To the victor, the spoils. To the sundry losers, the opportunity to spoil for a fight. Internally. Unless exceptionally deft or lucky. It is right to open by commending Sir Keir Starmer, Anas Sarwar and the wider Labour campaign.

They adhered to a mantra of “Change” without troubling us overmuch with detail or attendant difficulty. To be entirely fair, that matched the mood of voters in Scotland and across Britain. Who were thoroughly, heartily sick of the Tories.

Seldom in my extensive experience has a party worked so diligently to be ejected from power as the departing Conservatives. Some would say that Rishi Sunak mislaid the keys to Downing Street when he decided that he had better things to do than to remain at the D-Day commemoration in the company of world leaders, including the German Chancellor.

In practice, the glad confident morning clouded over for the Tories much, much earlier. When Boris Johnson said: “Party? Lead me to it.” Above all, when Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng made a mega-mess of their mini-budget.

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So these election results reflected revulsion with the Conservatives. Yes, they are an active endorsement of Labour – but mostly driven by a determination to kick out the Tories.

Look at tactical voting, in Scotland but primarily in England. Folk found the party most likely to defeat incumbent Tories – say Labour or Liberal Democrat – and swung behind that option with single-minded determination.

To be fair again – that is twice, a new record – Labour identified that factor and built upon it. They knew that disenchanted voters would in no way respond to florid over-promises. So they were cautious and controlled. Never pledging what they could not deliver – even when, as with the two-child benefit cap, that caused political problems, especially in Scotland.

But that does not mean that the Labour approach was naïve. Rather, it was structured and controlled. Sir Keir has learned from his predecessor, Tony Blair. In victory, the new Prime Minister arrived at Downing Street to be greeted by a carefully choreographed chorus of welcome, with Scottish Saltires and Welsh Dragons fluttering alongside the Union Flags. And there was a conscious echo of Tony Blair too when Sir Keir said he intended to govern as “changed Labour”. Substitute “New Labour” – and it could be 1997. Except it isn’t.

There is little evidence of widespread enthusiasm and zeal for the new PM. Little excitement. Instead, this election was a cry of anger, a shriek of anguish. It was a fretful electorate, beset by Covid and the cost of living. The Tories were the target. Labour, the conduit.

Tony Blair led Labour to a landslideTony Blair led Labour to a landslide (Image: free)

Again, to be fair – look, this is getting silly – Sir Keir acknowledged the extent of public disquiet. He promised a “government of service”. That he would make us “believe again” by rebuilding Britain “brick by brick”. We await construction. But, in Scotland, the new UK Government will need to show early progress, without being able to control key devolved services such as health. Which points to a very swift offer on workers’ rights and an enhanced minimum wage. Both of which would fall to be met by concerned employers.

Why the rush when the new PM stresses that change will take time? Because Holyrood goes to the polls in less than two years’ time. Not long when you contemplate our sluggish economy.

Other parties? A decent night for the Scottish Greens, without the seat gains registered in England. A truly excellent night for the Liberal Democrats. Voters plainly heeded their version of the Change mantra – even although Sir Ed Davey’s messaging appeared, at times, to consist of dentistry, sewage and aquatic self-immersion.

Let me turn to the parties left in Labour’s wake. For the Tories, a dreadful night. They will now need new leaders, both in London and Edinburgh. But there may also have to be a recalibration of politics on the Right. The Tories must refresh their ideology, their strategy, their reason for existing.

Nigel Farage helpfully offers to join that wider discourse. And there are key Tories who might cleave to his Reform UK message. But others warn that would be a blunder – not least Douglas Ross who blames his own defeat on Reform votes.

If things can only get better for Labour – no, spare me the song – then matters seem destined to get worse for the Tories before any respite. And then there is the SNP who suffered substantial reverses, being dragged back to their pre-2014 levels in terms of seats (although their overall voting share remains only half a dozen points behind the resurgent Labour Party.) When a party suffers a defeat like this, one looks for contrition. And it was there on the faces of John Swinney, the First Minister, and Stephen Flynn, the leader of a much-reduced Westminster presence.

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Yet Mr Swinney also appeared angry and determined. While Mr Flynn looked faintly menacing, as only he can, while warning his colleagues to abstain from a rush to judgement or an over-hasty set of conclusions. Both leaders stressed the need to listen to and learn from the voters.

Mr Swinney said his party was punished for a public display of disunity – which he had not yet had the time to correct. Importantly, both leaders also emphasised that the focus now should be on responding to the priorities identified by voters, rather than the party.

Mr Swinney has already begun the task of re-engineering his government towards economic growth and public services, within the over-arching context of tackling child poverty. Expect more of that – allied to a challenge to the new Labour UK Government to assist by reversing austerity.

And independence? Does the party park it for now? Behave yourself. But the cause has demonstrably lost momentum, however much Mr Swinney may assert that there is a mandate provided by the 2021 Holyrood election. One tiny crumb of comfort for John Swinney is that Alba made zero progress.

Congratulations once more to Labour. A fine and comprehensive victory. They gained from a double scunner factor, with voters seemingly turning against the incumbents in both Westminster and Holyrood. But, with power, comes responsibility – and the removal of any hiding place.