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You have our prayers, Archbishops tell Sir Keir Starmer after sweeping election victory for Labour

05 July 2024

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Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria pictured outside Downing Street on Friday afternoon

Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria pictured outside Downing Street on Friday afternoon

THE Archbishops of Canterbury and York have congratulated Sir Keir Starmer on the Labour Party’s landslide victory in the General Election.

The Labour Party has won 412 seats, the Conservative Party 121 seats, the Liberal Democrats 72, the SNP nine, Reform UK five, the Green Party four, and other parties 27.

Early on Friday morning, Rishi Sunak conceded defeat. In a speech given after having been elected MP for the new constituency of Richmond and Northallerton, he said: “The Labour Party has won this General Election, and I have called Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory. Today, power will change hands in a peaceful and orderly manner, with good will on all sides. That is something that should give us all confidence in our country’s stability and future.”

Mr Sunak went on to say: “I take responsibility for the loss.” Speaking in Downing Street a little later, he announced that he would step down as party leader, “not immediately, but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place”.

Shortly after Mr Sunak conceded defeat, Sir Keir addressed supporters in London: “We did it!. . . Four and a half years of work changing the party. This is what it is for: a changed Labour Party, ready to serve our country, ready to restore Britain to the service of working people.”

Christians on the Left reported that 19 of its members had been elected as Labour MPs for the first time, and that all of its members who were sitting MPs had been re-elected.

Newly elected Labour MPs who are members of the group include: Dr Anna Dixon, a former co-chair of the Archbishops’ Reimagining Care Commission and a former churchwarden of Christ Church, Highbury, in north London (Features, 23 June 2023) (Shipley); Dan Tomlinson (Chipping Barnet); David Smith (North Northumberland); and Juliet Campbell (Broxtowe).

Christians on the Left members who were re-elected included David Lammy (Features, 17 April 2020), who retained his seat of Tottenham and was appointed Foreign Secretary on Friday afternoon, having served as shadow in opposition. Bridget Philippson, a Roman Catholic, held Houghton and Sunderland South. She has been appointed Education Secretary having held the shadow brief. Also Wes Streeting, an Anglican, who was re-elected to serve Ilford North, albeit by just 528 votes. He was appointed Health and Social Care Secretary on Friday afternoon, having served as shadow. Sir Stephen Timms, a former Labour Cabinet minister (Interview, 30 July 2021), retained his seat of East Ham.

Members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship fared less well. Andrew Selous, who has been the Second Church Estates Commissioner since 2020, lost by 667 votes to Labour in the contest for the new seat of Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard; Steve Baker (Features, 29 April 2022) lost the seat of Wycombe, which he had held since 2010, to Labour; and Fiona Bruce, who has been the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (News, 1 January 2021), lost the seat of Congleton, also to Labour.

Tim Farron, an Evangelical who is a former leader of the Liberal Democrats (Features, 18 November 2022), was re-elected to the redrawn Westmorland and Lonsdale by a comfortable margin.

Archbishop Welby said in a statement on Friday morning: “My warmest congratulations to our new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, and my prayers for you and your family as you take on this role of great responsibility for our country. I thank Rishi Sunak and the outgoing Government for their service.

“I also give thanks today for our democracy, and for the peaceful and orderly transition of power it gives us. I pray for our new Government entering office; for its members to have humility, wisdom, and integrity as they begin their new roles.”

Archbishop Cottrell wrote on social media: “Warm congratulations to our new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer. Offering prayers as you take on this role, and for the well being of the nation you will lead.”

There are now no Conservative MPs in central London. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, offered her “prayers and best wishes” to Sir Keir, “as he prepares to take on the responsibility of leading the new Government. I am also praying for Rishi Sunak for his service over these past years.”

She continued: “For many, today will be a day of celebration; for others, sadness. We must remember the courage it takes to stand for one’s beliefs and treat those that do with kindness and compassion, whether we agree with them or not. Here, in the capital, I look forward to welcoming and working with the many new MPs elected amongst the communities of the diocese of London.”

The Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, congratulated all who were elected MPs in constituencies in her diocese, and offered commiserations to those who had lost. “Thank you for your service. Now let’s crack on with the work in this fantastic north-east region, with hope and vision,” she wrote on X.

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, also congratulated those who had been elected to serve constituencies in his diocese. “I look forward to working with you in our shared care for all the people who live in our patch, and to seeing you in Westminster very soon,” he wrote.

In Wales, the Conservatives lost all of their seats: Labour now holds 32 seats, Plaid Cymru, four, and the Liberal Democrats, one.

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, in a statement on Friday morning, referred to the “momentous responsibility” of government, and said that he was “praying for our new administration and opposition”.

He continued: “The Church in Wales will continue to work alongside all who promote the Christian values of selfless service and care for the vulnerable. We urge our new government to attend to the enormous challenges of climate change, to build a safe and secure future, and to work towards a fair and just society.”

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has written to Sir Keir to congratulate him on his party’s victory. “The Catholic Church has a long record of partnership with the UK Government, not least in the area of education where we run over two thousand schools in conjunction with the state,” he wrote. “We look forward to this continuing, and to working constructively in this and other areas with you, your ministers, and officials.

“Your previous comments about wanting a Government which works with churches and faith communities have been most welcome, and I want you to know that we stand ready to play our part.”

The chief executive of Christians Against Poverty, Stewart McCulloch (Podcast, 14 June), called on the new Government to tackle poverty as “a matter of public urgency”.

“My message to all politicians is come and . . . visit one of our local debt centres and hear from our clients who have personal experience of living in debt and poverty. Hear about the enormous struggles and challenges they are facing and listen to how you can help make a difference.”

The director of CAFOD, Christine Allen, said that the new Government was taking power “at a critical time of growing global inequality and multiple crises, both domestically and internationally”.

She continued: “We face a global debt crisis with three billion people living in nations where debt payments exceed their spending on education and health. The Labour Party has a strong tradition of action on global debt: they answered the call of the Jubilee year in 2000 as we hope they will do for the Jubilee year 2025 by supporting fair debt settlements through UK law.”

She also said that CAFOD would seek to work with the Government to alleviate the famine in Sudan and the conflict in Gaza.

On Friday morning, Mr Sunak went to Buckingham Palace to inform the King of his resignation, after which, the King formally invited Sir Keir to form a government and become Prime Minister.

Read more on this story in Leader comment, Angela Tilby, Paul Vallely, and Andrew Brown’s Press column

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