Friday, July 19, 2024

UK’s New PM Starmer Pledges Reforms After Sweeping Election Victory

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Keir Starmer has committed to reforms as he assumed office as the UK’s new prime minister following a decisive victory by his centre-left Labour party in the general election, ending 14 years of Conservative governance.

King Charles III officially appointed Starmer, a 61-year-old former human rights lawyer, as prime minister during a meeting at Buckingham Palace, asking him to form a government.

Cheering Labour supporters, waving flags, lined Downing Street as Starmer arrived, becoming the party’s first prime minister since Gordon Brown in 2010.

“Our country has voted decisively for change, for national renewal, and a return of politics to public service,” Starmer declared in his inaugural speech. “The work of change begins immediately, but have no doubt, we will rebuild Britain.”

A somber Rishi Sunak conceded defeat after a challenging night for his Conservative Party, which saw at least 12 senior Cabinet members, including his predecessor Liz Truss, lose their seats.

Truss’s brief 49-day tenure had significantly damaged the Tories’ public standing, following her unfunded tax cuts that unsettled markets and devalued the pound.

Before departing Downing Street for the final time as prime minister, Sunak apologized to the public and announced he would step down as Tory leader once arrangements for his successor were finalized.

Labour surpassed the 326-seat threshold required for a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons at 0400 GMT, with the final results expected on Saturday.

As of 1200 GMT on Friday, Labour had secured 412 seats, leaving only two results to be declared, thus achieving a majority of over 170.

The Conservatives won just 121 seats—a historic low—with the right-wing vote divided by Nigel Farage’s anti-immigration Reform UK party.

The Liberal Democrats also gained ground, overtaking the Scottish National Party to become the third-largest party.

This election result contrasts with trends in other Western democracies, where right-wing parties have gained momentum, such as in France and the United States.

European Council chief Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz congratulated Starmer, with Scholz predicting he would be a “very good, very successful” prime minister.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also expressed confidence in continued strong UK-Ukraine relations.

Sunak resigned shortly after returning to London from his constituency in northern England, where the extent of the Conservative defeat quickly became apparent.

The Tories’ previous worst election result was 156 seats in 1906. Former leader William Hague described the outcome as “catastrophic in historic terms,” though politics professor Tim Bale noted it was “not as catastrophic as some were predicting,” suggesting the Conservatives must now strategize their comeback.

Right-wing former interior minister Suella Braverman attributed the Tories’ failure to their disregard for public sentiment.

Brexit advocate Nigel Farage, who secured a parliamentary seat after eight attempts, expressed his ambition to fill the “massive gap on the centre-right of British politics,” aiming to reshape the party following his victory in Clacton, eastern England.

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