- Keir Starmer has been elected as the new leader of the Labour Party.
- The Shadow Brexit Secretary won convincingly against his rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy with 56% of the vote.
- The Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner was elected as his deputy with 53% of the vote.
- The announcement was made remotely due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.
- Starmer immediately promised to work with the government on the issue and not lead an “opposition for opposition’s sake.”
- Starmer is expected to announce his new Shadow Cabinet on Sunday.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Keir Starmer has won the Labour leadership contest and will replace Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party.
The Shadow Brexit Secretary won the race in the first round of voting with 56% of the vote against Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and Labour MP Lisa Nandy, the party announced on Saturday morning.
The Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner also won her race for Deputy Leader with 53% of the vote.
The announcement was made by email with a previously-planned special conference to announce the results cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown in the UK.
Starmer pledged to unite the party and restore public trust, following its heavy defeat in last year’s general election.
“Our mission has to be to restore trust in our party as a force for good and a force for change,” he said in a statement.
“This is my pledge to the British people. I will do my utmost to guide us through these difficult times, to serve all of our communities and to strive for the good of our country.”
He promised to strike a different style of leadership to his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.
“Under my leadership we will engage constructively with the Government, not opposition for opposition’s sake,” he said.
“Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands. But with the courage to support where that’s the right thing to do.”
He promised to work with the government on its response to the coronavirus crisis following a call from Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier on Saturday for all opposition leaders to meet to discuss the government’s response.
“We will test the arguments that are put forward,” Starmer said.
“We will shine a torch on critical issues and where we see mistakes or faltering government or things not happening as quickly as they should we’ll challenge that and call that out.
“Our purpose when we do that is the same as the Government’s, to save lives and to protect our country, a shared purpose.”
Angela Rayner, who beat her rivals Rosena Allin-Khan and Richard Burgon, in the deputy leadership race, promised to work alongside Starmer to unite the party.
“I know we face a long and difficult road ahead but we must unite, both in the face of this crisis and to offer the better future that the citizens of our country deserve,” she said in a statement.
Labour leadership final result
- Keir Starmer: 56.2%
- Rebecca Long-Bailey: 27.6%
- Lisa Nandy: 16.%
Labour Deputy leadership final result
- Angela Rayner: 52.6%
- Rosena Allin-Khan: 26.1%
- Richard Burgon: 21.3%
Watch Keir Starmer’s acceptance speech
—Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) April 4, 2020
Starmer is expected to reveal his new Shadow Cabinet selections on Sunday with reports suggesting that Labour MPs Rachel Reeves and Anneliese Dodds are strong contenders for the role of Shadow Chancellor.
Starmer’s victory comes after a long contest which was overshadowed both by Britain’s exit from the EU and the coronavirus pandemic.
Long-Bailey, who was a close loyalist to Jeremy Corbyn, was initially the favourite to win the race, but quickly fell behind the Shadow Brexit Secretary in polls of party members in the wake of last year’s general election.
The result was welcomed by business groups.
“We look forward to working with Keir to reset the relationship between Labour and enterprise to help support our country through this current crisis and beyond,” CBI Director-General, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, said in a statement.
“He has our full support to help develop policies that create and share prosperity across the UK.”
Who is Keir Starmer?
Keir Starmer has served as Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary since 2016 after rejoining Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet following the last Labour leadership contest.
A fervent pro-European and former top lawyer, Starmer is known for his steady manner and forensic House of Commons performances.
Born in South London in 1962 to a nurse and a toolmaker, Starmer is a lifelong Labour supporter widely-seen as being on the soft left of the party.
Prior to entering politics, Starmer was a successful lawyer and prominent public figure. After studying law at Leeds and Oxford universities, Starmer became a human rights lawyer, and in 1990 co-founded Doughty Street Chambers in north London.
During this time, Starmer took part in a number of high profile cases including assisting environmental activists David Morris and Helen Steel in their famous 15-year legal battle with McDonald’s, which became known as the “McLibel” case.
In 2008 he became one of the country’s most senior legal figures, when he was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service.
He moved into politics in 2015 when he was elected as Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras.
Corbyn made Starmer his shadow immigration minister in 2015, a role which he quit in protest against his predecessor’s leadership.
The big challenges facing Keir Starmer
When Starmer first announced his leadership campaign back in January, the coronavirus outbreak had barely punctured the public consciousness in the UK, with British politics still overwhelmingly focused on Britain’s imminent exit from the EU.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic now overwhelming every aspect of politics at home and abroad, Starmer’s early days as leader will likely be heavily overshadowed by the crisis.
