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Keir Starmer elected new UK Labour leader replacing Corbyn

  • Alice Ritchie and Phil Hazlewood

    Agence France-Presse

London, United Kingdom   /   Sun, April 5, 2020   /   09:05 am
Keir Starmer elected new UK Labour leader replacing Corbyn In this file photo taken on November 05, 2019 Britain's main opposition Labour Party shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, Keir Starmer speaks on Brexit during a Labour Party event in Harlow, north of London. British Labour leadership candidate, Keir Starmer has won the leadership of the Labour Party (Agence France Presse/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

Pro-European centrist Keir Starmer was on Saturday unveiled as new Labour party leader, heralding a shift in Britain's main opposition party after a crushing election defeat under veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn and years of ideological infighting. 

The 57-year-old former chief state prosecutor defeated Corbyn loyalist Rebecca Long-Bailey and backbencher Lisa Nandy in a lengthy campaign sparked by Corbyn's resignation after December's loss at the polls to Boris Johnson's Conservatives.

Angela Rayner becomes the new deputy leader, Labour announced on Twitter, after it was forced to cancel a special conference because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Starmer, who was Labour's Brexit spokesman, called his election "the honour and privilege" of his life and vowed to "engage constructively" with Johnson's Conservative government.

Johnson immediately offered his congratulations and the pair spoke, with Starmer accepting an invitation to a government briefing on COVID-19 next week.

"Keir offered to work constructively with the government on how best to respond to the coronavirus outbreak," his spokesman said.

Starmer himself vowed to reunite Labour, after deep rifts between supporters of socialist Corbyn's hard-left ideals and centrists, and wrangling over its Brexit strategy.

He immediately addressed the issue of anti-Semitism that Corbyn was accused of failing to tackle, which tarnished the party's reputation and caused Jewish members to leave in droves.

"Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party. I have seen the grief that it's brought to so many Jewish communities," Starmer said.

"On behalf of the Labour Party, I am sorry. 

"And 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."

Starmer, who won a resounding 56.2 percent of the vote of Labour members, acknowledged the party had "a mountain to climb", after four straight general election defeats -- two under Corbyn.

But he vowed: "We will climb it."

He added: "I will lead this great party into a new era, with confidence and with hope.

"So that when the time comes, we can serve our country again in government."