would not be the first capitalist government to, for example, increase public sector pay or to make concessions to students facing poverty and huge debts. None of this will be achieved by asking nicely, however, but will require mass workers’ struggle.

A workers’ voice

And the workers’ movement also needs to create a political voice, to fight for the interests of the working class in parliament, giving voice to the struggles in our workplaces and communities. In the run up to this election the Socialist Party fought for a workers’ list of candidates, arguing that even a small bloc of workers’ MPs in the next parliament would put pressure on Starmer from the left, and prepare the ground for the building of a mass workers’ party under the next parliament. Some, justifying a Labour vote, argued that the ‘first-past-the-post’ system made it impossible to stand outside the major establishment parties, and that electing a handful of MPs could make no difference. Yet the election of just four MPs for both the Greens and Reform has already created waves, and gives a glimpse of what a bloc of workers’ MPs could have achieved.

Imagine if when, at the height of the strike wave, Enough is Enough was launched by prominent trade union leaders, and half a million people joined, it had been a new political party fighting for the working class, rather than a nebulous campaign. It certainly could have got a bloc of MPs elected. It would also have been the best means to start to cut across the Reform vote. Remember that, in 2017, more than a million UKIP voters switched to Corbyn, demonstrating the potential to win workers voting for the right populists to an anti-austerity programme.

Of course, that is not how events unfolded. The Socialist Party participates in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), an electoral coalition which aims to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists who are fighting for a new mass workers’ party to stand candidates against pro-austerity, pro-war, establishment politicians under a clear banner. TUSC strove to bring together different forces under one umbrella but, while TUSC stood forty candidates on a fighting socialist programme, many others stood as independents or under other banners. As a result, rather than a clear workers’ list in this election, we had a kaleidoscope of different independent and left candidates, which, while some got good votes, made a limited impact.

However, almost two million people voted for the Green Party, which stood on a ‘Corbynite’ programme, indicating the search for a left alternative in this election. However, unfortunately the Greens are not a workers’ party, with no democratic rights for trade unions within it. And while there are socialists in the Green Party, they have made clear they are not socialist party. For all they won votes by adopting aspects of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme, they also stood against him in Islington North. Despite this, he won his seat as an independent, offering an opportunity to begin building a left bloc in parliament that, for example, can voice the demands of the public sector trade unions and the Tata Steel workers in the coming weeks and months. If the four new Green MPs are willing to act as part of that bloc, that will, of course, be very welcome, and would allow the Greens to play a positive role in the fight for a mass party of the working class.

In addition to Jeremy Corbyn and the Greens, there were other candidates who were elected by voters who wanted to protest to the left. Across the country, Labour’s vote fell markedly in areas with large numbers of voters from a Muslim background, reflecting the deep anger with Starmer’s support for the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. Despite our differences with him, it is unfortunate that George Galloway, standing for the Workers Party, narrowly lost Rochdale, the seat he had won in the by-election a few months earlier. However, in four seats independent candidates standing against the onslaught on Gaza won victories: Leicester South, Birmingham Perry Barr, Blackburn and Dewsbury. Arch-New Labourite Wes Streeting in Ilford South was also nearly ejected by an anti-war independent. The four ‘independent’ victories are welcome, but if they are to be a step towards building a workers’ bloc in parliament it is important that the new MPs combine a battle on Gaza with all the other issues facing the working class in Britain, seeing themselves as representatives of the whole working class rather than just one section of it.


The crisis of British capitalism is increasingly being reflected in the volatility of politics. Labour have been swept to power in a ‘landslide’, but so was Boris Johnson at the head of the Tories five years ago. At the time we said it would be a pyrrhic victory, but the same will also be true for Starmer’s Labour. Any capitalist government will face mass opposition – because capitalism is offering only endless austerity for the working-class majority. Therefore, discussions on how the working class can build its own party, armed with a socialist programme, are being posed increasingly urgently.

The Socialist Party will argue for such a party to fight for the socialist transformation of society: for the nationalisation, under democratic workers’ control, of the major monopolies and banks that dominate the economy, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need. This is a vital step to breaking the stranglehold of the capitalist class, and laying the basis for the development of a socialist plan of production, where all the science and technique created by capitalism could be harnessed and developed to meet the needs of all.


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July 2024