Sir Keir Starmer's Britain in 2024 is very different to Blair's 1997 world

Weather metaphors are easy and usually best avoided by political commentators.

But in the aftermath of this extraordinary election, it is worth breaking the rule to compare the moods in Westminster between today and 1997 - the last time Labour took power with a landslide majority in parliament.

Back then the sunshine broke out as delirious New Labourites jived to Things Can Only Get Better outside the Festival Hall and Tony Blair declared: "A new dawn has broken, has it not?"

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When Sir Keir Starmer delivered his victory speech in London last night, he appeared to reference Mr Blair when he spoke about "the sunlight of hope".

But he was speaking indoors at Tate Modern because there has been unrelenting drizzle in London this morning.

Rain and the lack of a real summer seemed to characterise this election campaign.

Rishi Sunak angered his party at the start of the campaign by announcing what it regarded as a premature election contest in torrential rain without an umbrella in the street outside Downing Street.

The air was damp again as he emerged from Number 10 to announce his resignation immediately as prime minister and, as soon as arrangements for his successor are in place, Conservative leader.

In the manner of his leaving, Mr Sunak was contrite, twice saying "I am sorry".

He described Sir Keir Starmer as "a decent, public-spirited man who I respect" - very different from the "lefty north London lawyer" he has belaboured repeatedly before his defeat.

Sir Keir won his massive majority with a much smaller share of the vote, 34% to Mr Blair's 43%. He has a parliamentary majority of about 170, slightly less than Mr Blair's 179.

But that is still an equivalently strong mandate to govern and to pass what he wants in parliament with ease.

After a largely defensive campaign, laying out what he would not do, it remains to be seen how bold he will be writing that legislative blank cheque.

Tony Blair won before the banking crisis and credit crunch, before the MPs' expenses scandal, before 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Blair's best friend Lord Charlie Falconer concedes that today "there isn't that sense of optimism".

This parliament is going to be dramatically different from 2019 to 2024 and not just because of the Conservative-Labour switch.

The Liberal Democrats are resurgent, with the most MPs in their party's short history. They now displace the SNP as the UK's third-largest party in parliament.

Sir Ed Davey will now have a guaranteed pair of questions at PMQs, a bully pulpit which his predecessor Lord Paddy Ashdown made the best of.

In Scotland, the SNP have burnt through three leaders and first ministers since the last national election - just like the Conservatives. They too have been scythed down - losing 38 of their 48 seats last time.

Fringe voices have also thrived in the anti-Tory wave - Reform UK, including Nigel Farage, the Greens, and pro-Palestine independents including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Although each group only has a handful of MPs, they will be able to make their voices heard, after an election in which the two main parties combined captured less than 60% of the vote, a record low.

With so many parties in contention, Britain's first past the post electoral system has delivered some uneven results. Labour have 65% of the MPs with a 34% share of the vote.

All the other parties, including the Conservatives, have fewer seats than their percentage of votes would indicate. Reform UK have 14% but just four MPs.

There is likely now to be a clamour from the right demanding electoral reform, something Labour has not opposed in the past.

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In 1997, all Labour candidates rose on Blair's tide. In 2024 some shadow cabinet ministers who thought they were on their way into government for real lost their seats.

Jonathan Ashworth fell in Leicester and Thangam Debbonaire lost to the Greens in Bristol. Wes Streeting had a close call in Ilford - all down to pro-Palestinian campaigners.

These losses may point to a broad but thin level of support for Labour.

They are nothing compared to the wipeout of two-thirds of Conservative MPs.

The Sun's headline this morning is "Britain Sees Red" and it seems red rage with the Conservatives more than enthusiasm for Labour which has delivered this political transformation.

The Tories and their recent prime ministers have surely been punished.

Rishi Sunak delivered the worst-ever Tory general election result, but at least he kept his seat in North Yorkshire.

Each of the constituencies held by his four predecessors was lost by the party.

David Cameron's Witney and Theresa May's Maidenhead fell to the Liberal Democrats and Boris Johnson's Uxbridge and Liz Truss's South West Norfolk to Labour.

Former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, who symbolised the elitist Brexiteer government, was ousted in Somerset too. Michael Gove quit before he could lose his seat. A record half of the outgoing cabinet lost their seats. So has Damian Green a sometime de facto deputy prime minister.

Those who survive are dominated by moderates - Jeremy Hunt, James Cleverly, Tom Tugendhat and Laura Trott among them. But Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, Ric Holden have survived as well.

In the coming months, whether or not there is a caretake leader, the Conservative Party is set to go on fighting the civil war between moderates and hard-liners which has so alienated voters.

There will be no honeymoon for Sir Keir Starmer.

British political life is more polarised, more bitter, less respected and even more physically dangerous than it was in 1997 - two MPs have been murdered while working in their constituencies since then.

Starmer has pledged "country first, party second" as "change begins" in the words of the newly amended Labour slogan. He has promised to end the chaos and restore a sense of service to government.

As he warned his cheering admirers "the going will get tough", it is fitting perhaps that he sets out on such a momentous and vital task on such a dreary day in Westminster.