The new Labour leader has been a critical supporter of the government’s approach to date but intends to exert pressure on Boris Johnson’s Conservative government to ramp up its testing regime as quickly as possible, support businesses and workers affected by the virus, and provide the NHS with all the equipment it needs.
Ahead of the announcement on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on all party leaders to join him in discussions about the crisis.
Conservative MP George Freeman has urged the prime minister to go even further an invite the Labour leader to join his Cabinet for the duration of the crisis.
A Labour MP who supported Starmer’s campaign told Business Insider they expected him to play a “bigger role in discussions with the government” than his predecessor Corbyn, but said this wouldn’t stop the new Labour leader “asking challenging questions to press the government into acting quickly and doing more.”
They said: “Keir is someone who brings a forensic approach to his work and will be able push the government really hard on frontline workers who have been too exposed.”
Starmer was an ardent Remainer and played a big part in convincing Corbyn to support holding a new referendum.
He has since called on the Labour Party to move on from Brexit. However, with the coronavirus pandemic making it almost impossible for the government to prepare for the end of the transition period and a drastically different a trading relationship with the EU, Starmer may feel duty-bound to urge Johnson to extend the transition period beyond December.
This is dangerous territory for Starmer, however. Given the effectiveness of the Conservative’s “Get Brexit Done” message at the last general election, Starmer will be keen to avoid looking like he is resurrecting the Brexit debate.
However, with the COVID-19 virus derailing negotiations over a new UK-EU trade deal, it is increasingly likely that Prime Minister Johnson will be forced to extend the transition period without much pressure from the opposition.
A Labour MP who supported Starmer’s campaign said: “The government is gonna have to extend — it’s just a matter of when. It won’t require much pushing on Keir’s behalf for that to happen.”
Making Labour electable again
Starmer inherits a party which hasn’t won a general election in a decade. It was comfortably defeated by Johnson’s Conservatives at the December election, surrendering swathes of seats it had controlled for decades.
It was a painful defeat which posed major questions for Labour — chiefly, how can it win power again?
Polling conducted throughout the leadership campaign made encouraging reading for Starmer, with the British public preferring him to his closest rival in the contest, Rebecca Long-Bailey.
However, he knows he faces an almighty task in getting Labour back into power.
One Labour MP who supported Lisa Nandy’s campaign said the damage done to society by the coronavirus will leave millions of people desperate for the sort of transformative policy which Starmer can offer as Labour leader.
They told Business Insider: “It’s going to be about politics after the crisis.
“Who has social housing? Who has been left behind?” We know the people who will suffer the most from the coronavirus are the same who suffered the most from austerity. They are gonna need massive support.”
They added: “Lockdown is very well and good if you’ve got a lovely, leafy back garden, but I have constituents living in revolting flats with two or three children. They are frightened, stressed, and really worried about money. Unable to easily access Calpol and baby milk. Those are the people we are really gonna have to look out for.”
“The socio-economic impact of this is going to be huge on those who need the Labour Party most.”
Taking control of the Labour Party
The Labour Party has been in an on-and-off state of civil war over recent years, with the party’s old-guard in a constant struggle to stop the Corbynista wing of the party from taking control of the party’s infrastructure.
Starmer has promised to unify Labour but is also expected to stamp his authority on the party by removing individuals most closely associated with the former leader. At the top of his list is the position of party general secretary, with Starmer expected to appoint someone to replace the incumbent Jennie Formby.
A Labour MP who worked supported Starmer’s campaign told Business Insider: “The decision around who will be the party’s new general secretary is crucial because, without effective leadership from the top, many of the changes which need to be made will be much harder.
“It’s going to be vital that the party can be a professional organisation once again.
“That’s been missing for some years now.”
One issue which has plagued Labour in recent years is antisemitism, with members, party figures, and even some MPs accused of spreading prejudice against Jewish people.
The crisis led to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to launch an investigation into the party, and did massive damage to the party’s ties with the Jewish community.
Starmer has promised to address the party’s ongoing antisemitism problem swiftly and thoroughly, citing his experience of running big organisations in his career as a lawyer before entering politics.
Making a clear break with his predecessor on the issue will be one of his first priorities as leader.
“On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry,” Starmer said following the result.
“And I will tear out this poison by its roots and judge success by the return of Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”