Louise Thompson, University of Manchester

Aside from Labour’s landslide victory, the other big story of the 2024 election is the fragmentation of the British parliament and the rise of smaller parties at the expense of the Conservatives.

While polls predicted a total wipeout for the Conservatives, they will at least be relieved to know they will still occupy the official opposition benches – something which looked to be on a knife edge just a few days ago.

This has come at a price though, with the party losing a huge proportion of its big beasts. More than 15 ministers lost their seats, including Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, (once widely tipped to be the next Conservative party leader) and defence secretary Grant Shapps. Other very familiar faces are also out of a job, such as former prime minister Liz Truss and former leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The Conservatives will struggle to construct an experienced and effective opposition frontbench from the 119 MPs who remain.

The very big yellow team

The Liberal Democrats will take up the mantle of third party, which they haven’t held since the SNP overtook them at the 2015 general election. With 72 MPs, this will be the largest Liberal Democrat parliamentary party we’ve ever seen, surpassing the 62 won by Nick Clegg in 2010.

Party leader Ed Davey will find himself with two questions each week to fire at Keir Starmer during prime minister’s questions and we should see his first appearance in this role on Wednesday July 24.

The very small yellow team

It will be tough for Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, to return to the very back benches of the chamber after his party was reduced to less than a quarter of the seats it had before the election was called. Being reduced to nine seats means the SNP will lose privileges it has enjoyed for almost a decade.

Flynn will lose the parliamentary limelight in which he has performed so strongly at prime minister’s questions and will have to work with his remaining colleagues, who include very experienced MPs such as Pete Wishart, to seek out every opportunity to get the SNP message aired in the House of Commons.

Wales’s nationalist party Plaid Cymru had a better night than the SNP, winning two of its target seats and returning four MPs to Westminster.

The new team

Perhaps the biggest parliamentary party story of the night, though, is that of Reform UK, which has managed to return four MPs to the House of Commons.

Nigel Farage is a seasoned campaigner, entering the House on his eighth attempt. He has parliamentary experience from the European parliament, too, but the House of Commons is a very different beast, with different rules, customs and procedures. As the only Reform MP with any parliamentary experience, we can expect Lee Anderson to take his colleagues under his wing somewhat as they learn the ropes.

We may see Farage try to leverage Reform’s large share of the national vote to push for representation on key House of Commons committees. And, given Reform’s position as a new and non-traditional party, there may be some early antics on the green benches as they jostle for position among the other opposition parties.

This would be fairly typical of new parties and indeed, was something we saw with the SNP landslide in Scotland in 2015. Back then, the party tried to claim it was the official opposition frontbench.

Farage’s own acceptance speech in Clacton last night suggested he was somewhat cautious about taking up the role of MP, particularly the constituency casework which comes with it. It will be interesting to see how this group of politicians adapts to the vital, but often mundane, day to day work of being an MP.

The Green team

The Greens too have quadrupled their representation, with victory in four seats. This includes Sian Berry, who replaces Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion, and the party’s co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adam Ramsey.

Lucas was a force to be reckoned with at Westminster. Having colleagues in the Commons will make life a bit easier for these Green (and green) MPs. We could even see the party’s first ever chief whip. They could learn a lot from looking at Lucas’s successful parliamentary campaigns and will no doubt do a good job of making their voices heard across the House of Commons.

If Reform pushes for greater representation on House of Commons committees, we can expect the Greens to do so too. They will want to hold a place on key committees such as the Environment and Climate Change Committee or the Environmental Audit Committee.

The team who don’t turn up

A less reported result is that of Northern Ireland, which will bring challenges for representation in the new parliament. Sinn Fein has become Northern Ireland’s largest party for the very first time.

But with its longstanding policy of abstentionism it seems unlikely that any of its seven MPs will be sworn in to the House of Commons next week. This will have a real detrimental effect for the representation of Northern Irish views in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionist Party is almost half the size that it was. MPs and observers of parliament will no doubt all be pleased that the formidable Jim Shannon has retained his Strangford seat. Shannon is a much loved MP at Westminster and will no doubt continue to make his mild mannered presence felt in Commons adjournment debates throughout the coming parliament.

A fresh start

All this change, plus the arrival of hundreds of new Labour MPs, means a pretty huge influx of new MPs is about to hit Westminster to be sworn in. The House of Commons Speaker will soon announce the distribution of select committee chairs, which usually reflect party size in the House. In the last parliament, these chairs went to the three largest parties, though the Liberal Democrats have previously held a couple of chairs as a fourth party.

Although we are unlikely to see much action in the Commons until after the summer recess, we will at least begin to see how the parties will organise themselves – where the smaller party groups will sit and how the new official opposition and official third party leaders perform when they face Starmer at prime minister’s questions in a couple of weeks’ time.

This article was updated on July 6 to reflect the final constituency result in Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire, which brought the Liberal Democrat seat tally from 71 to 72.The Conversation

Louise Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.