UNITED KINGDOM – The centrist and europhile Keir Starmer was widely elected this Saturday April 4 at the head of the British Labor Party, succeeding the very left Jeremy Corbyn, with the challenge of relaunching the main opposition party, weakened and divided, in the midst of a coronavirus crisis.
This 57-year-old former lawyer, responsible for three years of the Brexit for the Laborists, who was a favorite, won with 56.2% of the votes of the members of the party, vis-a-vis his two rival forties, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, according to the results communicated by the party.
It’s the honor and privilege of my life to be elected as Leader of the Labor 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. pic.twitter.com/F4X088FTYY
– Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) April 4, 2020
“It is the honor and privilege of my life to be elected to lead the Labor 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 – at government.”
Starmer apologizes for anti-Semitism in his party
In a televised speech broadcast just after his election, Keir Starmer immediately promised to overcome the many divisions that are eating away at the party: on the radical or more liberal line that Labor must adopt, but also between eurosceptics and pro-EU on the question of Brexit or the management of anti-Semitism within the party, which Jeremy Corbyn was unable to stem.
“On behalf of Labor, I apologize,” said Keir Starmer. He pledged to “wipe out the poison” of anti-Semitism, “stain on the party”, clearly distinguishing himself from his predecessor, who had only expressed his regrets belatedly.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the name of the winner was not announced as planned during a special conference but more modestly on the party's website, the candidates having recorded their speeches in advance in case of victory.
Uniting the Labor Party
Perceived as clever but not very charismatic, Keir Starmer undertook to put the party back on its feet and to lead it back to power after its scathing defeat in the legislative elections last December against Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, marked in particular by the loss of popular strongholds traditionally acquired by Labor.
It was the second electoral defeat for Jeremy Corbyn since his surprise election to head Labor in 2015 thanks to massive grassroots support, and the worst since 1935.
“I understand the magnitude of the task,” said Keir Starmer. “Our mission is to restore confidence in our party,” he continued. The next legislative elections are scheduled for 2024.
“There is a lot of resentment and mistrust,” said Steven Fielding, political expert at the University of Nottingham at the AFP. “The first challenge (from the new leader) will be to put a team in place that will at least appear to have the capacity to unify the party.”
Its first mission: to face the health crisis
But the new coronavirus pandemic, which is fueling government popularity, presents a much more immediate challenge. The government of Boris Johnson has decreed a general containment of the population in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, with the support of Labor.
The Conservatives have also deployed unprecedented economic and social support for hard-hit workers and businesses, which are usually the preserve of Labor, which has become hard to hear.
Like the leaders of other opposition parties, Keir Starmer has been invited by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to participate in a briefing on the new coronavirus epidemic next week.
“As party leaders, we have a duty to work together during this time of national emergency,” Boris Johnson wrote on his Twitter account on Saturday.
Keir Starmer pledged on Saturday to work “constructively” with the executive “in the national interest”, saying he would point to weaknesses in the executive if necessary.
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