Miami Herald (Sunday)

Starmer is U.K. PM after Labour Party landslide

- BY MARK LANDLER, MEGAN SPECIA AND STEPHEN CASTLE

Prime Minister Keir Starmer took office in Britain on Friday and promised a “national renewal” after his center-left Labour Party won a landslide election victory that swept the Conservati­ves out of power but pointed to a dissatisfi­ed and fragmented nation.

While Labour’s more than 410 seats in Parliament ensured the party a robust majority, the breakdown of votes, and the lowest turnout in years, indicated the challenges ahead for Starmer. The BBC estimated that Labour had garnered only 35% of the votes nationwide, which John Curtice, a prominent polling expert, said would be “the lowest share of the vote won by any single-party majority government.”

Just 60% of voters were forecast to have participat­ed, close to a record low and a possible sign that some voters had checked out after years of political dysfunctio­n. Support for smaller parties and independen­t candidates surged, and Reform U.K., the new anti-immigratio­n party led by the Trump ally Nigel Farage, became Britain’s third-biggest party by vote share, winning 14% of the vote and five seats.

After meeting with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, Starmer seemed to acknowledg­e the pressure on Labour to act fast, saying in a speech outside No. 10 Downing Street: “Our work is urgent and we begin it today.” He added that Britons had “voted decisively for change” and called on the country “to move forward together.”

Hours earlier, the departing

prime minister, Rishi Sunak, gave brief, conciliato­ry remarks in Downing Street, congratula­ting Starmer, accepting responsibi­lity for his party’s resounding defeat and saying to voters that he had “heard your anger.” With almost all 650 races declared, the Conservati­ves were on course for fewer than 130 seats, the worst defeat for the party in its nearly 200-year history.

Here’s what else to know:

Labour’s makeover:

For Starmer, a low-key lawyer who only entered Parliament in 2015, it was a remarkable vindicatio­n of his four-year project to pull the Labour Party away from the left-wing policies of his predecesso­r, Jeremy Corbyn, and rebrand it as a plausible alternativ­e to the increasing­ly erratic rule of the Conservati­ves.

The new government:

Starmer’s cabinet has begun taking shape. Rachel Reeves became the first woman to oversee Britain’s economy as chancellor of the Exchequer. David Lammy is foreign secretary, Yvette Cooper is home secretary, and John Healey is defense secretary — all carrying over the shadow roles they held in opposition.

And Angela Rayner was named Britain’s deputy prime minister and secretary of state.

Sunak’s future: Sunak said he would resign as party leader, “not immediatel­y” but once arrangemen­ts to choose his successor were in place. He offered a robust case for his achievemen­ts in less than two years in office: cutting inflation, resolving a trade dispute with the European Union and steadying Britain’s economy.

Right-wing ferment:

Reform U.K.’s strong showing was a victory for Farage, the party’s leader and a veteran political disrupter who won a seat after failing in seven previous bids to get into Parliament. From his new perch, Farage could try to poach the remnants of the debilitate­d Conservati­ves.

Other parties:

Frustratio­n with the two main parties was apparent in the strong showing by others. The centrist Liberal Democrats earned 71 seats, their best result in a century. And Reform U.K. was not the only smaller party to do well: the Green Party and a number of pro-Palestinia­n independen­t candidates won formerly safe Labour seats.

 ?? YUI MOK PA Images/Alamy Images/Sipa USA ?? King Charles III welcomes Keir Starmer to Buckingham Palace in London during an audience Friday, when the king invited the leader of the victorious Labour Party to become prime minister and form a government.
YUI MOK PA Images/Alamy Images/Sipa USA King Charles III welcomes Keir Starmer to Buckingham Palace in London during an audience Friday, when the king invited the leader of the victorious Labour Party to become prime minister and form a government.

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