‘Now we get to work’: UK PM Starmer assembles cabinet

Jill Lawless and Brian Melley |

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s cabinet has convened at Downing Street for its first meeting.
UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s cabinet has convened at Downing Street for its first meeting.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer has held his first cabinet meeting as his new government takes on the massive challenge of fixing a heap of domestic woes and winning over a public weary from years of austerity, political chaos and a battered economy.

Starmer welcomed the new ministers around the table at 10 Downing St., saying it had been the honor of his life to be asked by King Charles III to form a government in a ceremony that officially elevated him to prime minister.

“We have a huge amount of work to do, so now we get on with our work,” he said.

Starmer’s Labour Party delivered the biggest blow to the Conservatives in their two-century history Friday in a landslide victory on a platform of change. 

Among the raft of problems they face are boosting a sluggish economy, fixing a broken health-care system, and restoring trust in government.

“Just because Labour won a big landslide doesn’t mean all the problems that the Conservative government has faced has gone away,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London.

US President Joe Biden, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese were among the international leaders who picked up the phone to congratulate Starmer.

The Australian Labor leader congratulated Starmer on his win and said he was looking forward to working with him.

The two leaders reaffirmed a commitment from Australia and the UK to advance a busy agenda including growing their economies, acting on climate change, seizing the opportunities of the global clean energy transition and advancing AUKUS.

The wars in Ukraine and Gaza were also discussed, officials said.

Keir Starmer in front of supporters
Britain’s Prime Minister Keir Starmer has been busy on his first day in office at Downing Street. (AP PHOTO)

Starmer had calls with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He also talked to Irish premier Simon Harris, who accepted an invitation to visit Downing Street on July 17, and Scottish First Minister John Swinney.

In his first remarks as prime minister on Friday after the meeting “kissing of hands” ceremony with Charles at Buckingham Palace, Starmer said he would get to work immediately, although he cautioned it would take some time to show results.,

“Changing a country is not like flicking a switch,” he said as enthusiastic supporters cheered him outside his new official residence at 10 Downing. 

“This will take a while but have no doubt that the work of change begins – immediately.”

Starmer singled out several of the big items, such as fixing the revered but hobbled National Health Service and securing its borders, a reference to a larger global problem across Europe and the US of absorbing an influx of migrants fleeing war, poverty as well as drought, heatwaves and floods attributed to climate change.

Conservatives struggled to contain the flow of migrants arriving across the English Channel, failing to live up to ousted prime minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats”.

Suella Braverman
Suella Braverman is a possible contender to replace Rishi Sunak as leader of the Conservative Party. (AP PHOTO)

Starmer has said he will scrap the Conservatives’ controversial plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda. 

The plan had cost hundreds of millions of dollars, without a single flight taking off.

“Labour is going to need to find a solution to the small boats coming across the channel,” Bale said. 

“It’s going to ditch the Rwanda scheme, but it’s going to have to come up with other solutions to deal with that particular problem.”

Suella Braverman, a Conservative hardliner on immigration who is a possible contender to replace Sunak as party leader, criticised Starmer’s plan to end the Rwanda pact. 

“Years of hard work, acts of parliament, millions of pounds been spent on a scheme which had it been delivered properly would have worked,” she said on Saturday.

“There are big problems on the horizon which will be, I’m afraid, caused by Keir Starmer.”

with Reuters

AP