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4 April 2020updated 29 Jun 2021 2:22pm

Keir Starmer wins Labour leadership in landslide – but his toughest battle is yet to come

The Holborn and St Pancras MP's real internal challenge has only just begun.

By Stephen Bush

Keir Starmer has been elected leader of the Labour Party in a landslide, with 56 per cent of the vote in the first round, finishing comfortably ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey, who got 28 per cent, and Lisa Nandy, who polled 16 per cent.

Starmer’s big victory – in addition to his landslide win among Labour Party members, he was the choice of a plurality of Labour MPs – puts him in a commanding position as far as his choice of shadow cabinet is concerned. But limits on Starmer’s power remain – and his biggest battles, not just externally, but internally, lie ahead.

The Holborn and St Pancras MP used his victory speech to pledge to “tear out” the poison of anti-Semitism from the Labour Party – a confrontation that runs through the National Executive Committee, where he does not at present have a reliable majority, and the floor of Labour Party Conference.

While Angela Rayner, elected deputy at the same time, enjoyed a narrower victory, taking until the third round to secure a majority, she still has a seat around the National Executive Committee in her own right and will also have her own agenda.

But the challenge for Starmer is that while he has a bigger job of working internally to make the party’s policy platform more coherent and to root out anti-Semitism, his inner circle believed that in the short term there were quick wins to be had through sharpening up how the party operates at Westminster. But with the government’s agenda mothballed by the fight against Covid-19, those quick victories may not be forthcoming – though Starmer could have reason to be thankful that the lack of attention may mean the battles ahead are also neglected.

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