Major polls predict Starmer’s Labour on course for stunning UK election win

After 14 years of Conservative rule, Keir Starmer’s party appears set to inherit a divided country with a faltering economy.

British opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer with Maahwish Mirza, Labour's Parliamentary candidate for Mid Bedfordshire
Labour leader Keir Starmer poses for a photo with Maahwish Mirza, the party's candidate for Mid Bedfordshire, during a campaign event in Hitchin [Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters]

London, United Kingdom – Barring a major upset in the coming hours, the Keir Starmer-led Labour Party is on course to win Thursday’s general election in the United Kingdom by a record landslide, two major polls suggest.

On Wednesday, YouGov’s final poll forecast a “historic election victory” for the centre-left party with 39 percent of the votes and 431 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

“What we can be absolutely confident upon is the winner. Labour are set to win and set to win big,” it said. “This election will be like none we have seen before with Labour set to reverse their worst result since 1935 to potentially a record-breaking victory in just one electoral cycle.”

Late on Tuesday, a poll by Survation predicted that Labour is “99 percent certain to win more seats than in 1997” when Tony Blair ended 18 years of Conservative rule.

The new prime minister is set to inherit a country beset by economic and social woes and a deeply divided political system.

The fight among those vying to dominate the opposition is less predictable with the right-wing Conservatives, who have been in power for the past 14 years, trying to fend off a hard-right threat led by Nigel Farage, the telegenic populist and key architect of Brexit who is hoping his Reform UK party gains traction.

“The incoming government will face many serious challenges,” said Toby James, professor of politics and public policy at the University of East Anglia.

“Should Labour win a predicted landslide, then parallels to [Tony] Blair’s victory [in] 1997 will be drawn.

“However, the situation is much more difficult than that inherited by Blair. … The economy was booming in 1997, whereas it has seen sluggish growth at best recently. Prices remain high following record inflation,” James told Al Jazeera. “There is large government debt, which will make spending on cash-strapped public services difficult.”

From left, top row: Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer, Labour’s Keir Starmer and Scottish National Party leader John Swinney. From left, bottom row: Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey, Conservative premier Rishi Sunak and Reform’s hard-right leader Nigel Farage [File: AP Photo]

But as six weeks of campaigning draws to a close, Labour is taking nothing for granted and urging Britons to vote.

Turnout was 67.3 percent at the last election in 2019, down from 68.8 percent in 2017. In 1997, turnout was relatively high at 71.4 percent, although lower than the previous poll – 77.7 percent in 1992 – which was won by Conservative leader John Major.

Survation said Labour is likely to secure 42 percent of the vote, leading to 484 seats. The Conservatives are “virtually certain to win a lower share of the vote than at any past general election” with 23 percent, it added, citing heavy losses in former Conservative heartlands.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in office since October 2022, called the election in May as economic data pointed to a recovery, with inflation at a lower level than in previous months.

“Labour could be heading for a large majority, with the Conservatives becoming the main opposition. Eyes will be on how many seats the Reform party can win, given the threat that Nigel Farage poses to the Conservative Party, but also developments in France,” said James, referring to recent electoral successes of Marine Le Pen’s far-right movement.

He characterised Sunak’s tenure as “short and extremely difficult”.

“He has faced significant challenges with the aftermath of the pandemic, the effects of the Ukraine war on inflation and [the] challenge of holding the Conservative Party together. Few prime ministers have faced so many significant challenges within such a short period. The aim was to stabilise the ship, but there are few significant policy achievements to point to.”

‘Politicians often weaponise migration to score votes’

As well as the economy, party campaigns have focused on immigration.

The Conservatives, who led Britain’s exit from the European Union on a promise to lower migration, have failed to achieve that goal.

Net migration to the UK dropped 10 percent to 685,000 in 2023, compared with a year earlier, but remained above average historical levels. The majority of people travelled for work or study, with far fewer – 29,437 undocumented migrants and refugees – arriving last year via the perilous journey across the English Channel from France.

Former Conservative premiers, such as David Cameron and Theresa May, had pledged to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands.

“Politicians often weaponise migration to score votes ahead of an election and too often we see a race to the bottom between parties over who will impose the toughest policies toward asylum seekers,” warned Emilie McDonnell, UK advocacy and communications officer at Human Rights Watch.

“The next UK government needs to reset the narrative on migration and push back against the fear-mongering and dehumanising rhetoric that is inevitable post-election,” she told Al Jazeera.

Labour has promised to scrap the controversial Rwanda scheme cultivated by the Conservatives, which aims to deport undocumented refugees and migrants to process asylum claims in the African nation.

To date, no such flights have taken off due to legal opposition and humanitarian concerns.

“Abandoning the Rwanda scheme and resuming asylum processing for people arriving irregularly are essential to restoring refugee protection in the UK,” said McDonnell. “However, much more is needed to create a fair and humane asylum system and to show that the UK will do its fair share to protect the world’s refugees, including by greatly expanding safe pathways, repealing the Illegal Migration Act that bans seeking asylum, and introducing a strict time-limit on detention.”

Gaza protests
Hundreds of thousands of protesters, including scores at British university campuses, have called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza over the past nine months [Anealla Safdar/Al Jazeera]

Observers are also keeping a close eye on British towns and cities that are home to large Muslim communities where Labour is expected to shed some support given its stance on Israel’s war on Gaza.

Starmer, like Sunak, supports Israel and regularly talks of its “right to defence” even as almost 38,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Pro-Palestine protesters are planning another big march on Saturday in London.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and its partners, police have not offered march organisers any central London start or end point for the demonstration “in contrast to every other occasion”.

PSC leader Ben Jamal said: “Keir Starmer is facing his first test on the willingness of his government to support the right to peaceful protest, including for protest to take place near Westminster. The Met Police are threatening to use repressive powers under pernicious legislation passed by the Tory government to stop a protest near Parliament … Will [the incoming government] robustly uphold the democratic right to protest?”

Shaista Aziz, who quit her role as Labour councillor in October in Oxford after six years over Starmer’s position on the war in Gaza, said she feels “detached” from the general election.

“There is zero excitement at the prospect of going to the polling station this week – even though we all want the removal of a disastrous Tory government from office after 14 years of devastation heaped on the country,” she told Al Jazeera.

“Labour will need to show strong-principled leadership on Gaza that upholds international law and international human rights and humanitarian law, and that does not create false equivalency between the occupied and the occupier. So far, it’s shown it’s incapable of doing any of this.”

Source: Al Jazeera