LONDON, July 11 — Keir Starmer on Friday swept into Downing Street for the first time as UK prime minister, promising urgent action to restore the country’s fortunes.

The Labour party leader oversaw a landslide victory in Thursday’s general election, ending 14 years of rule by Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives.

“The work of change begins immediately,” Starmer told reporters outside Downing Street after accepting head of state King Charles III’s request for him to form a government.

“But have no doubt, we will rebuild Britain,” he added.

Starmer, a 61-year-old former human rights lawyer and chief state prosecutor, paid tribute to Sunak, who was appointed Tory leader and prime minister in October 2022 after Liz Truss’s disastrous tenure.

“His achievement as the first British-Asian prime minister of our country, the extra effort that that will have required, should not be underestimated by anyone,” he said.

“We pay tribute to that today. We also recognise the dedication and hard work he brought to his leadership,” he added.

Flag-waving Labour supporters lined the approach to Downing Street as Starmer and his wife Victoria arrived from Buckingham Palace, shaking hands with and kissing activists.

Starmer faces a daunting to-do list, noting that Britons had grown tired of crumbling public services, higher prices and empty promises from politicians.

His government, he said, would put “country first, party second”, promising to restore “respect for politics”, after a succession of scandals under the Tories that eroded public trust.

But he sought to temper high expectations of an immediate transformation. “Changing a country is not like flicking a switch,” he said.

“The world is now a more volatile place. This will take a while. But have no doubt that the work of change begins immediately.” — AFP