China / World

Starmer joins Labour leadership race with new vision

By JULIAN SHEA in London (CHINA DAILY) Updated: 2020-01-07 00:00

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has said the United Kingdom's Labour Party must "rebuild and fast" following its disastrous performance in December's general election, as he confirmed he will be a candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Corbyn, whose personality and politics sharply divided the electorate, oversaw a collapse of the vote in traditional Labour heartlands, helping Boris Johnson's Conservative Party to win a majority of 80 seats.

Starmer, who is from the party's more moderate wing, has long been tipped as the most likely contender to restore Labour's credibility and electability. Even before his candidacy was confirmed, he was already winning opinion polls that asked party members who should be the next leader.

"We cannot bury our head in the sand: Labour must rebuild and fast. We have to restore trust in our party as a force for change and a force for good," he wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper. "The millions of people who needed change at the last election still need change. The moral fight against poverty, inequality and injustice must continue."

Starmer, 57, was a human rights lawyer and head of the Crown Prosecution Service before entering Parliament as member for the central London constituency of Holborn and St Pancras. He campaigned for the UK to remain in the 2016 European Union referendum and had been one of the leading lights in the campaign for a second Brexit referendum.

The timetable for the leadership election was expected to be set by Labour's National Executive Committee on Monday. Before Starmer confirmed he would be standing for the leadership, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow treasury minister Clive Lewis had said they were candidates. Others who have announced their candidacy are MPs Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips. Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, whose leftist views are closer to that of Corbyn, is also expected to stand.

A perceived lack of clarity over Brexit is one of the reasons blamed for the collapse of Labour's vote at the last election, and Starmer's critics say his Remain politics and solid middle-class status mean he is not the person to win back these lost votes.

However, he has emphasized his humble upbringing in Southwark, South London, as the son of a toolmaker and a nurse, and is named after Keir Hardie, the founder of the Labour Party.

Starmer launched his candidacy with a balanced statement, respecting Labour traditions while also embracing new ideas, saying it must not "lose sight of our values or retreat from the radicalism of the past few years".

Given his background as a human rights lawyer, it is no surprise that he favors a "human rights approach" to international relations and foreign policy. He has also spoken of the need for Labour to confront the issue of climate change, and present a vision to the nation of a "radically transformed economy that empowers trade unions and communities that have been left behind".

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