Keir Starmer ‘restless for change’ as he vows to take action on prisons – politics live – The Guardian

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In Keir Starmer’s first press conference as prime minister, “the slightly tense Labour leader of the election trail was replaced by a more obviously affable figure”, writes The Guardian’s Peter Walker.

Perhaps most notable of all was how relaxed it all felt. The argument has been made that while Starmer may not be the most natural campaigning politician, he is comfortable running a big organisation. And here it showed.

The slightly tense Labour leader of the election trail was replaced by a more obviously affable figure who made jokes about his wife working for the NHS – “as I may have mentioned” – and called TV reporters to ask questions by their first name only.

Of course, few things in politics are better for the mood than winning a landslide election victory. But this felt like a leader who believes that even with the magnitude of his Commons majority not matched by the popular vote, he has the mandate and the time to enact his programme.

The Observer’s Tim Adams has an analysis of Liz Truss’s last minutes of her time in office as an MP, which he described as “clumsily inept as much of the previous 14 years of vapid careerism”.

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Her victorious Labour opponent, Terry Jermy, gave a heartfelt speech about his win, and the stage seemed set for Truss to offer some kind of response, or explanation, or at least the traditional thank you to tellers and supporters. She looked panicky for half a moment, perhaps with this thought in mind, before scuttling away ungraciously.

Afterwards I asked the velvet-breeched high sheriff who had conducted the announcement if Truss had indicated that she wanted to speak. “No,” he said. “I think she just wasn’t sure which way to get off the stage.”

The new cabinet has been getting a lot of attention for having the highest number of state-educated and female ministers in history, with Keir Starmer saying at his press conference that he was proud that his cabinet “reflects the aspiration that I believe lies at the heart of our country”.

Speaking from the Wyldecrest Sports Country Club in Essex, however, Nigel Farage declared that it was “the most inexperienced people ever to have got into a British cabinet”.

While the Reform UK leader hedged his harsh assessment by saying there were “a couple exceptions”, Farage maintained nonetheless that he thought the new cabinet was going to find the decision-making ahead of them “very, very hard”.

“If you actually look at their life stories, their backgrounds and bear in mind, these are people making executive decisions that fundamentally affect people’s lives, I think they’re going to find it very, very hard,” he said. “And I say that because the country faces some really fundamental problems, I suspect this government could be in trouble pretty quickly.”

I will be shortly handing over the blog to my colleague Vivian Ho. Thank you for your emails and comments today.

Here is a summary of the key events from Saturday so far:

  • Prime minister Keir Starmer has held his first cabinet meeting at Downing Street where he told his assembled ministers: “We have a huge amount of work to do, so now we get on with our work”. At a press conference shortly after the meeting, Starmer told journalists: “I had the opportunity to set out [to] my cabinet precisely what I expect of them in terms of standards, delivery and the trust that the country has put in them.” He also said he was proud to have cabinet ministers who “didn’t have the easiest of starts in life” and reflect the “aspiration” at the heart of Britain.

  • Starmer announced that he would be setting off tomorrow to visit all four nations of the United Kingdom, saying “we clearly on Thursday got a mandate from all four nations”. He said his plan is to visit Scotland, followed by Northern Ireland and then Wales before returning to England. Later on Tuesday next week, Starmer will set off for Washintgton to attend the Nato summit.

  • Starmer labelled the previous government’s Rwanda scheme a “gimmick” which was “dead and buried before it started”. Speaking to the media in Downing Street, Starmer said the Rwanda scheme had “never been a deterrent”.

  • Starmer said it is “impossible” to say the government will stop the early release of prisoners. He also said: “It’s a failure of government to instruct the police not to arrest. This has not had enough attention, in my view, but it’s what happened. We will fix that, but we can’t fix it overnight”.

  • During a question and answer session with journalists at today’s press conference, Starmer said he is “restless for change” and said that, although he didn’t want to get ahead of himself before the election results, preparations by his party had been “extensive over the last six months”. He added: “It is not an overnight excercise changing the country.”

  • Jeremy Hunt, the former chancellor who previously ran as a Tory leadership hopeful, has ruled himself out of the race, telling GB News that the “time has passed”.

  • The new health secretary, Wes Streeting, has declared the NHS is broken as he announced talks with junior doctors in England would restart next week. The Ilford North MP said patients were not receiving the care they deserved and the performance of the NHS was “not good enough”.

  • The Liberal Democrats say they have won in Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire. An official recount is still under way, however, the party has posted on X this morning: “Liberal Democrats GAIN Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire. Congratulations Angus MacDonald MP.”

