Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 September 2020

Britain's Labour Party names Keir Starmer as new leader

The new leader takes the helm at a delicate time for the prime minister

Keir Starmer has won the leadership of the Labour Party. The human rights lawyer beat rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy after the first round of voting. AFP
Keir Starmer has won the leadership of the Labour Party. The human rights lawyer beat rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy after the first round of voting. AFP

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party named Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions who opposed Brexit, as its leader on Saturday.

Mr Starmer, who has tried to carry the socialist supporters of outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn while also keeping more centrist Labour members on board, beat Rebecca Long-Bailey, an ally of Corbyn, and third-placed Lisa Nandy in the contest.

Mr Starmer was previously Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary from 2016 to 2020 under Mr Corbyn’s leadership. He has a legal background and was previously a human rights lawyer, as well as the director of public prosecutions.

On Twitter, he said on Saturday: “It’s the honour and privilege of my life to be elected as Leader of the Labour Party.

“I will lead this great party into a new era, with confidence and hope, so that when the time comes, we can serve our country again – in government.”

Among those to congratulate Mr Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner was the UAE's Ambassador to the UK, Mansoor Abulhoul.

Mr Starmer, 57, takes over at a delicate time. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approval ratings have jumped in recent weeks, the government has been criticised for being too slow to test people for the coronavirus and for failing to equip healthcare workers properly. If the public mood turns against Mr Johnson over his management of the crisis, Mr Starmer could quickly become a credible next occupant of 10 Downing Street.

But he will also need to heal deep divisions within Labour, which has been plagued by splits between the hard-left Corbyn-supporting faction and the more centrist supporters of former prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Starmer has tried to cast himself as a unity candidate, and has promised to retain much of Mr Corbyn’s programme, including commitments to renationalise railways and increase income tax on the top 5 per cent of earners.

The son of a toolmaker and a nurse, Mr Starmer was named after Keir Hardie, the first leader of Britain’s Labour party. Before being elected to parliament in 2015, he worked as a barrister and served as Director of Public Prosecutions between 2008 and 2013. Like Mr Johnson, he represents a London constituency.

Updated: April 4, 2020 11:38 PM

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