New British prime minister vows ‘government of service’

British Prime Minister Keir Starmer offered his first official remarks Friday after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide victory after more than a decade in opposition.

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World News

July 5, 2024 - 2:37 PM

Britain's new Labour Party Prime Minister Kier Starmer makes a speech at 10 Downing Street in London, Friday, July 5. Labour leader Stammer won the general election on July 4, and was appointed Prime Minster by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, after the party won a landslide victory. Photo by AP Photo/Kin Cheung

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Keir Starmer said he would lead a “government of service” on a mission of national renewal in his first official remarks Friday after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide victory after more than a decade in opposition.

Starmer acknowledged in his first speech outside 10 Downing St. that many people are disillusioned and cynical about politics, but said he and his colleagues would try to restore faith in government.

“My government will fight every day until you believe again,” Starmer said as supporters cheered him on outside 10 Downing St.

“The work for change begins immediately,” he said. “We will rebuild Britain. …. Brick by brick we will rebuild the infrastructure of opportunity.”

In the merciless choreography of British politics, Starmer took over the official residence about two hours after Conservative leader Rishi Sunak and his family left the home and the king accepted the Conservative leader’s resignation.

“This is a difficult day, but I leave this job honored to have been prime minister of the best country in the world,” Sunak said in his farewell address.

Sunak had conceded defeat earlier in the morning, saying the voters had delivered a “sobering verdict.”

In a reflective farewell speech in the same place where he had called the snap election six weeks earlier, Sunak wished Starmer all the best but also acknowledged his own missteps.

“I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss,” Sunak said. “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.”

Labour’s triumph and challenges

With results for all but two seats, Labour had won 412 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons and the Conservatives 121. The Conservatives’ previous worst result was 156 seats in 1906.

For Starmer, it’s a massive triumph that will bring huge challenges, as he faces a weary electorate impatient for change against a gloomy backdrop of economic malaise, mounting distrust in institutions and a fraying social fabric.

“Nothing has gone well in the last 14 years,” said London voter James Erskine, who was optimistic for change in the hours before polls closed. “I just see this as the potential for a seismic shift, and that’s what I’m hoping for.”

And that’s what Starmer promised, saying “change begins now.”

Anand Menon, professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, said British voters were about to see a marked change in political atmosphere from the tumultuous “politics as pantomime” of the last few years.

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