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UK Labour Party returns to power after 14 years in landslide victory

“Nobody in the Jewish community will forget the state the Labour Party was in when Keir took it over in 2020, riddled with antisemitism and unfit to govern,” said the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Labour Party leader and incoming prime minister, Keir Starmer, and wife Victoria greet supporters as they enter 10 Downing Street in London following a landslide election victory in the United Kingdom on July 5, 2024. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
Labour Party leader and incoming prime minister, Keir Starmer, and wife Victoria greet supporters as they enter 10 Downing Street in London following a landslide election victory in the United Kingdom on July 5, 2024. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

The British Labour Party won a landslide victory on Thursday, making Keir Starmer the prime minister of the United Kingdom after King Charles requested that he form a new government.

After 14 years in opposition, Labour won 412 of 650 seats in Parliament, with the Conservatives reduced to 121. The Liberal Democrats won 71 seats in a record win for their party, while the scandal-plagued Scottish National Party was slashed down to just nine seats. Reform, the right-wing party led by Nigel Farage, won 14% of the votes cast but was only able to translate that into five seats in Britain’s constituency-based parliamentary system.

Starmer inherited a dysfunctional Labour Party severely damaged by accusations of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias under the previous leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who resigned as Labour leader after the party’s poor showing in the 2019 election, coupled with a tenure that for years was riddled with both instances and accusations of antisemitism.

In his first speech as prime minister, Starmer nodded towards his efforts to eliminate Jew-hatred in Labour and return the party to the political center.

“We have changed the Labour Party, returned it to service—that is how we will govern,” he said in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street. “Country first, party second.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the largest Jewish community organization in the United Kingdom, congratulated Starmer on his victory and his turnaround of the Labour Party.

“Nobody in the Jewish community will forget the state the Labour Party was in when Keir took it over in 2020, riddled with antisemitism and—frankly—unfit to govern,” stated Board of Deputies president Philip Rosenberg. “The fact that the incoming Prime Minister has changed the party so profoundly, transforming Labour’s fortunes from seismic defeat to landslide victory, is an enormous testament to his personal strength, determination and political courage.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog also congratulated Starmer on Friday.

“I look forward to working together with him and his new government to bring our hostages home, to build a better future for the region, and to deepen the close friendship between Israel and the United Kingdom,” Herzog wrote.

Starmer, whose wife is Jewish, instituted a policy of “zero tolerance” for antisemitism when he became Labour leader. In 2020, he apologized after the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission issued a report saying that the Labour Party under Corbyn had illegally discriminated against British Jews.

“I found this report hard to read. And it is a day of shame for the Labour Party,” he said. “We have failed Jewish people.”

Victoria Starmer, Keir’s wife, was born to a Polish-Jewish father and her mother converted to Judaism, per The Jewish Chronicle. She and her children are observant and attend the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St. Johns Wood, London. The new premier has said that Shabbat is “a rock in the week” and that he intended to avoid working on Friday evenings, but is himself an atheist. 

‘This is for the people of Gaza’

Regarding Israel, Starmer has plotted a political course unlikely to satisfy the pro- or anti-Israel camps. Since Oct. 7, he has repeatedly said that he supports Israel’s right to defend itself; that there is no moral equivalence between Israel and the Hamas terror group; and that he would not promise to cut off arms sales to the Jewish state. Yet he has also been critical of Israel’s conduct of the war and has called for a ceasefire, even though he has frequently emphasized that he wants a sustainable, lasting one in contrast to demands from the left for an immediate, unilateral Israeli ceasefire.

That divide between Labour and the anti-Israel left proved sharpest in Thursday’s election among Britain’s sizeable Muslim population, who are traditionally Labour stalwarts. Five previously safe Labour seats—most of them in heavily Muslim constituencies—flipped to independent candidates who campaigned largely on anti-Israel platforms.

“This is for the people of Gaza,” said newly elected independent Member of Parliament Shockat Adam, raising a Palestinian keffiyeh after the results were read out in Leicester South.

Campaigning against Israel was also a key factor in Corbyn retaining his seat after he was expelled from the Labour Party earlier this year.

At least one Israel-hater suffered defeat on Tuesday, however, as the former Saddam Hussein confidante and anti-Israel critic George Galloway lost to the Labour candidate in Rochdale. Galloway won a shock by-election in February on a Gaza-based campaign platform after Labour withdrew support for its own candidate who was accused of antisemitism.

With Starmer announcing his cabinet picks on Friday, the future of the Conservative Party is unclear. In announcing his resignation, ousted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would also step down as party leader once succession arrangements are in place, teeing up the selection of the sixth Tory leader in a decade.

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