Rishi Sunak Concedes Defeat, Takes Responsibility As 14-Year Conservative Rule Ends

LONDON: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, on Friday, conceded defeat after the exit poll showed his Conservative Party getting trounced and the Labour Party heading to a landslide victory, bringing the curtains down on his party’s 14-year run governing Britain.

“Today power will change hands in a peaceful and orderly manner with goodwill on all sides,” said Sunak, whose election as Prime Minister nearly two years ago marked an iconic change with a descendant of British Raj’s subjects taking over the administration of Britain.

“The Labour Party has won this general election, and I’ve called Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory,” he said at the announcement of his own election from a constituency in Yorkshire.

Apologising to his party, he said somberly: “I am sorry.”

The counting of votes was still on around the country when he spoke at about 4:30 a.m. (local time), but the exit poll predicted that the Labour Party led by Starmer was set to win over 410 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, a gain of 209.

The Conservative Party was projected to win 131 seats, a loss of 241 seats.

“I take responsibility for the loss to the many good hardworking Conservative candidates who lost despite their tireless efforts, their local records of delivery and their dedication to their communities,” he said.

“The British people have delivered a sobering verdict tonight,” Sunak said.

“There is much to learn and reflect on,” he added.

Although the current House of Commons term ran till December, Sunak called early elections in the face of mounting problems for the party and the country.

It was either a strategic error or a fatalistic submission to realities.

The writing on the wall was clear this year when the Conservatives lost 10 city councils and about 400 councillors in local body elections in May after a string of losses in parliamentary byelections.

The latest string of Conservative rule began in 2010 with a resounding rout of the Labour Party but it descended into chaos that Sunak could not stem in the less than two years in power.

The Conservatives saw five Prime Ministers, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Elizabeth Truss, and Sunak, the last three in the last five years marked by vicious in-fighting, with Truss being in office for only 49 days.

It spilled over into the campaign.

“I think we’ve seen in this election astonishing ill-discipline within the party,” former Justice Minister Robert Buckland told the BBC after losing to a Labour candidate.

Sunak’s future is at stake after holding the job of Prime Minister, which he won on his second try.

The tremendous loss by the Conservative Party casts a shadow on the technocrat’s attempts to become the leader of the opposition at the head of an emaciated party.

In a sign of the rising recriminations, Suella Braverman, the former Home Secretary dismissed by Sunak, said after her re-election: “The Conservative Party did not keep our promise.”

The leader of Indian origin, who belongs to the right wing of the Conservative Party and once ran for Prime Minister, added: “I am sorry my party didn’t listen to you, Conservative Party has let you down.”

Brexit – the momentous decision for Britain to leave the European Union in 2020 after a 2016 referendum – was the most significant marker of the Conservative rule.

The party led the country through the Covid pandemic, the economic crisis it caused, and the mounting immigration problem – mostly failing to live up to the voters’ expectations in the confluence of adversities. (IANS)

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