'Change begins now', Starmer says - as Labour win historic landslide

Sir Keir Starmer has declared "change begins now" after winning a landslide victory at the general election.

The Labour leader has become the UK's new prime minister - securing the 326 seats required for a majority in the House of Commons - putting an end to 14 years of Conservative rule.

He said "my government will serve you, politics can be a force for good", as he addressed the nation from Downing Street for the first time as prime minister.

"Our country has voted decisively for change, for national renewal and a return of politics to public service," he said.

"Our work is urgent and we begin it today."

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Outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded defeat moments before Labour surpassed the target number of seats needed for victory, declaring at his election count: "The Labour Party has won this general election and I have called Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory."

Later, as he resigned as leader of the Conservative Party - signalling a Tory leadership race - Mr Sunak said it had been an honour to serve as the country's prime minister and he had "given this job my all".

Earlier, a gleaming Sir Keir told a crowd of supporters: "We did it, you campaigned for it, you fought for it, you voted for it and now it has arrived, change begins now."

He added the UK is once again experiencing the "sunlight of hope".

"The sunlight of hope, pale at first but getting stronger through the day. Shining once again on a country with an opportunity after 14 years to get its future back."

With 648 seats out of 650 seats declared by Friday lunchtime, Labour will be forming the next government with a majority of at least 170.

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The results have seen the nation firmly turn its back on the Tories.

Speaking after he held on to his seat, a solemn-looking Mr Sunak said his party had faced a "difficult night" and he took full responsibility for the results.

He said: "The British people have delivered a sobering verdict tonight... and I take responsibility for the loss.

"To the many good, hard-working Conservative candidates who lost tonight... I am sorry."

Other key moments from a dramatic night of results include:

• Several Tory cabinet ministers lost seats to Labour, including Liz Truss, Grant Shapps and Penny Mordaunt;
• Others fell victim to the Lib Dem plan to "smash" the Tory Blue Wall, like Alex Chalk and Gillian Keegan;
• Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held on to his seat as an independent;
• Reform UK leader Nigel Farage won a Commons seat at his eighth attempt;
• Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer defeated shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire in Bristol Central;
• Labour's shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth lost his seat to an independent;
• Senior Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg lost his seat to Labour.

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The results mean a Labour prime minister in Number 10 for the first time since 2010 and the Conservatives facing a fight over the future direction of the party.

Already senior figures have been weighing in on what went wrong.

Ms Mordaunt, who is likely to have been a leadership contender if she had survived, said the Conservatives had taken a "battering because it failed to honour the trust that people had placed in it".

Warning against a shift to the right she said the party's renewal would not be achieved "by us talking to an ever smaller slice of ourselves, but being guided by the people of our country".

"Our values must be the people's," she added.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, seen as a leadership contender on the right, blamed the result on the Conservative's "not keeping our promises".

And Mr Shapps hit out at the Tory "soap opera" which had turned off voters, as he warned his party against going "off on some tangent, condemning ourselves to years of lacklustre opposition".

The Tories faced a battering not only from Labour, but from the Lib Dems and Reform UK too.

The success of Reform UK saw Nigel Farage win in Clacton - his eighth attempt at entering parliament - alongside former Tory Lee Anderson, who won his seat of Ashfield, Rupert Lowe, who took Great Yarmouth for the party, while former party leader Richard Tice won in Boston and Skegness.

It came after a swathe of Reform candidates took second place in Labour seats, pushing the Tories into third or even fourth place.

Mr Farage said there is now a "massive gap on the centre-right of British politics and my job is to fill it".

He added it is not just the Tories he would be taking on: "We're coming for Labour."

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Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey hailed the results for his party as "exceptional".

The Lib Dems won their highest number of seats since the party was founded - securing at least 70.

When polls closed on Thursday night, the exit poll by Ipsos UK for Sky News, the BBC and ITV News suggested the Lib Dems would win 61 seats - up from 11 - more than five times the number they secured at the last election in 2019.

They secured a number of gains from the Tories - including in Wells & Mendip Hills, Dorking & Horley, Wimbledon, Yeovil, Hampshire North East and Norfolk North.

They also took the constituencies of two of the four former Conservative prime ministers from the last 14 years - Lord Cameron in Witney and Lady May in Maidenhead.

In Wales, the Tories were wiped out, while in Scotland Labour were rampant.

It was a torrid night for the SNP, who were down to just nine MPs by Friday morning.

That is down from 48 at the last election, resulting in the Lib Dems overtaking them as the third-largest party.

In a sign that Sir Keir's landslide may not have been driven by overwhelming public enthusiasm, turnout at the election was on course to be the lowest for more than 20 years.

After all but two results had been declared, the turnout figure stood at 59.85%, the lowest turnout at a general election since 2001.