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Britain wakes up to new government as Labour Party wins election in a landslide

Britain woke Friday to the scene of a political earthquake. The opposition Labour Party Labour Party, after 14 years in the political wilderness, has handed a brutal defeat to the ruling Conservatives.

In his first speech outside his new home at number 10 Downing Street, the country’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer said people had voted “decisively for change” and the country could “move forward together.”

“When the gap between the sacrifices made by people and the service they receive from politicians grows this big, it leads to a weariness in the heart of a nation, a draining away of the hope, the spirit, the belief in a better future,” he said as his party took power after more than a decade in opposition. “But we need to move forward together. Now this wound, this lack of trust can only be healed by actions not words, I know that.”

He added that the U.K. could “make a start today with the simple acknowledgement that public service is a privilege and that your government should treat every single person in this country with respect.”

Starmer was formally appointed by King Charles III as prime minister — a formality in Britain’s constitutional monarchy — swiftly replacing his Conservative Party counterpart, Rishi Sunak.

It was Charles’ first post-election prime ministerial appointment, a private meeting that typically lasts just 30 minutes. His late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, saw 15 leaders come and go during her 70-year reign.

Upon their return from nearby Buckingham Palace, cheers and tears greeted a smiling Starmer and his wife Victoria, who hugged and kissed crowds of party faithful who lined the road to 10 Downing St., the prime minister’s official residence and office.

“Now our country has voted decisively for change, for national renewal and a return of politics to public service,” Starmer said, a reference to widespread anger at perceived political venality and a virtual revolving door of Conservative party leaders.

Unlike the U.S., Britain has no monthslong transition. Sunak himself had resigned to monarch earlier Friday after the presiding over one of the worst electoral losses in British political history. Tradition dictates that the outgoing leader leaves a handwritten note wishing his successor luck.

“This is a difficult day at the end of a number of difficult days. But I leave this job honoured to have been your prime minister,” Sunak said in his final speech as the U.K.’s leader on Downing Street, before he head to Buckingham Palace to resign.

As election night rolled through the small hours, the scale of Labour’s win sharpened into focus. With the counts remaining in just two of the 650 constituencies represented in Parliament, Labour had secured 412 seats — six short of its highest-ever total. The Conservatives won just 121 seats, which would be the worst result in its almost 200-year history.

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