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Labour triumphs: What the UK general election means for Ukraine

Labour triumphs: What the UK general election means for Ukraine Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer (Photo: collage by RBC-Ukraine)

On July 4, a snap election to the lower house of parliament is being held in the United Kingdom. For the first time in 14 years, the Conservatives will lose power, which will pass to the Labour Party. How the election campaign went and what changes are expected after the election in the country, which is one of Ukraine's key allies - read in the article by RBC-Ukraine.


How election is held in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom historically has a majoritarian electoral system. According to this system, the candidate who receives the most votes becomes a member of parliament from the electoral district, regardless of whether they receive 50% of the votes or not. There are a total of 650 electoral districts.

If a party wins the majority of seats, its leader becomes the prime minister, and the leader of the party with the second-largest number of MPs usually becomes the leader of the opposition.

According to the latest polls, the center-left Labour Party is almost guaranteed to come to power, winning up to 484 out of 650 seats, while only 326 are needed for a majority. The center-right, currently ruling Conservative Party will get only 64 seats. The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is expected to be Labour leader Keir Starmer.

This situation is due to several factors: general public fatigue with the Conservative Party, which has been in power alone for 14 years; the inability of the Conservative government led by Rishi Sunak to overcome the economic recession; and problems in public services and healthcare.

The early announcement of the election, which confused the Conservative party machine, also played a role. The election was expected only at the end of this year. At the same time, several important factors will influence the new government.

Who is competing

The key question of the election is how serious a majority the Labour Party will get and how many seats the Conservatives, who have been in power for the last 14 years, will be able to retain. The answer to this question consists of three aspects.

The first is whether the Conservatives can retain the Blue Wall. This name comes from the party color and refers to several constituencies in southern England, which have voted for the Conservatives for decades or even centuries. These are mainly small towns with the highest standard of living in the country. The Conservatives are making great efforts to retain these constituencies. However, their positions have weakened in recent years. Some voters in these constituencies turned away from their native party after Brexit.

Лейбористи перемагають: що змінять для України вибори у Великій Британії

The Parliament of the United Kingdom (Photo: Getty Images)

On the other hand, many young people from Greater London have moved here due to the lower cost of living. These voters are not ready to vote for Labour, preferring the centrist Liberal Democrats. Additionally, the rise in popularity of the Green Party and the right-populist Reform UK party led by Nigel Farage dilutes Conservative support.

The second aspect of the election is related to the Reform UK party. Polls show that it consistently has the support of about 15-18% of voters. However, since they are relatively evenly distributed across the country, the party has not yet managed to elect any MPs to the UK Parliament, although it has twice won elections to the European Parliament. Nevertheless, this party takes some voters away from the Conservatives. This time, it may be easier for the Conservatives.

On June 21, the party's leader Nigel Farage, who has many similarities with Donald Trump in behavior, got into a scandal. In an interview with the BBC, the politician stated that the West "provoked" Russia's aggression against Ukraine. This provided additional grounds for criticism from all other parties that support Ukraine. So, the task for the Conservatives is eased.

The third mystery is who will win in Scotland. Since the 18th century, England and Scotland have been united in one state based on a personal union, i.e., one king occupied both thrones, unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, which were conquered. This legal peculiarity occasionally generates ideas of Scottish independence.

The main proponent of this process is the center-left Scottish National Party (SNP). Therefore, the parliamentary election will also show how popular the idea of Scottish independence remains. Tactical voting is expected in this region, where opponents of Scottish independence will unite around the strongest candidate to prevent the SNP. This situation benefits Labour the most.

What changes to expect from the Labour Party

After coming to power, Labour will face the same problems they criticized the Conservatives for. The main issue is the lack of economic growth, and therefore funds for reforms in other areas. All top Labour speakers talk about the need to put things in order within the United Kingdom. It is expected that this general goal will also dictate foreign policy.

On May 21, Labour's shadow foreign secretary David Lammy outlined the vision for changes while speaking at the Institute of Government, an analytical center closely associated with the British civil service.

According to him, the UK Foreign Office should become the "international delivery arm of Keir Starmer’s missions" and mainly focus on economic growth, promoting the transition to green energy, and national security. In addition, diplomats will need to create conditions for investment in low-carbon industries.

Лейбористи перемагають: що змінять для України вибори у Великій Британії

Likely next Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom David Lammy (Photo:

At the same time, British and foreign observers express concerns about Labour's lack of experience. The party was last in power in 2010. David Lammy has never directly worked in diplomacy, although he once held the position of minister of culture and higher education. However, bureaucracy may come to Labour's aid.

"Since Britain is a powerful developed democracy with a strong civil service, diplomats, and military component, it is clear that even those politicians who do not have such practical experience will have something to rely on," said Oleksandr Khara, an expert at the Center for Defense Strategies, in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

What these changes mean for Ukraine

Despite the lack of experience, Labour is already working on changes in foreign policy. David Lammy spoke about them at a special briefing on July 1. Among other things, he announced a reset of three areas: the UK's relations with the European Union, climate policy, and relations with "emerging middle powers and the Global South." At the same time, he only briefly mentioned Ukraine during the briefing.

"We have been at the forefront here in the United Kingdom in our relationship with that region (Central and Eastern Europe - Ed.), and it's because of that proximity that we recognize the challenges facing Ukraine and Vladimir Putin's horrendous assault, sooner than many others in Europe," Lammy noted.

According to RBC-Ukraine's diplomatic sources, there will be no changes in support for Ukraine. The UK's pro-Ukrainian stance remains by default. Lammy himself and other Labour leaders have repeatedly declared their commitment to Ukraine. Moreover, they have visited Ukraine personally and had conversations with top Ukrainian officials.

The most recent visit was in mid-May this year. The Labour delegation then outlined a five-point plan to support Ukraine: military support, diplomatic contacts, combating Russian aggression, industrial development, and assistance in recovery.

At the same time, the UK's activity in other areas can also help Ukraine.

"Regarding relations with the EU. This is an additional voice in favor of Ukraine, which will not harm us. For example, the UK's informal voice in relations with Trump and the Republicans also contributed to unblocking aid to Ukraine," said Oleksandr Khara.

It may be somewhat more challenging with the Global South, but the UK also has its approaches here.

"Of course, Britain has a colonial past, which can be an irritant to some countries. But in any case, Britain is an experienced player in African and Asian countries. If they prioritize this, they will, of course, mention Ukraine in relations with these states, which should benefit us," emphasized Oleksandr Khara.

Overall, despite some nuances, there is a consensus in the British establishment regarding assistance to Ukraine. This is part of a longer-term strategy that does not change merely because of the opposition's coming to power.

Sources: sociological surveys, public statements by British politicians, and comments from the Center for Defense Strategies expert Oleksandr Khara.