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UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer speaks during a press conference after his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Alamy Stock Photo
Downing Street

Keir Starmer to visit Northern Ireland as he holds first cabinet meeting as UK prime minister

Labour won a landslide victory in the UK general election, with the Tories suffering their worst defeat in history.

NEWLY-ELECTED BRITISH Prime Minister Keir Starmer said the UK’s Rwanda Bill is “dead and buried” and confirmed he will visit Northern Ireland as part of a whistle-stop tour from tomorrow.

Starmer took questions from journalists in Number 10 on his first full day in Downing Street, after chairing his first cabinet meeting this morning. 

Speaking during the press conference, he said that work on the change promised after the election “has already begun”.

“This will be a government that governs for everybody, whether they voted for us or not. The politics of self-interest has come to an end,” he said.

Starmer recommitted to campaign promises including the provision of an extra 40,000 NHS appointments per week, campaigns to fights recidivism – reoffending by people released from prison – and commitment to Ukraine.

He also confirmed that his government would be scrapping the previous government’s controversial Rwanda scheme, calling it a “gimmick” which was “dead and buried before it started”.

“It has never acted as a deterrent… It’s had the complete opposite effect and I’m not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent.”

prime-minister-sir-keir-starmer-speaks-during-a-press-conference-after-his-first-cabinet-meeting-at-10-downing-street-london-following-the-landslide-general-election-victory-for-the-labour-party-pi UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer speaks during a press conference after his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

However, he did not make any comment on whether he would be following through on his party’s commitment to repeal the controversial Northern Ireland Legacy Act, which a High Court ruling in Befast argued would exacerbate rather than facilitate reconciliation in the region.

He set out plans to travel on Sunday to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, before returning to England, during which time he would meet First Ministers and “establish a way of working across the United Kingdom that will be different and better to the way of working that we’ve had in recent years and to recognise the contributions of all four nations”.

Starmer told his top team at cabinet that it had been “the honour and the privilege of my life” to be invited by Britain’s King Charles to form a government after Labour swept to an historic victory at the polls.

In brief remarks at the top of the meeting, he told ministers: “We have a huge amount of work to do, so now we get on with our work.”

Starmer appointed his cabinet on Friday and spoke with international leaders, including Taoiseach Simon Harris and US President Joe Biden. 

Shortly after arriving in Number 10, the new Prime Minister began appointing his Cabinet. He confirmed Rachel Reeves as Britain’s first woman chancellor, Yvette Cooper as Home Secretary and David Lammy as Foreign Secretary.

Angela Rayner officially became his Deputy Prime Minister and retained the levelling up, housing and communities brief.

Hilary Benn, who served as Shadow minister for Labour since last September, was appointed as the Northern Ireland Secretary.

britains-prime-minister-keir-starmer-center-with-deputy-prime-minister-angela-rayner-center-right-hosts-his-first-cabinet-meeting-at-10-downing-street-london-saturday-july-6-2024-following-th Britain's Prime Minister Keir Starmer hosts his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street following the General Election victory. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

After 649 of the 650 Commons seats had been declared, Labour had a majority of 176.

Labour had 412 seats and the Tories 121, the worst result in the Conservative Party’s history.

The Liberal Democrats won 71 seats, while Reform netted five.

A recount in the last seat left to declare: Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire; will not start until 10.30am this morning, delaying the final result of the general election.

In his first speech on Downing Street yesterday, Starmer said the British people had voted “decisively for change”.

He said the country could “move forward together” as Labour took office following 14 years of Conservative rule.

Pat McFadden, who played a central role in shaping Labour’s election campaign, confirmed on BBC Radio 4 that the new Cabinet would meet today.

He said high on Starmer’s agenda will be the six first steps Labour has set out: delivering economic stability, cutting NHS waiting times, launching a new border security command, setting up Great British Energy, cracking down on anti-social behaviour, and recruiting 6,500 new teachers.

Just days after his appointment, Starmer will be propelled onto the international stage, jetting to Washington DC for the Nato leaders’ summit, where discussions will include support for Ukraine.

He is also due to host the European Political Community summit in the UK on 18 July.

Taoiseach to visit No 10

Starmer held his first phone call with Taoiseach Simon Harris yesterday, with the two leaders agreeing that a closer relationship is “needed” between Dublin and London.

On Northern Ireland, the pair welcomed the restoration of Stormont and power-sharing, as well as legacy issues, and Harris welcomed the appointment of Hilary Benn as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Starmer also invited Harris to meet him in 10 Downing Street on 17 July, which the Taoiseach accepted.

The Prime Minister spoke to US President Joe Biden and discussed their commitment to the special relationship between the UK and US, protecting the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and support for Ukraine.

Starmer also spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reassured him of the “unwavering commitment” and said the UK would continue supplying defensive support.

He had calls with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Scottish First Minister John Swinney.

Tory leadership

Meanwhile, Suella Braverman has said she had “no announcements” about the race to replace Rishi Sunak as Tory leader after the crushing election defeat to Labour.

Braverman is expected to throw her hat into the ring in what could be an acrimonious contest which could shape the party for years to come as right-wingers and more centrist Tories battle it out.

Asked whether she would be the next party leader, Braverman told broadcasters outside her home this morning: “No announcements. We’ve just got to take our time, we’ve got to figure out what the situation is.”

The former home secretary continued: “It’s been a really bad result. There’s no two ways about it. Hundreds of excellent Tory MPs have been kicked out of office.”

Braverman was elected as MP in the redrawn constituency of Fareham and Waterlooville with a 6,000 majority.

The former cabinet minister is seen as a strong contender in the leadership contest after many potential rivals lost their seats in the Tory bloodbath.

It has been reported by some UK media this morning that former Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has ruled himself out of the leadership race.

Contains reporting from Press Association

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