Keir Starmer: The New Man in Labour

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“The king is dead, long live the king”

University of Leeds alumnus Keir Starmer was elected on Saturday as the new leader of the Labour Party. As a result, the five-year reign of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party is over. 

At the end of Corbyn’s leadership, he has left a somewhat difficult legacy for Labour, with the anti-Semitism crisis still rumbling, Momentum monopolising power in the party and two failed elections, the last of which saw Labour lose 59 constituencies and its worst defeat since the 1930’s. 

Starmer won with 56% of the vote in the first round, defeating Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, seemingly burying the Corbyn project for good. A relatively new MP, he was elected in 2015 unlike his predecessor who is now entering his 37th year as MP for Islington North. 

However, Starmer has a long career of law behind him, with his speciality being human rights. He served as the Director of the Crown Prosecution Service and Director of Public Prosecutions from 2008 to 2013 whilst during his time as an MP he has served in the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Brexit Secretary.

In the process he has championed the need for human rights in post-Brexit Britain, as well as being a strong voice for Remain on the Labour front benches. 

The Gryphon and Leeds Student Television interviewed Starmer in January about what he’d do for the students as Labour leader.

By all accounts, Starmer has proven himself to be a dedicated and committed lawyer and politician, and a man of principle and conviction who is willing to fight tooth and nail for what he believes in, including standing up for the vulnerable in society as part of a drive to make the world a better place. 

But, above all, and most importantly, he has been elected because he has the ability to make the Labour Party a broadly based movement again. Many feel that will move it on from being the protest movement of the last five years, where it seemed that losing honourably was a better outcome than winning power through compromise.

Can Starmer succeed where his predecessors failed and hold the keys to Number 10? We can only wait and see.  Since his election  Starmer has carried out of cull of Corbyn’s former Shadow Cabinet, bringing in a wave of fresh faces to the Labour front benches. Among them is Rachel Reeves, the MP for Leeds West. 

Reeves’ new role is that of the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, where she will be shadowing Michael Gove, her Government opponent. As Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, her technical role is limited.  However, Gove uses the role to address a range of issues, including constitutional matters and Cabinet Office issues. As such the position is highly flexible and can oversee numerous issues that other ministers would not be able to address due to the limitations of their roles. 

But what does this mean for Leeds? Reeves has consistently voted against the government’s slashing of local government funding over the last ten years, meaning that she could potentially use the role as a new way to champion Leeds.  She now has significantly greater influence now than in her previous role in 2013 as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and will likely gain a greater degree of influence through the years until the next election in 2024/5. 

With this new influence, could she help to strengthen the local government in Leeds, giving it real power to administer over itself and change the political landscape in West Yorkshire for decades? Might an elected Mayor even be a demand she could advance? Only time will tell. 

Image credited to Amy Rapeer, Leeds Student Television.