  • Nigel Farage said his aim is to “build a mass movement for real change leading up to the next sets of elections”. Speaking from Wyldecrest sports country club in Essex on Saturday, the Reform UK leader said: “We will do what we can with five in parliament, what I will do for certain is provide real opposition in the country.”

  • Tory grandees including David Cameron are pushing back against the idea of a swift Conservative leadership contest, saying they want the candidates to be tested. Prospective candidates, including Robert Jenrick, Kemi Badenoch, James Cleverly, Suella Braverman, Tom Tugendhat, Priti Patel, and Victoria Atkins, are among the long list of names believed to be preparing possible bids.

  • Some of Rishi Sunak’s closest allies are facing an angry backlash after being awarded honours by the former prime minister, despite their apparent role in the “insane” decision to call an early election. The former deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden and chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith were singled out by angry candidates and aides for their role in the “cataclysmic defeat” that several sources claimed had been made worse by the early election decision.

Back to Keir Starmer’s press conference from earlier. The prime minister was asked about the NHS and when he would be able to commit to getting 40,000 additional appointments up and running.

Starmer explained that some hospitals, including St Thomas’ and Leeds hospital had done just that “of their own volition because they were so concerned about the impact of waiting lists on their own hospitals”. He said these hospitals had set up their own schemes to work evenings and weekends and that he and his party had spoken to the hospitals about how they had done it.

Starmer told journalists:

We will use them around the country now. They’ve agreed to this. They will go across the country to be deployed to help set up the models in other hospitals as quickly as we can, so I can’t say that by date x that it will happen, but we’ve already had quite some discussions about how that will be rolled out from day one.”

Nigel Farage said his aim is to “build a mass movement for real change leading up to the next sets of elections”, reports the PA news agency.

Speaking from Wyldecrest sports country club in Essex, the Reform UK leader said:

We will do what we can with five in parliament, what I will do for certain is provide real opposition in the country.

And my aim and ambition is to build a mass movement for real change, leading up to the next sets of elections.”

Asked how he would sell proportional representation to the public, Farage said: “Well, the fact that for every Reform MP there are 800,000 voters, and for every Labour MP there are 30,000 voters suggests something is very badly, fundamentally wrong.”

He added: “We have five MPs, PR would have given us 97 MPs, but we are where we are.”

Asked who he would like to see as Conservative party leader, Farage said: “Honestly, I don’t think it matters who they pick as leader. This party is split down the middle, they call it a broad church, well, it’s a broad church with no common shared religion.”

Farage said Reform is “going to do very, very well” in the Senedd election and based on how it performed in Scotland during the general election, the party would “very much be in the territory of winning seats in the Scottish parliament too”.

During a question and answer session with journalists at the earlier press conference, Keir Starmer was asked what his reaction was when he saw the general election exit poll on Thursday evening.

With a slight grin, Starmer said:

I was pleased to see that exit poll. I didn’t believe it until, like everybody else, I stayed up to watch all the results come in, peppered with the speeches I gave, including the one at 5am at the event that we held.

But, it was only as the final results came through that I was confident that we’d got to where we needed to be to do the work that we need to do.”

Keir Starmer said he was proud to have cabinet ministers who “didn’t have the easiest of starts in life” and reflect the “aspiration” at the heart of Britain.

The prime minister told journalists:

I’m really proud of the fact that my cabinet reflects the aspiration that I believe lies at the heart of our country.

That aspiration that so many people have, wherever they started from, to make a journey in life for themselves, for their families, their communities and ultimately for their country.”

Starmer had to catch himself referring to the “shadow cabinet”. He quickly corrected to say that at the cabinet meeting, he had told ministers:

I’m proud of the fact that we have people around the cabinet table who didn’t have the easiest of starts in life but to see them sitting in the cabinet this morning was a proud moment for me and this changed Labour party and a reinforcement of my belief in that aspiration, which is a value I use to help me make decisions.”

He refused to be drawn on the prospect of further peerages being given to experts, saying: “I don’t want to get ahead of myself. We are making further appointments this afternoon in relation to the frontbench.”

Starmer said it is “impossible” to say the government will stop the early release of prisoners.

He told the press conference in Downing Street:

We’ve got too many prisoners, not enough prisons. That’s a monumental failure of the last government on any basic view of government to get to a situation where you haven’t got enough prison places for prisoners, doesn’t matter what your political stripe, that is a failure of government.

It’s a failure of government to instruct the police not to arrest. This has not had enough attention, in my view, but it’s what happened.

We will fix that, but we can’t fix it overnight and therefore it is impossible to simply say we will stop the early release of prisoners and you wouldn’t believe me if I did say it.”

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