UK elections: Historic result for Labour, but no vote share gains


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: British Parliamentary system

Mains level: Impact on India-UK relations

Why in the news? 

Keir Starmer is poised to become the next Prime Minister of the UK, following Labour’s landmark victory securing a substantial majority.

Labour Party Comes to Power after 14 Years of Conservative Rule: 

  • Electoral Outcome: Labour secures a decisive victory in the UK elections, winning 412 seats in the House of Commons, ending 14 years of Conservative governance.
  • Majority: Labour has achieved the largest majority in British politics since the early 20th century, with over 290 seats ahead of the Tories.
  • Voter Sentiment: The election reflects a strong anti-conservative sentiment rather than a resounding endorsement of Labour, with significant losses in Conservative strongholds.
  • Strategic Shifts: Labour’s success is attributed to strategic moves to appeal to rural and traditionally Conservative areas, contrasting with losses in urban and progressive strongholds.

Left and Right Streams in the UK:  

Left Stream (Labour Party):

  • Traditionally advocates for social justice, welfare state policies, and government intervention in the economy to reduce inequality.Strong support from urban areas, progressive voters, trade unions, and historically marginalised groups such as minorities and low-income earners.
  • Under Keir Starmer, Labour has moved towards the centre, focusing on appealing to more rural and traditionally Conservative constituencies.

Right Stream (Conservative Party):

  • Favors free-market policies, limited government intervention, and emphasises individual responsibility and economic freedom. Strong support from affluent voters, business interests, rural communities, and traditionally conservative values such as patriotism and national sovereignty.
  • The Conservative Party has faced challenges with internal divisions over Brexit and criticism for austerity measures implemented during previous administrations.

Impact on India: 

  • India-UK FTA: The Labour Party has maintained its commitment to completing the FTA, though the timelines will remain uncertain for some time. Key sticking points include India’s demand for greater access for its skilled professionals in the UK market and the UK’s push for lower import duties on goods like Scotch whisky and electric vehicles.
  • Defence and Security Cooperation: The India-UK defence and security partnership is likely to continue strengthening, building on recent momentum from the 2+2 mechanism and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit in early 2024. The UK is expected to maintain its support for a rules-based order and continue working with India to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
  • Visa Rules: India has been in talks with the UK for the past few years to relax visa rules for its citizens. With the Labour Party coming into power, there might be some uncertainty around the progress of these discussions.
  • Carbon Tax: While the FTA might reduce or eliminate tariffs, Indian exports could still face hefty carbon taxes, unlike UK exports to India. The Labour Party has always been in favour of imposing a carbon tax, which could impact Indian industries

Conclusion: India should leverage diplomatic channels to strengthen economic cooperation with the UK under Keir Starmer’s leadership. This could include negotiating bilateral trade agreements, promoting investment opportunities, and collaborating on emerging sectors like technology and renewable energy.

Mains question for practice: 

Q Discuss the potential implications of Keir Starmer’s ascension to UK Prime Minister on India-UK relations. 10M

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