Home Uncategorized From Crumbling NHS To Economic Crisis, Why Rishi Sunak Lost UK Election

From Crumbling NHS To Economic Crisis, Why Rishi Sunak Lost UK Election

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From Crumbling Public Health Scheme To Economic Crisis, Why Rishi Sunak Lost UK Election

Rishi Sunak, the outgoing British Prime Minister (File).

New Delhi:

Out with the old, and in with the new (sort of), UK voters said Friday, handing Rishi Sunak‘s Conservatives a thumping defeat in the general election, stripping it off nearly 250 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons. And Sir Keir Starmer‘s Labour has been handed the keys to the castle.

Mr Starmer and his ‘new’ Labour will now form the next government. Addressing a cheering crowd of party faithfuls at a dawn victory rally in central London, he declared the UK “gets its future back”.

The scale of the Tories defeat is singular; in power for 14 years, the party was routed in Wales and Scotland, and saw some of its biggest leaders, including ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss, beaten.

Labour’s Landslide

But perhaps the most chastening blow – the BBC is reporting the Conservatives have lost seats, in the shire counties of England, that they have held since the early 20th century. For example, Labour’s Joe Morris beat the Tory’s Guy Opperman to end the Tory’s 100-year hold on the Hexham seat.

READ | “I Am Sorry”: Rishi Sunak Concedes Defeat In UK Polls

The Conservatives are set for one of their worst ever returns in a general election, and Labour, with over 400 seats, its best. Exit polls had predicted just such a scenario, giving Mr Starmer 405 seats.

Conservatives’ Collapse

Rishi Sunak, the outgoing PM, called for an early election in May.

The warning signs were present then; indeed, they had been present for several weeks, if not months, prior, as UK voters battled a cost-of-living crisis, a growing immigration problem, and poor infrastructure and healthcare, among other issues, and the Tories a serious image problem.

READ | Labour Sweeps UK Polls, Rishi Sunak’s Part’s First Loss Since 2010

At that point the Conservatives – asking the British public for permission to install a sixth Prime Minister since 2010 – were already 20 points behind a rejuvenated Labour, but Mr Sunak seemed to believe he could close and overhaul the gap. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

Why Labour Beat Conservative?

Take your pick. But the crumbling NHS, or National Health Service, and the state of the economy, and attendant concerns like price rise, are high on the list of reasons for the defeat.

A poll by IPSOS Issues Index in June said concerns over slashing of funding for the NHS – a free public healthcare scheme that any other country would love to have – was top of the list, followed by the economy, immigration, price rise, housing and schools, defence and anti-terrorism, and crime.

Mr Sunak scored poorly on all these points, including overseeing the country’s lowest growth rate since the early 19th century and a steep cost-of-living increase, the highest in 41 years.

The British economy has slowed significantly over the past decade, even accounting for the global crisis triggered by the Covid pandemic. GDP per capita grew just 4.3 per cent from 2007 to 2023.

In the previous 16 years that figure was a massive 46 per cent.

This meant incomes stagnated.

A report by the nonpartisan Centres for Cities research institute indicated Britons, on average, had £10,200 less to save or spend between 2010 and 2022, compared to 1998-2010 growth rates.

And the UK’s national debt – £2.7 trillion – is higher than at any point since the 1960s.

There did seem to be some relief soon; in May the International Monetary Fund spoke of a “soft landing” for the economy, and upgraded the growth forecast by 0.2 percentage points to 0.7.

And it was, perhaps, on the back of that expectation Mr Sunak called for the early election.

The NHS is seen by many to be the crown in the British government’s public services.

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Funding for the UK’s national free healthcare scheme, the NHS, has been a key issue (File).

The Conservatives had repeatedly stressed the importance of the NHS, but that concern seemed not to translate into on-ground support for doctors, nurses, and medical professionals.

Budgetary allocations under the Tories paint a clear picture. Since they came to power in 2010 healthcare spending has grown by an average of 2.8 per cent per year, compared to 3.6 per cent in the past 50. This includes the period of the pandemic.

In April there were an estimated 7.6 million people waiting for treatment under the NHS scheme, of which over 50,000 had been on the list for more than a year. The median wait time was 14 weeks.

The number of people waiting for medical aid, including those with serious conditions, has tripled under Conservative rule, according to data from the NHS published by Al Jazeera.

Brexit had its say too, with movement restrictions meaning medical professionals from mainland Europe could either not be hired or chose not to sign up. As horrible as this sounds, this was good news for India, with the NHS turning to its former colony to fill over 2,000 doctors’ posts.

Immigration was also an issue. Mr Sunak’s government had promised to crack down on illegal entrants into the UK, but its Rwanda policy – supposed to act as a major deterrent – failed to deliver.

In fact, two years after its announcement not one plane has taken off for the African nation.

According to Sky News, the Conservatives have spent over £300 million on this scheme, which they said would deter illegal immigrants entering the UK on small boats across the English Channel.

Under this policy, those caught would be sent to Rwanda while they apply for asylum.

As of March-end a total of 1.18 lakh people are waiting for an initial decision on their application.

The rising cost of living and skyrocketing house prices, as well as steep increases in rental prices, have also been a problem the Conservatives seemed not to be able to control.

Truss, Johnson’s Contributions

It wasn’t just Mr Sunak’s failures that led to the Conservatives’ downfall.

Boris Johnson was elected as the Tories’ leader and the PM in July 2019, shortly before the pandemic struck. His dishevelled appearance and chaotic leadership precipitated a revolt by his ministers and, of course, the ‘Partygate’ scandal that referred to parties at 10, Downing Street during a lockdown.

Mr Johnson resigned in June last year following an investigation that he called a “witch hunt”.

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The Conservatives’ last three Prime Ministers – Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and Boris Johnson (File).

He was followed by Ms Truss – the UK’s fourth female PM and its shortest-serving leader.

READ | UK In Crisis: Why Country Has Seen 3 PMs In 3 Years

Ms Truss – who lost her South West Norfolk seat – faced criticism for the way it handled the economy, including a controversial mini-budget that led to market turmoil. Her leadership was further undermined by U-turns on policy and a loss of confidence among MPs.

What Now For Labour?

Mr Starmer’s leadership has been pivotal in Labour’s revival.

Since taking up the role in early 2020, he has repositioned the party to the centre, and fixed problems within the party that include in-fighting and anti-Semitism. 

Looking forward, he will want to avoid repeats of the Tories’ mistakes, including October 2022, when Ms Truss’ government proposed unfunded tax cuts that spooked markets and tanked the pound.

That ill-advised move cost her her job.

“We did it. Thank you truly… you have changed our country,” Mr Starmer told triumphant supporters at a victory rally in central London. “(But) a mandate like this comes with a great responsibility… Today we start the next chapter… begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal, and start to rebuild.”

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