UK: Rishi Sunak apologises after historic Tory defeat

Rishi Sunak has apologized to the nation following the Conservative Party’s general election defeat, marking the worst in its parliamentary history. Sir Keir Starmer has led the Labour Party to a landslide victory and will succeed Mr. Sunak as the UK’s Prime Minister. Accepting responsibility for the outcome, Mr. Sunak acknowledged the public’s “anger” towards his government.

“To the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry,” he stated. “I have given this job my all, but you have sent a clear message that the government of the UK must change, and yours is the judgment that matters. I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this defeat.”

Mr. Sunak delivered his speech outside Number 10, with an umbrella on hand to avoid a repeat of his rain-soaked announcement in May. He announced he would step down as party leader, adding, “not immediately but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place.” The MP for Richmond and Northallerton insisted there would be “an orderly transition” and praised Sir Keir as “a decent and public-spirited man who I respect.”

After bidding farewell to staff in Downing Street just before his speech after general election defeat, Mr. Sunak, accompanied by his wife Akshata, traveled to offer his resignation to the King.

In an earlier victory speech in central London, Sir Keir declared, “change begins now,” adding, “it feels good, I have to be honest.” With nearly all results declared, Labour is projected to form the next government, with a majority of 174. They currently have 412 MPs, an increase of 211 from the last election.

The Tories face their worst defeat in history, losing 250 seats and currently holding 121 seats. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss, whose brief tenure led to a slump in Tory support, lost her South West Norfolk seat to Labour by 630 votes.

Ms. Truss saw her substantial 32,988 majority overturned, with the Reform candidate coming third with 9,958 votes. She is among many senior Tories who lost their seats, including Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, and former minister Sir Jacob-Rees Mogg.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the media a “large number of people who had previously voted Conservative have voted Reform” and the Conservatives now need to “think hard” about how to regain their support.

Former minister Steve Baker, a long-time critic of Tory leaders over Brexit, expressed relief at losing his seat after 14 years as the MP for Wycombe. “Thank God, I am free – it’s over,” he said from the empty hall where the ballots were counted overnight.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage won a seat in Parliament on his eighth attempt, in Clacton, promising, “this is just the first step of something that is going to stun all of you.” Reform has five MPs, including chairman Richard Tice and former Tory Lee Anderson, and has finished second in many parts of the country, taking significant votes from the Conservatives.

In a victory speech in London, Sir Keir told cheering Labour supporters the country was waking up to “the sunlight of hope,” which was “shining once again on a country with the opportunity after 14 years to get its future back.” He added, “Now we can look forward – walk into the morning.”

The Liberal Democrats have slightly fewer votes than Reform but have benefitted most from the Tory collapse, surging to a record 71 MPs, including the constituencies of three former Tory PMs – Boris Johnson, David Cameron, and Theresa May.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said, “This is a record-breaking night for the Liberal Democrats.” He added, “We will now work hard to keep that trust with a focus on the issues that matter most to them, most of all the NHS and care.” The Green Party of England and Wales now has four MPs, with co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay among the winners.

However, it has been a terrible night for the SNP, which has been reduced to just eight MPs so far. Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has retained his Islington North seat as an independent. But another high-profile former Labour MP, George Galloway, failed to retain the Rochdale seat he won at a by-election in February, losing to Labour’s Paul Waugh.

Sir Keir Starmer’s landslide falls short of the 179 majority won by Tony Blair in 1997, with its vote share across the country up by just 2%, largely thanks to significant gains in Scotland, according to polling expert Sir John Curtice. Nevertheless, it will mean a Labour prime minister in Downing Street for the first time since 2010 and a battle for the future direction of the Conservatives.

Penny Mordaunt, who lost to Labour by just 780 votes, had been tipped to make another attempt to be Tory leader after the election. Admitting defeat, she said her party had lost because it “had failed to honor the trust people had placed in it.” Her message was echoed by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who told the media the Tories had “lost the trust of the British people by not delivering. That’s where it went wrong.” He added, “We have to regroup and reconnect and actually just be a unified Conservative Party.”

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