‘Will engage constructively with government’, says new Labour leader Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer (REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo)
Sir Keir Starmer (REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo)

THE Labour Party has named Keir Starmer as its new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday (4).

In his victory statement, the former director of public prosecutions promised to “constructively” engage the government, and also apologised to the Jewish community for anti-Semitism in its ranks.

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 Lisa Nandy in the contest.

He won with 56.2 per cent of the vote by party members and supporters.

“It’s the honour and privilege of my life to be elected as leader of the Labour Party. It comes at a moment like no other in our lifetime,” he said in a pre-recorded statement, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“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 torch 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.”

Starmer termed anti-Semitism in his party a “stain”, and pledged to stamp it out.

“On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry,” he said. “I will tear out this poison by its roots and judge success by the return of Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”

Runner-up Lisa Nandy congratulated Starmer and stressed on unity within the party.

“We have been competitors in this contest but never opponents, and he will have my full support in the challenges that lie ahead,” said the Wingan MP.

“A united and strong Labour Party could not be more important than at this moment. The road back to power is steep but it does not have to be long.”

The leadership contest, under way since Corbyn led Labour to a crushing defeat in the December election, had been overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak, which all but silenced the three candidates’ campaigns.