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Liz Truss Ousted as Labour’s Landslide Victory Shifts Focus to India-UK Relations

In October 2023, The Daily Star, a British tabloid, humorously questioned if Liz Truss could outlast a lettuce, highlighting the instability within the Conservative Party. The Economist compared her leadership duration to the shelf-life of a lettuce, and indeed, the lettuce outlasted Truss, who failed to sustain her position.

As Tory MPs prepared to select yet another Prime Minister, humor became a coping mechanism for a disillusioned nation, watching its leaders move further away from the electorate. Truss’s loss of her parliamentary seat in a general election marked a historic moment, making her the first former Prime Minister in almost 90 years to suffer such a defeat.

With the Labour Party’s landslide victory, securing over 400 seats, the focus shifted to what this political change meant for India. Economically, the new government led by Keir Rodney Starmer aimed to finalize a critical free trade agreement (FTA) with India, which had been stalled in its 14th round of negotiations.

The FTA faced challenges, rooted in India’s protectionist policies and different regulatory approaches, causing concerns despite the potential economic benefits. This context was underlined by the 2021 ‘2030 roadmap for India-UK future relations,’ which was updated in 2023 to strengthen security and defense partnerships.

The protracted negotiations reflect the difficulties in aligning the two nations’ economic interests. In July 2022, the House of Lords’ International Agreements Committee noted the ambitious and sometimes unrealistic objectives of the FTA with India.

Liz Truss Ousted as Labour’s Landslide Victory Shifts Focus to India-UK Relations

Liz Truss Ousted as Labour’s Landslide Victory Shifts Focus to India-UK Relations

India’s withdrawal from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in 2019 and its recent trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) highlight the complexity and urgency of securing trade deals amid global supply chain shifts.

Immigration remains a contentious issue in UK politics, influencing FTA negotiations. While Labour and the Conservatives differ in their approach, there is consensus on the need to limit immigration.

Labour, under Starmer, is expected to negotiate firmly on visa issues, emphasizing highly skilled talent over low-wage migrants. New Delhi seeks temporary visas for its service sector workforce, which will be a challenging point in the FTA discussions.

Trade data reveals that India was the UK’s 12th largest trading partner by the end of Q3 2023, with bilateral trade reaching £38.1bn. However, UK exports to India decreased while imports from India increased significantly.

The Labour government’s manifesto highlights the aim for a new strategic partnership with India, although this will require navigating the political landscape shaped by Modi’s controversial campaign and a vote for change in India.

Labour’s overwhelming mandate came against the backdrop of a country facing multiple crises: a spiraling cost of living, deteriorating health services, and a crumbling public school system. The UK’s economic situation, worsened by 14 years of Conservative governance and Brexit, offers a cautionary tale for Modi’s government in India, which faces similar issues of joblessness, rising costs, and inequality.

The 2024 elections saw the fall of Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, with Sunak becoming the first Indian-heritage Prime Minister but failing to secure lasting support. Strident anti-immigrant rhetoric from Indian-origin politicians within the Conservative Party did not resonate with the UK’s ethnic minority groups, who leaned towards Labour. The focus on cost of living and practical issues over divisive rhetoric played a crucial role in Labour’s success.

For India’s mainstream media, the UK’s electoral outcome underscores the importance of credible and non-partisan reportage. The fall of the Conservative Party in the UK offers a stark lesson for India’s current government: long-term governance needs to address real economic and social needs, or risk a similar downfall. As Modi’s government looks ahead, the legacy it builds will be critical in determining its future, much like the Conservative Party’s legacy shaped the UK’s recent election results.

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