08.07.2024 Author: Aleena Im

Keir Starmer: Who is the UK’s New PM and What’s in Store?

Keir Starmer: Who is the UK’s New PM and What’s in Store?

Keir Starmer, the UK’s first Labour prime minister in 14 years, has made many pledges to ‘renew’ the UK after Rishi Sunak’s appalling term. A prolific barrister turned politician, Starmer has seen a steep rise in his political career. He has vowed to make positive changes in the public services that the Brits are currently struggling with. However, with the UK economy in shambles, and a severe lack of funds, it remains to be seen whether he can really change the UK for the better.

A ceremonious victory for the Labour Party:

Ever since the unceremonious defeat of Rishi Sunak, after enough controversies to last him a lifetime, UK nationals are now pinning all their hopes on the Labour Party’s Keir Starmer. Sunak, who accepted complete responsibility for the devastating loss, has announced that he will be resigning as party leader in the coming weeks.

61-year-old Keir Starmer, who secured a House of Commons majority – for the first time since Tony Blair’s win in 2005 – is the first Labour prime minister in 14 years. The Conservatives, who saw five different prime ministers in power, lost 250 seats in one night. This is a huge victory for the Labour Party, who in 2019, suffered its worst electoral defeat in almost a century (under veteran left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn).

After addressing a throng of celebrating supporters, Keir Starmer, in his first speech as prime minister, announced that he will be kickstarting a period of ‘national renewal’. He also addressed the ailing factions of society, stating, “For too long we’ve turned a blind eye as millions slid into greater insecurity. I want to say very clearly to those people. Not this time.”

He also addressed that he will not be able to make changes overnight. “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 the work of change will begin immediately.”

Who is Keir Starmer?

Keir Starmer, quite aptly named after Keir Hardie – the first leader of the Labour Party, belongs to the small town of Oxted, located on the Kent-Surrey border.  He was always involved in some sort of movement, starting with his involvement in the ‘Young Socialists’ (the Labour Party’s youth movement) while he was in school.

After completing school, Starmer became the first person in his family to go to university. He first studied law at Leeds University, before progressing on to the prestigious Oxford University for his postgraduate studies.

Starmer then started working as a barrister back in 1987, specializing in human rights law. Interestingly, he also worked in the Caribbean and Africa, where he defended prisoners who faced the death penalty. Upon returning to the UK, he offered his services for free to the McLibel activists who were up against McDonald’s, the fast-food giant.

Due to his prolific career as a lawyer, he was named the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2008, which made him the most senior criminal prosecutor in England and Wales.

He has enjoyed a rapid rise in his political career since it started nearly a decade ago. He was knighted by the Queen in 2014 for his services towards criminal justice and, shortly after, was elected to the Parliament in 2015.

He started off as a shadow immigration minister for the opposition (2015-2016), before serving as shadow Secretary of State for exiting the European Union (2016-2020). Starmer was then elected as the leader of the Labour Party in 2020.

Having a toolmaker for a father, and an NHS nurse for a mother, Starmer has always emphasized his ‘working class’ roots. He used the same approach to completely overhaul the party when he replaced Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

While speaking to a journalist before his win, he discussed how he was looking forward to being in government and longed to ‘end the self-indulgent psychodrama of the Tory party’.

The Labour Party’s major pledges:  

With the vast majority of British citizens happy to see Sunak go, most are wondering what will become of the UK under the Labour Party. The party did outline five long-term missions that broadly cover their ambitions, including driving economic growth, ‘fixing’ the National Health Services, providing safety and security, creating opportunities through a ‘new skills’ agenda, and investing in green energy. To help reach these goals, Starmer has planned a shake-up of government ministries, which has raised a few eyebrows.

While he has not made too many big promises for the immediate future, some of the basic pledges that he has made revolve around the basic needs of the people.

Starmer has talked extensively about the NHS – given that his mother and wife are both working for the organization – and has promised to cut the waiting lists by adding over 40,000 appointments each week. The party has discussed how these will be funded by battling tax avoidance and ending tax ‘loopholes’ that many have been using to get richer.

There is also a pledge to ensure border security, and for that, the party has planned to launch a ‘border security command’ to stop gangs transporting illegal immigrants through small boats. Moreover, Starmer had previously announced that he would axe the Rwanda asylum scheme ‘on day one’.

Given the housing crisis and rising rents in the UK, the party has decided to create 1.5 million new homes. This will be done by reforming the laws surrounding town planning, and by introducing helpful schemes for first-time buyers.

To tackle the problems in the education sector, Starmer has announced the recruitment of over sixty-five hundred teachers, who will essentially be funded by eradicating the tax breaks that the private schools enjoy.

When discussing foreign policy and the EU, it is clear that he will follow NATO in supporting Ukraine. Moreover, he has also made his stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza very clear. Speaking to a UK radio station in October, Starmer claimed that Israel ‘has the right’ to withhold power and water from Palestinian civilians in Gaza. He did also add that “obviously, everything should be done within international law”.

What’s Next for the UK?

“Whoever wins the next election faces a terrible inheritance,” Professor John Curtice, the leading British pollster, told a journalist. “We’ve maxed out our credit card, we’ve got record levels of taxation, the public services don’t work, there’s very little fiscal headroom available and the economy is flatlining. Good luck, guys, with trying to solve that one”.

It remains to be seen whether Starmer will become the ‘Great British reformer’ or whether the ailing economy will get the best of him. Since he has taken a plethora of u-turns with his claims in the past, what he is actually able to achieve remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, if he fails to honour his pledges, there may be no chance of recovery – just ask Rishi Sunak.

 

Aleena Im – is an independent researcher and writer and is interested in international relations, current affairs, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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