The Labour Party’s projected victory in the UK general election marks a historic moment in modern British political history and a significant personal triumph for Sir Keir Starmer, who is poised to become the country’s next prime minister.

The UK broadcasters’ exit poll indicates that Labour will secure a parliamentary majority of 170 seats, bringing the party back to power for the first time since losing the 2010 election to the Conservatives, who have held power since then.

Starmer’s victory is particularly remarkable given Labour’s journey since the 2019 general election. At that time, under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, the party experienced its worst defeat in a generation, running on a hard-left platform.

The prospect of regaining credibility and becoming competitive in a general election seemed distant, especially as the Conservatives thrived amid the Brexit turmoil under Boris Johnson’s charismatic leadership. Johnson not only defeated his political opponents but also redefined British politics, winning seats in traditional Labour strongholds.

It was in this challenging context that Starmer took control of a demoralized Labour Party on April 4, 2020. On that day, Labour colleague David Lammy advised Starmer to prepare for a 10-year journey, suggesting he might lose the next election but could try again later. Starmer confidently replied, “No, I can do this in five.”

Even Starmer could not have predicted the dramatic events from late 2021 leading up to Thursday night. The Conservatives faced numerous self-inflicted crises, beginning with the “partygate” scandal, where Downing Street staff held illegal gatherings during strict Covid-19 lockdowns.

Johnson managed to hold on to power until summer 2022 despite mounting calls for his resignation. His successor, Liz Truss, proposed unfunded tax cuts that destabilized the economy, forcing her to resign after just 49 days. Rishi Sunak succeeded her in late 2022, but by then, many in the Conservative Party had conceded defeat.

Throughout this period, Starmer remained steadfast, steering Labour towards the center with moderate policies aimed at appealing to Conservative voters.

Critics within Labour argue that Starmer’s program lacks excitement and worry that his moderate approach and cautious demeanor won’t inspire voters. They fear that in five years, he could face a resurgence of right-wing populism.

These concerns are not unfounded: Thursday’s exit poll predicted 13 parliamentary seats for the right-wing Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, the prominent Brexiteer and Trump ally.

It has long been assumed that a Starmer victory would partly result from widespread dissatisfaction with the Conservatives after 14 years in power. Farage’s reemergence in frontline politics during the campaign likely split the right-wing vote, enabling Starmer to secure a comfortable majority.

However, Starmer’s victory might not signify strong personal support or enthusiasm for Labour’s agenda. This could pose challenges once he begins governing. It is clear that the public’s desire for change was a significant factor.

While the win comes with caveats, including the real populist threat and an unvanquished Conservative Party, Starmer will likely not dwell on these issues immediately. With a substantial parliamentary majority, he will have the power to advance his agenda and the full support of the state’s mechanisms. For Labour, after 14 years out of power, this achievement is significant enough for now.