Keir Starmer declares ‘new era’ for Labour after landslide victory in leadership contest
Sir Keir secures convincing majority across all sections of Labour’s electorate, with 52.6 per cent of vote share overall
Sir Keir, who today becomes Labour’s 19th leader in its 120-year history, defeated the left-wing candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, and the Wigan MP Lisa Nandy for the top job.
Securing a convincing majority across all sections of Labour’s electorate – including registered supporters, members and affiliates – and a 56.2 per cent of the vote share overall, he said it was the “honour and privilege of my life” to be elected as the party’s leader.
“I will lead this great party into a new era,” he insisted. “With confidence and hope, so that when the time comes, we can serve our country again – in government.”
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner was also announced as the party’s new deputy leader – seeing off competition from Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler, Rosena Allin-Khan and Ian Murray – with 52.6 per cent of the vote share.
It comes as the veteran left-winger Mr Corbyn announced he was stepping aside from the role – after a four and a half years – in the wake of the party’s worst result in terms of parliamentary seats at a general election since 1935.
Sir Keir, who served as shadow Brexit secretary under Corbyn, has led the race from the start, winning the backing of 89 members of the parliamentary party in the first round of the contest, before securing the support of more than a dozen affiliated organisations in the second stage.
Ballot papers were sent out in late February to the party’s half a million members, affiliated trade unions and 14,700 “registered supporters” who each paid £25 to take part on a one-off basis.
Labour announced the results of the contest online at 10.45am after the party was forced to cancel a planned special members’ conference in central London due to the coronavirus pandemic. Candidates had effectively suspended their campaigns last month as the infections of Covid-19 started to escalate in the UK.
Coinciding with Mr Corbyn’s resignation, Boris Johnson also wrote to the leaders of opposition parties at Westminster, inviting them to a briefing of senior government advisers next week as he insisted “we have a duty to work together at this moment of the national unity”.
He added: “I want to listen to your views and update you on the measures we have taken so far, such as rapidly expanding testing and providing economic support to businesses and individuals across the country.”
Remarking on his clear victory in the contest, 57-year-old Sir Keir said the coronavirus crisis had brought normal life to halt in the UK. “People are frightened by the strangeness, anxious about what will happen next. And we have to remember that every number is a family shaken to its foundation,” he said.
He added: “Our willingness to come together like this as a nation has been lying dormant for too long. When millions of us stepped out onto our doorsteps to applaud the carers, visibly moved, there was hope of a better future. In times like this, we need good government, a government that saves lives and protects our country.
“It’s a huge responsibility and whether we voted for this government or not, we all rely on it to get this right. That’s why in the national interest the Labour Party will play its full part.
“Under my leadership we will engage constructively with the government, not opposition for opposition’s sake. Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands. But with the courage to support where that’s the right thing to do.
“But we will test the arguments that are put forward. 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.”
Sir Keir also said he was “sorry” on behalf of the Labour Party for the “stain” that antisemitism had brought on the party in recent years after allegations that have plagued the party under Mr Corbyn’s leadership. “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,” he added.
Former leader Mr Corbyn, who had appeared with Ms Long-Bailey in her campaigning videos, also congratulated Sir Keir on his election victory. “Being Labour Party leader is a great honour and responsibility,” he said. “I look forward to working with Keir and Angela to elect the next Labour government and transform our country”.
In a statement, defeated candidate Ms Long-Bailey said Sir Keir will be a “brilliant prime minister and I can’t wait to see him in No 10”, adding: “I will do all I can to make that a reality and to ensure the Labour Party gets into government with a transformative agenda at the next election.”
The left-wing group Momentum – set up to support Mr Corbyn’s radical, left-wing policy agenda in 2015 – said the organisation looks forward to working with him, but also pledged to hold him to account in the coming months and years.
“His mandate is to build on Jeremy’s transformative vision, and this means appointing a broad shadow cabinet who believe in the policies and will work with members to make them a reality,” they added. “In this new era Momentum will play a new role. We’ll hold Keir to account and make sure he keeps his promises, champion big ideas like the Green New Deal, build the power of Labour members and do everything we can to get a Labour government elected.”