Sir Keir Starmer has been elected as the new leader of the Labour Party.
Sir Keir, who was Shadow Brexit Secretary and who has been an MP since 2015, had been widely expected to win the three-month contest. He beat out competition from Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.
Starmer was elected in the first round of voting, gaining 275,780 votes (56.2%). Ms Long-Bailey came second with 135,218 votes (27.6%), while Ms Nandy came third with 79,597 votes (16.2%).
Meanwhile, Angela Rayner has been elected as the new Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. She was elected in the third round with 52.6% of votes.
A special conference had been planned to unveil the winners of both the Leadership and Deputy Leadership contests, however, they were cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The results were instead announced on social media, slightly behind schedule, with the Labour Party website crashing at the time of the results being due (10:45 BST).
In his pre-recorded victory speech, Sir Keir said ‘It is the honour and the privilege of my life to be elected as leader of the Labour Party’, acknowledging ‘it comes at a moment like none other in our lifetime’.
The newly elected leader said the party was failing in its ‘historic purpose’ and pledged to lead the party to change and rethink where required;
“We’ve just lost four elections in a row. We’re failing in our historic purpose. Be in no doubt, I understand the scale of the task, the gravity of the position that we’re in. We’ve got a mountain to climb, but we will climb it and I do my utmost to reconnect us across the country, to re-engage with our communities and voters. To establish a coalition across our towns and our cities and our regions, with all creeds and communities, to speak for the whole of the country.
Where that requires change, we will change. Where that requires us to rethnk, we will rethink. Our mission has to be to restore trust in our party as a force for good and a force for change.
This is my pledge to the British people: I will do my utmost to guide us through these difficult times, to serve all of our communities and to strive for the good of our country. I will lead this greaty party into a new era with confidence and with hope, so that when the time comes, we can serve our country again, in government”
In his speech, Sir Keir addressed the topic of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and hinted that the party would be willing to work with the government in the national interest;
“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 touch 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.
Our purpose when we do that is the same as the Government’s – to save lives and to protect our country – a shared purpose.”
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to the leaders of all of the opposition parties on Saturday morning to invite them to work together through ‘this moment of national emergency’.
In his recorded speech, Sir Keir also thanked his opponents in the leadership contest and also paid tribute to outgoing leader, Jeremy Corbyn;
I want to thank Rebecca and Lisa for running such passionate and powerful campaigns, and for their friendship and support along the way. I want to thank our Labour Party staff who worked really hard and my own amazing campaign team full of positivity, with that unifying spirit.
“I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who led our party through some really difficult times, who energised our movement, and who’s a friend as well as a colleague, and to all of our members, supporters and affiliates, I say this: whether you voted for me or not, I will represent you, I will listen to you and I will bring our party together.
Furthermore, Sir Keir discussed anti-semitism in his speech, an issue that has impacted the Labour Party considerably in recent years;
“But we have to face the future with honesty. Antisemitism has been a stain on our party. I have seen the grief that it has brought to so many Jewish communities, on behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry and I will tear out this poison by its roots and I judge success by the return of our Jewish members and those who felt they could no longer support us.”
Sir Keir’s election as Labour leader comes after Labour’s heavy defeat at the General Election on 12 December 2019. The Labour Party lost 59 seats, while the Conservatives gained 47 seats and a large majority, leading to the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn.
Following the announcement of the leadership election results, Lisa Nandy tweeted a ‘heartfelt congratulations’ to Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, saying ‘We will move forward together’.
On Facebook, Rebecca Long-Bailey said ‘Keir Starmer will be a brilliant prime minister and I can’t wait to see him in Number 10.’
Following her election, as deputy leader, Angela Rayner tweeted ‘Your support means everything. I will never stop fighting for our movement.’