‘Change begins immediately,’ says new UK PM Keir Starmer

Labour Party leader says his party will ‘deliver change’ as it is clear that the country needs a ‘bigger reset’.

The United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, has pledged to “deliver change” after his Labour Party swept the general election in a landslide.

In a speech in front of 10 Downing Street after a ceremonial “kissing of hands” with King Charles III and the approval to form a new government, Starmer said it was “clear” that the country needs a “bigger reset”.

“A rediscovery of who we are, because no matter how fierce the storms of history, one of the greatest strengths of this nation has always been our ability to navigate a way to calmer waters,” he said in front of his new official residence as supporters cheered.

“My government will fight every day until you believe again. From now on, you have a government unburdened by doctrine, guided only by the determination to serve your interest. To defy those quietly who have written our country off.

“You have given us a clear mandate, And we will use it to deliver change.”

Starmer also thanked Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for all that he had accomplished, saying, “His achievement as the first British Asian prime minister of our country, the extra effort that will have required, should not be underestimated by anyone.

“We pay tribute to that today.”

Earlier, Sunak took responsibility for his party’s loss in the election as he announced his resignation and congratulated Starmer for his win.

“I have given this job my all, but you have sent a clear signal that the government of the United Kingdom must change, and yours is the only judgement that matters,” Sunak said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street.

“I have heard your anger, your disappointment and I take responsibility for this loss. To all the Conservative candidates and campaigners who worked tirelessly but without success, I’m sorry that we could not deliver what your efforts deserved,” Sunak said, before meeting the monarch to hand in his resignation.

Labour sailed past the 326-seat threshold for a parliamentary majority early on Friday, putting it on course for a landslide victory against Sunak’s Conservatives.

So far, Labour has gained 412 seats, giving it a majority in the House of Commons.

Exit polls predicted the Conservatives were on track to win 131 seats, the worst result in its history. As the vote count continues, the party has so far won 121 seats.

Starmer, a former public prosecutor and human rights lawyer, said he would strive to show that politics could be a “force for good”.

In a victory speech earlier on Friday, Starmer, 61, said the British people had delivered an opportunity for the UK to “get its future back” and restore the country to “the service of working people”.

“Our task is nothing less than renewing the ideas that hold this country together, national renewal. Whoever you are, wherever you started in life, if you work hard, if you play by the rules, this country should give you a fair chance to get on,” Starmer told supporters.

Hailing Labour’s enormous victory, Starmer said: “Make no mistake, that is the great test of politics in this era. The fight for trust is the battle that defines our age. It is why we’ve campaigned so hard on demonstrating we are fit for public service.”

Several world leaders have already congratulated Starmer on his success, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“Together, the values of this changed Labour Party are the guiding principle for a new government – country first, party second,” Starmer said.

Labour’s commanding win comes amid widespread discontent with the economy and public services. Under the Tories, economic growth flatlined, the cost of living soared and hospital waiting lists trebled.

Reporting from London, Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands said Labour will face a long list of challenges given the “widespread opinion here that over the last few years, things have been getting worse and worse and worse, that public services, in particular, are crumbling, that the National Health Service is on its knees … that the chaos of the last few years of Conservative rule have basically distracted the government as it has been from doing what governments are supposed to do”.

According to one analysis by a prominent research institute, Britons had on average 10,200 pounds ($12,950) less to spend or save in total during 2010-2022 when compared with 1998-2010 economic growth rates.

Starmer, who took over from left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2020, campaigned heavily on reviving the UK’s economic fortunes amid widespread anxiety over a perceived national decline.

As part of efforts to bring Labour back to the centre after its worst defeat since 1935 at the last election, he pledged not to raise income taxes or the value-added tax and to make wealth creation a top priority.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer shakes hands with his supporters at the Tate Modern in London
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer shakes hands with his supporters at the Tate Modern in London [Kin Cheung/AP Photo]

While Labour’s electoral success has been compared with former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s win in 1997, Patrick Diamond, a former policy adviser for the Labour governments led by Blair and Gordon Brown, told Al Jazeera that the situation today is markedly different.

“In 1997, there was in the country a greater sense of hope and optimism based on the fact that Britain was in a very different position – not least because economically it was doing very well at that time,” said Diamond, who is a professor of public policy at Queen Mary University of London.

“The country that Keir Starmer inherits today is in a very different position,” he added.

“The economy has been weak for some time. It’s been through a number of shocks dealing with the aftermath of COVID, the Ukraine war and so on.”

In his victory speech, Starmer said the task ahead would not be easy.

“Changing a country isn’t like flicking a switch. It’s hard work, patient work, determined work. And we will have to get moving immediately,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies