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Who is Sir Keir Starmer, the UK’s new Prime Minister?

By Alisha Khan, Student, University of Calcutta, Member of the Comparative Politics Student Research Committee, and Soumyadeep Chowdhury, ASAP Fellow, Yale University, Chair of the Comparative Politics Student Research Committee

Picture from Phil Noble/Reuters

The 2024 parliamentary election in the United Kingdom brought an anticipated swerve in British politics. With the Labour Party’s success in this general election, Sir Keir Starmer, the party’s leader, has assumed the mantle of the UK’s 58th Prime Minister, the first for the party since 2010.

A former lawyer, Starmer’s political career commenced in 2014, after standing as the Labour parliamentary candidate in Holborn and St. Pancras. He was elected to the House of Commons at the 2015 general elections and has held the seat ever since. He later went on to hold shadow portfolios under Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn; first in 2015, as Shadow Minister of Immigration, from which he resigned in 2016, amidst mass resignations within the Shadow Cabinet, and then as the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, from 2016 to 2020). Succeeding Corbyn as the party leader in 2019, Starmer has since pushed the party towards the electoral center, deviating from its far-leftism. As the Leader of Opposition, he was vocal about the government’s mismanagement following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Partygate scandal, having thus been critical of the Conservative governments of Johnson, Truss, and Sunak, as well as unsuccessfully advancing a vote of no confidence in the government of Boris Johnson.

Positioning himself as one from humbler beginnings, he has shown his sympathies to the cause of the working class, hoping to win public sentiments in the wake of Britain’s chronically high national debt, a housing crisis, and failing public services, especially its healthcare system. Avowing to rebuild the country after what he labels as Conservative “chaos,” Starmer has proposed retraction of cuts in corporation taxes and restoration of economic stability in the advent of Britain’s ongoing productivity stagnation and cost of living crisis, ruling out any possibility of increased taxation on the working class.

With an outright rejection of Sunak’s Rwanda deportation plan concerning asylum seekers, Starmer’s party has argued in favour of resuming applications for illegal immigrants while reducing net migration and strengthening border security against migrant smuggling gangs. On the geopolitical front, Starmer’s Labour government could herald better relations with the European Union, securing diplomatic and military collaborations. Much to public disappointment, Starmer does not seek to join the EU, instead affirms to “making Brexit work.”
Despite his practice as a human rights advocate, Starmer has failed to explicitly denounce the human rights abuses carried out by Israeli units in Gaza, alienating pro-Palestine party members and supporters, alike. Nevertheless, he has called for a “ceasefire that lasts,” upholding his belief in a “two-state solution”. Starmer echoes his predecessor’s stance on the Russo-Ukraine war. His pledge to make the country a clean energy superpower remains vital amid the UK’s freedom from Russian gas and its fuel poverty owing to the war.

However, Sir Keir Starmer’s strife to bring forth an administration, devoid of the misgivings of doctrinal leanings – the elusive presence of ‘Starmerism’ within, is yet to be tested. Hopes remain towards its triumph, especially at a juncture when Starmer inherits the economy in shambles, his win more a show of the public fatigue towards the Conservatives and Sunak than his own popularity.

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