Keir Starmer picked to lead UK Labour amid virus crisis | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Keir Starmer picked to lead UK Labour amid virus crisis

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 file photo, Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, left, and Keir Starmer Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union applaud Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harlow Laura McAlpine's speech during their election campaign event on Brexit in Harlow, England. Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has elected lawyer and lawmaker Keir Starmer as its new leader, after a contest thrown into turmoil by the coronavirus outbreak, it was announced on Saturday, April 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
April 04, 2020 - 3:24 AM

LONDON - Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has elected lawyer and lawmaker Keir Starmer as its new leader, after a contest thrown into turmoil by the coronavirus outbreak.

A special conference to announce the winner was scrapped, and the news came Saturday in a press release accompanied by a pre-recorded acceptance speech.

“It is the honour and the privilege of my life to be elected as leader of the Labour Party. It comes at a moment like none other in our lifetime," Starmer said.

Angela Rayner was chosen as deputy leader in a vote of Labour’s half a million members.

Starmer, 57, who comes from the party’s centre-left wing, replaces Jeremy Corbyn, who has led Labour since 2015. A veteran socialist who was elected on a wave of grassroots enthusiasm, Corbyn took the party sharply to the left, proposing the nationalization of major industries and a huge increase in public spending.

Corbyn drew thousands of new activists to the party, but lost two successive elections in 2017 and 2019. In December’s election, Labour suffered its worst result since 1935, as the Conservatives won in working-class areas that had voted Labour for decades.

Labour has now been out of office for a decade that has brought the country three Conservative prime ministers — David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Starmer has been the party’s spokesman on Brexit, the issue that has consumed British politics for four years. But the country’s departure from the European Union, which became official Jan. 31, has been pushed into the background by the pandemic sweeping the globe.

Like many other countries, Britain is in effective lockdown, with schools, bars, restaurants and many businesses shut to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

A Dec. 31 deadline set by the government to forge a new relationship with the EU on trade and a host of other issues looks increasingly hard to meet.

The rules of politics have been upended. Many policies that Conservatives dismissed as socialist follies have been introduced, if only temporarily, by Johnson’s government in an effort to keep people and businesses afloat until the pandemic is over. The government is handing out cash to small businesses and made many more people eligible for welfare benefits.

Meanwhile, Parliament is currently on an extended recess, and it is unclear when lawmakers will return.

Starmer faces a delicate challenge: How to hold the government to account during a national emergency while also supporting the fight against the virus.

Johnson announced Saturday that he was inviting leaders of opposition parties to a briefing with the government’s top medical and scientific advisers, saying: “I want to listen to your views and update you on the measures we have taken so far.”

“As party leaders, we have a duty to work together at this time of national emergency,” Johnson wrote.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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