Politics

What to know about Keir Starmer, UK's new prime minister 


The Labour party won a landslide victory in Thursday’s election, bringing an end to 14 years of Conservative rule under five Tory prime ministers.

Rishi Sunak immediately tendered his resignation as the nation’s leader and is also standing down as party leader of the Tories, apologizing to the nation and his conservative colleagues for the loss. 

Sir Keir Starmer is now the nation’s prime minister. 

Many notable Tories lost their election, including former Prime Minister Liz Truss, leader of the House Penny Mordaunt, who was viewed as a successor to Sunak, and Jacob Rees-Moggs, a conservative firebrand. 

Starmer is only the fourth Labour leader in the party’s 124-year history to lead it to an election victory. He took over as leader in 2020 after the party lost 84 seats in the 2019 elections. Many U.K. election watchers at the time believed the loss was a demonstration of the fact that Labour could simply never win an election again. 

Starmer led a four-year transformation of the party, bringing it back to the center and working to purge segments of the party that had been accused of antisemitism and bigotry. He has been accused of “dullness,” but he argues that the nation wants stability and not more politics of personalities. 

During his first speech as prime minister, he promised that Labour would “tread more lightly on your lives” after an “era of noisy performance.” 

“Whether you voted Labour or not, especially if you did not, I say to you directly, my government will serve you. Politics can be a force for good. We will show that,” Starmer said during his first speech as prime minister. “We changed the Labour party, returned it to service and that is how we will govern.”

Who is the man who led Labour to this landslide victory? 

Background

Starmer, 61, was named after the Labour Party’s founder Keir Hardie. He is one of four children and grew up in a cash-strapped household.   

His father was a toolmaker, and his mom was a nurse. His mother was chronically ill while growing up, and he spent much of his youth in the hospital with her, which he has said helped shape his worldview. 

Education and legal work

Starmer studied law at Leeds University, becoming the first person in his family to attend college. He then became a Human Rights lawyer and helped defend clients facing the death penalty. 

He also served as a legal advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board for five years. The board was responsible for bringing communities together after the Good Friday Agreement. 

In 2008, Starmer was named the Director of Public Prosecutions, making him the head of prosecutions in England and Wales. 

The prosecution service faced heavy cuts in 2008, and Starmer oversaw its adjustments. He stood down as its head in 2013 and was knighted in 2014 for his service as a prosecutor. 

He won election to the House of Commons in 2015. 

Experience as party leader

Starmer first entered parliament in 2015, and he served as the shadow immigration minister from 2015 to 2016 and shadow secretary for leaving the European Union from 2016 to 2020. 

After Jeremy Corbyn stood down, he won the Labour Party’s leadership election in 2020. Corbyn resigned after the 2019 general election, in which the party lost 84 seats. 

Starmer regularly disagreed with Corbyn, who was far more left-leaning. At one point, he resigned from senior party leadership in protest of Corbyn’s left-wing policies. 

While campaigning to become leader in 2020, Starmer promised to rebuild Labour as a center-left party, moving away from Corbyn’s work to pull the party towards the left. Many blamed that leftward push for one of Labour’s worst losses in 2019. 

During his four years as opposition leader, Starmer has led a largely disciplined Labour party that has focused on attacking three Tory prime ministers— Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak— for scandals, a cost-of-living crisis, an economic slowdown and a COVID-19 response.  

Campaign pitch

Change. 

Labour rolled out a one-word campaign slogan the day Sunak announced the election would take place on July 4.

Starmer promised a stable government without much of the turmoil of the last four Tory prime ministers and an ever-constant change in government ministers. Some departments have had more than ten cabinet ministers in 14 years. 

He has also promised to cut waiting lists for the nation’s health services, stop illegal migration and restore economic prosperity.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.


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