UK’s Starmer promises ‘national renewal’ after commanding Labour win

UK’s Starmer promises ‘national renewal’ after commanding Labour win

The UK’s Prime Minister-elect Keir Starmer has promised to kick-start an era of “national renewal” after his Labour Party brought an end to 14 years of Conservative rule.

In a dawn victory speech on Friday, Starmer, 61, said the British people had delivered an opportunity for the United Kingdom 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.

“It should always respect your contribution, and we have to restore that.”

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

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

So far, Labour has gained 411 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 currently gained 119 seats.

Sunak said he took responsibility for the defeat after voters “delivered a sobering verdict” on his government.

Sunak said he called Starmer to concede, after he won his own seat in Richmond and Northallerton in northern England.

Hailing Labour’s massive 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 us 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,” he 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 ($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 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 VAT, 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 government 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 in 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.

Follow live updates on the results here.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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