Public Media for Alaska's Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

It's Election Day in the U.K. — the Labour Party is favored to return to power

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

This is the day the U.S. celebrates its Declaration of Independence from the British government. In a moment, we'll hear from NPR listeners about what that document means to them. But first, we go to Britain, where this Fourth of July sees voters casting ballots for a new Parliament and prime minister. Polls show that after 14 years of Conservative Party rule, the center-left Labour Party is forecast to win, possibly in a landslide.

NPR's Lauren Frayer is at a polling station in London where voting is underway. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: Hey. So what's the atmosphere like?

FRAYER: It is a gorgeous, sunny day. There's absolutely no excuse not to get out and vote today. I'm at a polling station at a university dormitory in downtown London. The streets are bustling. We've been out talking to people voting before work or dashing out to vote during a coffee or lunch break. Here's a 66-year-old voter named Carol Barwick (ph).

CAROL BARWICK: We're very positive. We've got a candidate here that we're really excited to vote for, and we're really hoping he's going to get in. I won't tell you which one.

FRAYER: We've also been talking to some younger voters. Thirty-two-year-old Natasha Khaleq (ph) says her parents always vote Conservative, but she's actually voting differently.

NATASHA KHALEQ: I feel like the Conservatives, they've had so many prime ministers going in, but it's always been them. So at least - the day to have our say and just - I feel like the more young people that vote, the better it'll be for the government.

FRAYER: She's part of what polls predict will be a big swing away from the Conservatives, who've been in power for 14 years.

FADEL: So are the ruling Conservatives being penalized here? Why such an appetite for change?

FRAYER: The past few years in British politics have really been tumultuous. You'll recall there was Brexit...

FADEL: Right.

FRAYER: ...Which polls show most Britons now regret. There was Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who threw parties at his office at 10 Downing Street while the country was under COVID lockdown and then lied about it. There's been an economic crisis, and all of that happened under the Conservatives. This is the party of Margaret Thatcher. They call themselves the party - the natural party of government because they've really dominated U.K. politics for more than a century. But the past few years have really been a roller coaster. I talked to Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, who says the Conservatives' reputation has really changed.

POLLY TOYNBEE: The idea that the Conservative Party is dull, solid, conventional - that kind of thing - has really disappeared. They've become the radical revolutionaries in recent years. And their revolution has been a catastrophe, and it has left our public services in a state of wreckage.

FRAYER: There's a real sense of decline here. Britain's standard of living has now fallen below that of many other European countries. And there's a huge backlash against those who've been in power throughout that decline. And the backlash is so severe that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak - the sitting prime minister - may become the first prime minister to lose his own seat in Parliament.

FADEL: OK. So that's who stands to lose. What do the polls show about who may win this election?

FRAYER: Keir Starmer, the leader of the center-left Labour Party, is almost certain to win. And he would move into 10 Downing Street tomorrow. Like, things happen really quickly here. Interestingly, he once called for the monarchy to be abolished before he later knelt before Charles - then Prince of Wales - to be knighted. He's actually Sir Keir Starmer. He would meet the king tomorrow morning. The king would ask him to formally form a government, and he'd go to Downing Street right away. His furniture is probably packed right now.

FADEL: (Laughter).

FRAYER: He is a human rights lawyer, a prosecutor. He's seen as a pragmatist, but also kind of boring (laughter). His personal approval rating isn't terribly high, but he's kind of seen as, like, a safe pair of hands after the roller coaster years that I just mentioned.

FADEL: Any sense of what he would do in office?

FRAYER: Keir Starmer is very much a centrist. It's unclear how different his economic policy would really be from the Conservatives, but he's expected to be friendlier to Europe. He was in favor of remaining in the European Union. He'll also likely be close with the Biden administration. The woman who he's likely to appoint as his finance minister has been to D.C. and met the Biden team and sort of modeled her economic plans after the U.S. Biden administration. But Starmer has also said he'd work with Trump if that's who ends up in the White House. So we'll see.

FADEL: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer at a polling station in London. Thank you, Lauren. Enjoy that sunny day.

FRAYER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Frayer
Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.