Starmer vows to deliver after landslide victory as Farage hands Labour power

Sir Keir Starmer has been handed the keys to Downing Street with a landslide victory for Labour after Nigel Farage’s Reform UK split the Tory vote.

In a night of stunning results, there was a bloodbath at the top of the Tory party, with a record number of cabinet ministers losing their seats.

By 5am, a record eight top ministers had gone, with Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, defence secretary Grant Shapps, and education secretary Gillian Keegan among the big beasts voted out.

One notable surprise survivor was chancellor Jeremy Hunt, whose seat was expected to fall to the Lib Dems.

Keir Starmer celebrates victory (Sky)
Keir Starmer celebrates victory (Sky)

Meanwhile, on the right, Nigel Farage led a breakthrough for Reform UK, winning a Westminster seat at his eighth attempt in Clacton. He is joined by at least three others – Lee Anderson in Ashfield, Richard Tice in Boston and Skegness, and Rupert Lowe in Great Yarmouth.

Labour was on course for a landslide, but did not have it all its own way, as an early prediction of a 170-majority from the exit poll shrank as results came in.

Some of the party’s success came at the expense of the SNP in Scotland, who looked set to lose more than 30 seats.

But pollster Professor Sir John Curtice said it was clear that “Labour have not made much advance” and that the Tory vote had been split by Reform UK.

Mr Sunak easily won his Richmond and Northallerton seat with 48 per cent of the vote, despite some of the polls predicting otherwise, but conceded defeat from the platform, confirming that he had already called Sir Keir to offer his congratulations.

He told Tory members and candidates: “I am sorry.”

Rishi Sunak arrives at the count in his Richmond constituency (PA)
Rishi Sunak arrives at the count in his Richmond constituency (PA)

Sir Keir told activists in central London: “This is what it is, for a changed Labour Party ready to restore service for working people.

“Across our country, people will be waking up relieved. Now we can look forward into the morning. The sunlight will be shining strong through the day on a country which, after 14 years, has an opportunity to get its future back.”

Earlier at his count, he said the country was “ready for change” as Labour appeared to be on course for a landslide win in the general election.

In his acceptance speech after being re-elected in Holborn and St Pancras, Sir Keir said: “Tonight, people here and around the country have spoken and they are saying they’re ready for change. To end the politics of performance, and return to politics as public service.”

He added: “You have voted, it is now time for us to deliver.”

The Labour leader, who will become the UK’s next prime minister, thanked voters and campaigners for their support, saying: “Don’t forget how we got here. This morning we can see that the British people have voted to turn the page.”

He continued: “I may have mentioned my parents a few times on this campaign – once or twice – but the sense of security we had, the comfort we had from believing that Britain would always be better for their children. The hope – not high-minded, not idealistic – but a hope that working-class families like mine could build their lives around.

“It is a hope that might not burn brightly in Britain at the moment, but we have earned the mandate to relight the fire. That is the purpose of this party and this government.

“We said we would end the chaos, and we will. We said we would turn the page, and we have. Today we start the next chapter, begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal, and start to rebuild our country. Thank you.”

Sir Keir’s party took some important scalps along with making massive gains.

However, among the shock Labour casualties was Jonathan Ashworth, who had played a major role in the campaign but lost his seat in Leicester South to a pro-Palestine candidate. A split vote in nearby Leicester East seat saw the only Tory gain.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage gives a victory speech at Clacton Leisure Centre in Essex (PA)
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage gives a victory speech at Clacton Leisure Centre in Essex (PA)

Meanwhile, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith defied predictions in Chingford and Woodford Green and held on, after Faiza Shaheen, who had been ditched by Labour and stood as an independent, split the Labour vote.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting only scraped home in Ilford by around 500 votes against a pro-Palestine candidate.

Another shadow cabinet member, Thangam Debbonaire, lost her Bristol Central seat to the Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats were celebrating huge gains despite having consistently polled fourth in the national vote share during the campaign. They were on course for their highest number of seats in a single election, topping 50, after their leader Sir Ed Davey spent most of the previous six weeks doing stunts and falling in lakes.

Sir Ed hailed the Liberal Democrats’ election result as “exceptional”. He said the party had put voters’ concerns “at the heart of our campaign”, adding that he had “rather enjoyed” the run-up to the election.

Speaking at The King’s Centre in Chessington, southwest London, following the announcement, he said: “I think we’ve fought a positive campaign. I like to think that people enjoyed how we put over our ideas.

“But our policies on health and care, on helping people with the cost of living crisis, and on tackling the sewage scandal, they’ve been heard louder and clearer because of the way we presented ourselves in this positive light.

Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats are on course to take their highest number of seats at a general election (PA)
Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats are on course to take their highest number of seats at a general election (PA)

“I think it’s possible to have a serious debate as well as having a bit of fun. I don’t take myself, as a politician, seriously. I want to take the concerns of the British people seriously.

“I hope that the style [in which] we’ve gone about it has encouraged people to join the Liberal Democrats. It’s certainly encouraged them to vote for us. This is an exceptional result, a historic result for the Liberal Democrats.”

Meanwhile, after winning in Clacton, Mr Farage declared that his right-wing Reform party had made a significant breakthrough. He told reporters at Clacton Leisure Centre: “It shows that there is a level of disenchantment with politics. I think people are looking for something different.

“But, and here’s the important thing, this is not a protest vote. They’re not saying two fingers up to the establishment. They’re saying, ‘You know what, we really agree with what these guys are saying. We really agree with what they’re saying about tax levels, we agree with what they say about levels of legal net migration.’

“I promise you, the enthusiasm of people voting Reform UK is truly extraordinary.”

On the changes to the electoral system, Mr Farage added: “I was Nigel Farage MEP for 21 years. I won two national elections under proportional representation.

“Believe you me, the appetite for electoral reform is going to be enormous after this election, and that’s one of the many things that I’m going to be up front, out there, campaigning for. I might even work with the Lib Dems on that.”

Meanwhile, the autopsy into the reasons for the Tory defeat has begun.

An early contribution came from Dame Andrea Leadsom, who said: “The Conservative Party has not been conservative enough.”

Former home secretary Suella Braverman all but announced her leadership bid after winning Fareham and Waterlooville. “I’m sorry that my party didn’t listen to you. The Conservative Party has let you down,” she said.

Suella Braverman is expected to be a Tory leadership contender following the election (PA)
Suella Braverman is expected to be a Tory leadership contender following the election (PA)

“You, the great British people, voted for us over 14 years, and we did not keep our promises.”

Ms Braverman, a likely leadership contender if Rishi Sunak quits following the election, said: “I will do everything in my power to rebuild trust. We need to listen to you; you have spoken to us very clearly.”

But in her concession speech, Ms Mordaunt warned against the party “appealing to a smaller slice of the pie”.

And the first Tory casualty of the night, former justice secretary Robert Buckland, blamed Tory MPs who briefed against the leadership and forgot “that it is important to be competent in government”.