REJOICE: the Tories have been obliterated.

These islands have been blighted with calamitous administrations before, but none deserved this rout more in the democratic era, not even Thatcherism. No government since we secured the universal franchise has subjected its people to such a protracted squeeze in their living standards or a shattering of the public realm. Hardship, insecurity, turmoil. Those three words sum up the last 14 years of Tory rule, and that is why they ended up with the lowest number of seats they’ve had in two centuries.

There will be mixed feelings about this north of the Border, that is for sure. The Scottish National Party have dominated political life there far longer than political parties tend to do in Western democracies. In the last 18 months, what seemed like an impregnable fortress disintegrated, not least with the departure of Nicola Sturgeon, the most formidable political leader in the UK of our time. With an impending election, this was not the best timing to become convulsed in crisis, and a dear price has been paid. Scottish Labour have roared back, or so it seems.

READ MORE: The National view on the election: A new start for independence?

Any genuine democrat should mourn, however, the collapse in turnout: Fewer than six in 10 Scots voted, a drop of 8.5 points. Many of the SNP’s half million lost votes merely sat at home.

Indeed, the story of the election is very straightforward. This was not a story of Starmermania. Keir Starmer is less popular than Jeremy Corbyn was at the end of the 2017 election. According to YouGov, nearly half of all Labour voters declared that getting rid of the Tories was their main objective, with 5% opting for their policies, and 1% offering up Starmer’s leadership. Across the UK, Labour won the same share of the vote as they did during the 2019 rout. Indeed, without the advances in Scotland, Labour overall would have gone backwards.

The response to this is obvious and legitimate. That’s all well and good, but under our electoral system, it’s seats that matter. This is absolutely true, but it doesn’t deflect from the question of popular enthusiasm, or rather the absence of it. Britain has never had a majority government elected with such a low share of the vote, and the disparity between what people think and how many seats Labour have will become increasingly stark.

READ MORE: National contributors give election verdict: 'Voters want action'

Labour have come to power at a time of crisis, with a huge black hole in the nation’s finances that needs to be filled just to stand still in our current parlous state, and yet their fiscal rules and refusal to hike taxes on the well-off, means that cannot be done. Labour have won by default, because of the vagaries of our weird and wonderful electoral system, with dramatic assistance from Nigel Farage splitting the right-of-centre vote, at a time of turmoil without precedent in the post-war era. They lack answers to our problems – their manifesto was devoid of any substance – and their leaders do not have the substance or charisma of New Labour’s founders.

In other words, this is as good as it gets. Already, huge numbers of natural Labour voters are disaffected with Starmer before he is even prime minister: That did not happen to Tony Blair. That helped drive the surge of the Greens – who took four seats in England, one unseating a Labour shadow cabinet minister – and independent candidates. Before last night, only three independent candidates in a genuinely competitive contest, that is, where other parties did not stand down for them, had ever won in a General Election since 1950. Last night, five such independent candidates won. One of them was Jeremy Corbyn, purged by Starmer because of partisan spite. Others put Labour’s support for Israel’s war crimes at the heart of their campaigns, unseating Labour shadow cabinet minister Jonathan Ashworth in Leicester, and nearly removing Wes Streeting, the ultra-Blairite now Health Secretary. Again, nothing like this accompanied Labour’s rise to power in 1997.

This is the high water mark of Starmerism. The question is – what comes next?

That Reform chalked up 150,000 votes in Scotland, with millions supporting it in England, should frighten us. Look to France, where the far-right flourished under President Macron’s "centrist" leadership and is now on the verge of power. Surely, then, those of a progressive disposition in Scotland, Wales and England need to do a much better job in communicating with each other. If we are fragmented, the danger is the hard right will, in contrast, work together across the UK to pursue their hateful project. So yes, rejoice that we are finally rid of the Tories. Yet for those of us who opposed Tory rule because we objected to Tory policies, this result is bittersweet. And unless we get our act together, right-wing populism will.