Nigel Farage, Reform UK victory shows why historic Labour win isn’t rise of the Left

The historic mandate for the Left-of-Centre Labour Party in the UK general election stands out amid the surge of right-wing parties in Europe. But is the Labour sweeping the election with 412 seats in the 650-member Parliament a sign of a Left resurgence? Not really.

As the Labour Party celebrates and the Conservatives, with their worst-ever poll performance, shed buckets of tears, they will have their eyes on one man — Nigel Farage.

Farage has led his right-wing party, Reform UK, to become the third-largest in the UK in terms of vote share. Their electoral success by cornering 14.3% of the votes comes as a counter to the Labour’s sweep of the polls. Labour managed to increase its vote share by just 1.7%.

And how the UK’s politics and policies shape up now will to a great extent depend on whether or not Farage and Reform UK are accommodated by the Conservatives.

NIGEL FARAGE, THE SURPRISE STAR OF THE UK ELECTION

Farage was the UK’s Brexit star, and played a key role in getting Britain out of the European Union. Once Brexit was a done deal, Farage was considered a spent force. That’s just until he returned with his anti-immigration thunder.

In five weeks since he entered the fray, Nigel Farage and his Reform UK have changed the political landscape. Reform UK has had a big role in chipping away votes from the Conservatives (Tories).

Exit polls predicted Reform UK of Farage to win close to a dozen seats, but the right-wing party managed four finally.

However, it’s the vote share of the fledgling party that surprised people. In five weeks, Farage and his party managed to corner 14.3% of the total vote share.

Let’s put the right-wing party’s performance in context. Liberal Democrat, the third-biggest party in the UK which won 71 seats, had just 12.2% vote share. That’s less than the 14.3% of Reform UK.

Personally, as well, this election marked Farage’s first electoral success since he entered the electoral fray in 1994. What got him this huge success on his eighth attempt is a change in world politics.

“Farage entered the election only just a couple of weeks ago and he has really blown it up,” Politico deputy UK editor Rosa Prince told CNN.

“There are definitely those policies that chime with some parts of the electorate. We have seen it in other countries, like just across the pond in France. People like what Nigel Farage has to say about immigration,” said Prince.

British politics isn’t insulated from a world that is dominated by immigration concerns, and has seen a shift away from the Left.

HOW LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVES SHIFTED RIGHT

It was Tony Blair who realigned the Left-of-Centre Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn tried to take it back to its roots with a Leftist swerve but failed miserably. The Corbyn-led Labour’s rout in the 2019 election, and his ouster from the party in May 2024 show the direction that the Labour Party is taking.

“An editor of a Trotsky magazine in his youth, yet he delighted capitalists by putting ‘wealth creation’ at the heart of the Labour Party platform this year, a Washington Post profile on Keir Starmer read.

“What Keir has done is taken all the left out of the Labour Party,” billionaire John Caudwell, told the BBC.

“He’s come out with a brilliant set of values and principles and ways of growing Britain in complete alignment with my views as a commercial capitalist,” Caudwell added.

Under Keir Starmer, now the UK’s Prime Minister-elect, Labour is a Centrist party.

As Labour moved to the Centre, the Conservatives moved further right.

In his last-ditch attempt to stem the probable Conservative haemorrhage, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tried to borrow a page out of Nigel Farage’s book.

Sunak said illegal immigrants were crowding just across the Channel in Calais, France, waiting for the Labour government to cross over to the UK. He warned British voters on the issue of immigration, a beloved tool of right-wing parties, in his bid to stem the loss.

RISE OF THE RIGHT, NOT THE LEFT, IN THE UK

Just across the English Channel, France is witnessing the rise of Marine Le Penn’s far-right National Rally.

Le Penn’s party won the first round of the election in France and the second round of voting will take place on Sunday (July 7). Though French President Emmanuel Macron might fend off the challenge, cobbling together a desperate coalition, Le Penn’s ultra-right party will likely emerge as the biggest party in France.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the US has already seen one presidential term of Donald Trump, who seems all set to return for a second time in the election in November.

In fact, Farage and Trump are allies. They have been close since 2016, when Trump invited Farage to address his campaign rallies. The Republican candidate tried to cash in on Farage’s Brexit appeal. And on Friday, Trump was quick to congratulate Farage for his “big WIN” in his constituency.

The man-of-the-moment, Nigel Farage, himself described how his party had captured the mindspace of British voters.

“There is a massive gap on the centre-right of British politics and my job is to fill it,” Farage was quoted by the BBC as saying.

“What is interesting is, there’s no enthusiasm for Labour, there’s no enthusiasm for Starmer whatsoever. In fact, about half of the vote is simply an anti-Conservative vote. We’re coming for Labour, be in no doubt about that,” added Farage.

Those were his first reactions after the results on Friday.

Farage and everyone else knows that the course of UK politics will depend on how Reform UK is accommodated.

“The big question is will the Conservative Party draw Farage into them and join forces, or push him away. That will be fascinating because what you could have is a total realignment of the right like what you are seeing in France,” said Politico’s Rosa Prince.

What just happened as the world was hooked to a historic Labour win was best expressed by celebrated economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

“Starmer’s vote was a miserable 33.9%, up by only 1.7% compared to Corbyn’s ‘disastrous’ 2019 result – not to mention Corbyn’s smashing 40% in 2017. Labour’s ‘landslide’ was wholly due to the disunity of the Right. But what if/when the rump Tories & Farage unite next time?” said Yanis Varoufakis.

In reality, what we just saw wasn’t a resurgent Labour, but a Farage barrage. And this might just be the beginning.

Published On:

Jul 5, 2024

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