A UK victory for Labour and ‘No Drama Starmer.’ It doesn’t take much to start a landslide

Labour leader Keir Starmer reacts after winning the constituency of Holborn and St Pancras during the UK general election on July 5, 2024, in London. (Leon Neal/Getty Images/TNS)

The Labour Party’s demolition of the chaotic Conservative Party in Britain’s July 4 general election is another marker of the reassertion of sensible, fiscally sound centrism and, above all, the rejection of leaders who bring either revolt or chaos.

The new customer service-oriented prime minister, Keir Starmer, a fiscally shrewd moderate already known as “No Drama Starmer,” arguably is as far removed from his chilly socialist predecessor atop Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, as he is from Rishi Sunak, the technocratic British leader he defeated Wednesday and who had been forced to deal with the mess his predecessors Boris Johnson, a reckless maverick, and Liz Truss, a reckless libertarian, progressively wrought. Voters were exhausted by all the Tory dysfunction; they correctly intuited their government was not delivering the services the British people needed.


Sunak, both a wealthy and a decent man, took to the podium Friday morning outside 10 Downing Street prior to tendering his resignation, opened his mouth and said, “to the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry.”

That’s a far cry from an embittered and defeated Donald Trump ginning up supporters to go march on the U.S. Capitol. Many of them went to jail and saw their lives ruined; Trump may well get a second term in office.

So there’s the first lesson for the United States. Normal democratic transitions have not gone the way of the dinosaurs. They are alive and well across the Atlantic. Minus Trump, they’d likely be living here too.

But there’s another, more worrying illustration for Democrats in the U.K. results. Demolitions can be sparked from small swings. Labour, Starmer would do well to remember as he holds off the left wing of his party, won only 1 percentage point more votes than when it lost under Corbyn in 2019. But that was enough for 200 more seats in Parliament and headlines like “Labour Landslide” and “Tory Wipeout.”

Labour actually won only a third of the popular vote.

Granted, Britain has somewhat stronger third parties, such as the Green Party and Reform UK, and there are many other systemic differences. But it still is striking that just 700,000 more votes going to Labour in a country with a population of 67 million was so transformative. That’s what happens in a so-called “winner takes all” system. Those swings in the polls may appear to be slight, but they can beget transformations, nonetheless.

Public reaction as reflected in polls still is emerging in the U.S. following the Joe Biden debate debacle, but any Democrat who believes what appears to be a small current overall swing toward the Republicans couldn’t have a massive impact on races for the U.S. Congress is simply not paying attention.

That’s surely why Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas spoke out and said, speaking for embattled colleagues who don’t want to be collateral damage, that Biden should leave the race.

One look across the Atlantic should tell Democrats that the status quo carries more risks than many in their party seem to realize.

—Chicago Tribune

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