New cabinet meets as Starmer government gets to work

UK

Sir Keir Starmer’s government has begun work on its first full day in power, following a landslide victory, which upended 14 years of Conservative rule.

From inside 10 Downing Street on Saturday morning, Sir Keir welcomed his new top team and said: “We have a huge amount of work to do, so now we get on with our work.”

In his first speech as prime minister he’d pledged to start work “immediately” to “rebuild Britain”.

A news conference setting out the PM’s priorities is expected later and a slew of junior ministers will also be appointed over the weekend, now the biggest jobs have been allocated.

A key focus will be the NHS, which Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting has declared is “broken”. In his first statement in the role, he said patients were “being failed on a daily basis”.

The Cabinet, which was announced on Friday, saw the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, appointed; alongside Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Foreign Secretary David Lammy.

Although less ethnically diverse than the previous Tory top table, the Cabinet is roughly reflective of the UK as a whole, with 12% minority ethnic members including Mr Lammy.

The inner circle contains 50% women, headed up by Ms Reeves and deputy PM and Levelling Up Secretary Angela Rayner, and 12% LGBT members, including Mr Streeting.

This meeting is expected to focus on economic stability, setting up the new green investment firm GB Energy, and cutting NHS waiting lists.

Ditching the Rwanda scheme in favour of a new plan to tackle illegal immigration will also be on the agenda, as well as overflowing prisons, and the junior doctor strikes.

A flight to Rwanda was scheduled for later this month, but Labour wants to redirect the scheme’s money towards a Border Security Command, although questions still remain over whether the Illegal Migration Act will be repealed.

Mr Streeting arriving for the meeting at 10 Downing Street told reporters assembled in the street “we’re getting straight to work” as he walked in, closely followed by Transport Secretary Louise Haigh.

Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said the new government had “a lot to get on with”.

Rochdale’s new Labour MP Paul Waugh told BBC Breakfast there would be an urgency to the new administration because “what matters is that we deliver”, particularly on the NHS.

Protesters will gather on Parliament Square for a Palestinian solidarity campaign rally on Saturday, with former Labour leader, now independent MP Jeremy Corbyn speaking. Mr Waugh said he had won his seat from Workers Party leader George Galloway by “engaging directly” on the issue of Gaza.

Sir Keir turned his sights from the UK campaign trail to the international stage, speaking to world leaders in a string of calls, as he started preparations for a Nato summit next week.

He discussed global challenges, including climate change and economic growth, with prime ministers in India, Japan and Australia on Saturday morning.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the call with Indian PM Narendra Modi focused on defence, emerging technology and the possibility of concluding a Free trade Agreement.

Speaking to the Japanese PM, Fumio Kishida, Sir Keir discussed conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine, while with the Australian PM Anthony Albanese, Sir Keir said he hoped to build on the partnership between the UK, Australia and the US, as well as the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Samoa later this year.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden congratulated Sir Keir and the pair discussed their commitment to the special relationship between the UK and US, protecting the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and support for Ukraine.

Sir Keir spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reassured him of the “unwavering commitment” to supplying defensive support.

And a call to President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen “emphasised the importance of the unique relationship between the UK and EU” in addressing shared “challenges”, his office said, including climate change and regional security.

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