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PM Sir Keir Starmer assembles Cabinet after vowing to rebuild Britain

July 5th, 2024

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer got straight to work assembling his Cabinet after promising to rebuild trust in politics and restore hope to the nation after a landslide Labour victory in the General Election.

Rachel Reeves was confirmed as Britain’s first woman chancellor, Angela Rayner is Sir Keir’s Deputy Prime Minister and retained the levelling up, housing and communities brief, and Yvette Cooper is Home Secretary.

David Lammy was appointed Foreign Secretary, putting to bed some speculation over whether he would get the post he shadowed in opposition.

The first surprise in the assembly of the Labour leader’s top team was the promotion of Lisa Nandy to Culture Secretary, after the holder of the brief in his shadow cabinet, Thangam Debbonaire, lost her seat to the Green Party.

Otherwise, the Cabinet mirrors Sir Keir’s shadow team, including Pat McFadden, who played a central role in shaping Labour’s election campaign, being named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, John Healey Defence Secretary, Shabana Mahmood Justice Secretary, Wes Streeting Health Secretary, Bridget Phillipson Education Secretary and Ed Miliband Energy Secretary.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry will not take on the post in Government, with Sir Keir instead choosing barrister Richard Hermer KC. It is not a Cabinet position but Mr Hermer will attend Cabinet meetings.

Sir Keir also appointed Sir Alan Campbell as chief whip, Darren Jones as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, they will also attend Cabinet meetings.

Lucy Powell will be Leader of the House of Commons, while Baroness Smith of Basildon will be Leader of the House of Lords.

In his first speech on Downing Street, Sir Keir said the British people had voted “decisively for change”.

PM Sir Keir Starmer assembles Cabinet after vowing to rebuild Britain

Rachel Reeves became the first woman to get the keys to No 11 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sir Keir said the country could “move forward together” as Labour took office following 14 years of Conservative rule.

He said: “Now our country has voted decisively for change, for national renewal and a return of politics to public service.

“When the gap between the sacrifices made by people and the service they receive from politicians grows this big, it leads to a weariness in the heart of a nation, a draining away of the hope, the spirit, the belief in a better future.

“But we need to move forward together. Now this wound, this lack of trust can only be healed by actions not words, I know that.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer shakes hands with the King at Buckingham PalacePrime Minister Sir Keir Starmer shakes hands with the King at Buckingham Palace

Sir Keir Starmer became Prime Minister after an audience with the King at Buckingham Palace (Yui Mok/PA)

“But we can make a start today with the simple acknowledgement that public service is a privilege and that your government should treat every single person in this country with respect.”

He said “my Government will serve you, politics can be a force for good”, adding: “The work of change begins immediately, but have no doubt, we will rebuild Britain.”

Following a brutal set of results for the Conservatives, Rishi Sunak announced he would quit as Tory leader and used his final speech in Downing Street to apologise to the British people and the Conservative Party.

After 649 of the 650 Commons seats had been declared, Labour had a majority of 176.

Labour had 412 seats and the Tories 121, the worst result in the party’s history.

But low turnout underlined Sir Keir’s message about the need to rebuild trust in the political system after 14 years of Tory rule marred by the Partygate scandal and the chaos of Conservative infighting which saw David Cameron followed in quick succession by Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and, finally, Mr Sunak.

The turnout figure stood at 59.85%, the lowest at a general election since 2001.

Sir Keir said: “Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. The world is now a more volatile place. This will take a while.

“But have no doubt that the work of change begins immediately. Have no doubt that we will rebuild Britain, with wealth created in every community.

“Our NHS back on its feet facing the future. Secure borders, safer streets, everyone treated with dignity and respect at work. The opportunity of clean British power, cutting your energy bills for good.

“Brick by brick, we will rebuild the infrastructure of opportunity.”

A coloured map of General Election 2024 seats after 648 of 650 seats declared.A coloured map of General Election 2024 seats after 648 of 650 seats declared.

(PA Graphics)

He added: “From now on, you have a Government unburdened by doctrine, guided only by the determination to serve your interest, to defy quietly those who have written our country off.”

Sir Keir’s address to the nation came after Mr Sunak used his final Downing Street appearance to acknowledge the scale of the electoral mauling his party had received.

“To the country, I would like to say first and foremost, I am sorry,” he said.

“I have given this job my all. But you have sent a clear signal that the government of the United Kingdom must change, and yours is the only judgment that matters.

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

He said he would step down as Tory leader once the arrangements were in place to find a successor.

His announcement is likely to reignite the Conservative civil war as the party considers how to respond both to the Labour rout and the rise of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

Mr Sunak said: “It is important that, after 14 years in government, the Conservative Party rebuilds, but also that it takes up its crucial role in opposition professionally and effectively.”

The events in Downing Street followed a dramatic night:

– Former prime minister Liz Truss lost to Labour in South West Norfolk, where she had been defending a notional majority of more than 24,000.

– Twelve ministers who sat around the Cabinet table were ousted, comfortably exceeding the previous record of seven set in 1997.

– Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, defence secretary Grant Shapps, Welsh secretary David TC Davies, transport secretary Mark Harper, attorney general Victoria Prentis and veterans minister Johnny Mercer lost to Labour.

– Education secretary Gillian Keegan, justice secretary Alex Chalk, science secretary Michelle Donelan, culture secretary Lucy Frazer and illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson fell to the Liberal Democrats.

– Chief whip Simon Hart lost to Plaid Cymru.

– Other electoral casualties included former cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Tory deputy chairman Jonathan Gullis.

– But party chairman Richard Holden won by just 20 votes in Basildon and Billericay and outgoing chancellor Jeremy Hunt held off a Lib Dem challenge in Godalming and Ash.

– Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held on to his seat as an independent.

– Reform UK leader Nigel Farage won a Commons seat at his eighth attempt and promised his party would “stun all of you” as it picked up five Commons seats.

– The Greens also picked up four seats, including co-leader Carla Denyer defeating shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire in Bristol Central.

– Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth, who played a prominent role in his party’s media campaign, lost his seat to an independent as Labour’s stance on Gaza cost them votes.

The Liberal Democrats achieved a record result, with 71 MPs.

Party leader Sir Ed Davey said: “We have swept to victory in seats from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.”

Reform received more than four million votes, around 600,000 more than the Liberal Democrats, but thanks to the first-past-the-post system they won just four seats.

Mr Farage will be joined in the Commons by former Tory Lee Anderson, party chairman Richard Tice and former Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe in being elected to Parliament.

After winning in Clacton, Mr Farage said there is now a “massive gap on the centre-right of British politics and my job is to fill it”.

He added it is not just the Tories he is taking on, saying “we’re coming for Labour” and “this is just the first step of something that is going to stun all of you”.

In Wales, the Tories were wiped out while in Scotland Labour was rampant.

With all but one of the 57 Scottish seats declared on Friday morning, Labour held 37, the SNP nine and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each had five.

In 2019, Labour returned just one MP to the SNP’s 48.

First Minister and SNP leader John Swinney told the PA news agency: “We’ve got to face up to the realities of the situation that we are in and we’ve got to build the trust and the confidence of the public in Scotland.”

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