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Ways to Win Elections in the UK

As I write at 21:58 hours on 4 July 2024, exit polls are deemed to give an idea of whether it will be a Sunak or Starmer-led government on 5 July, to give an idea of what to expect over the hours that follow as votes are being counted.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak returns to 10 Downing Street after delivering a speech in London, Britain, on May 22, 2024. Sunak announced on Wednesday that the country will hold a general election on July 4. (Xinhua)

The polling stations in the UK closed at 9 p.m. on 4 July 2024. Contrary to my earlier prediction, the weather has been sunny and warm with no rain but with a brisk wind everywhere. However, as per my earlier assessment, the voter turnout, according to party observers, was low at most polling booths, with older voters and women, particularly ethnic minorities, wanting to exercise their right to vote. To buck this trend, there was the mode of postal ballots. Overall, there was a noticeable scant showing of young, working men wanting to spend their time at polling stations, either due to election weariness, laziness, or boredom.

The ways to win elections have changed in the UK. Years ago, it was door-to-door canvassing, followed by views of pollsters assessing the opinion polls up and down the country. We then saw turnouts at election rallies, wall posters, and election leaflets, campaign buses touring election sites, TV audiences interrogating party leaders, and party manifestoes proclaiming what parties were committed to delivering if elected.

Has the UK changed beyond recognition?

I can well remember the last swing to the Labour Party when Tony Blair got a thumping majority in 1997. Then, as it is now, newspaper/press endorsement suddenly took to openly endorsing Labour.

In the last few days, Labour, despite a consistent 20-point lead over the Conservatives in the polls, has done almost the impossible to get where it is. It has not sat on its laurels but has spent considerable time and effort to “woo the press.” It is indeed a remarkable feat to get “Fleet St” now Docklands, the Sun newspaper, The Times, and Rupert Murdoch on its side. Just as we were going to the polls today, the Sun newspaper endorsed Labour. We found the Sunday Times days ago backing Labour for the first time in almost 20 years.

Winning elections through newspaper endorsements was the newest trick in the book that Labour played to uproot the Conservatives, who, in turn, brought former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to support Rishi Sunak on the last day before the general election. The way the press played their card was to endorse Starmer’s Labour Party, “as it deserved a sympathetic hearing?” Perhaps it was a very persuasive approach on the part of the Labour Party.

It has been a “big day” in the UK. Soon, the BBC tracker suggests the polling stations are about to close. Several polling experts are predicting a decisive Labour majority, even at the lowest end, Labour to command 391 seats in Parliament (HoC), a majority of 132 seats over the Conservatives.

As I write at 21:58 hours on 4 July 2024, exit polls are deemed to give an idea of whether it will be a Sunak or Starmer-led government on 5 July, to give an idea of what to expect over the hours that follow as votes are being counted. 46 million UK voters are eligible to elect 650 Members of Parliament.

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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