London, Jul 5: Keir Starmer became UK's new prime minister on Friday and vowed to rebuild Britain, hours after his Labour Party secured a landslide victory in a general election in which the weary voters inflicted a "sobering verdict" on Rishi Sunak-led Conservatives, who suffered their worst electoral drubbing.

Starmer, 61, assumed charge as the 58th prime minister after his customary audience with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, following Sunak's meeting with the British monarch.

The Labour Party secured 412 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, up 211 from the last election in 2019. Sunak's Conservatives won just 121 seats, down 250 seats from the previous election. While the Labour had a vote share of 33.7 per cent the Conservatives had 23.7 per cent.

“Our country has voted decisively for change, for national renewal and a return of politics for public service,” said Starmer in his inaugural address from a lectern outside 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British prime minister.

As leader of a new Labour Party-led government, Starmer said that the work ahead is “urgent and we begin it today”. However, he said this would not be as simple as "flicking a switch".

“When the gap between the sacrifices made by people and the service they receive from politicians grows this big, it leads to the weariness in the heart of a nation, a draining away of the hope, the spirit, the belief in a better future. But we need to move forward together,” he said.

Starmer acknowledged that the lack of trust could only be healed by actions, not words and pledged that his government would treat every single person in the country with respect.

He noted: “If you voted Labour yesterday, we will carry the responsibility of your trust as we rebuild our country. But whether you voted Labour or not, in fact, especially if you did not, I say to you directly: ‘my government will serve you'.

“Politics can be a force for good, we will show. We've changed the Labour Party, returned it to service, and that is how we will govern. Country first, party second.”

Citing the need for schools and affordable homes, Starmer vowed to "rebuild" the country's "infrastructure of opportunity", doing so "brick by brick". He vowed a "government of service" and spoke of the need for a national "reset"

The incoming Prime Minister also had warm words for his 44-year-old predecessor, Sunak, who he praised for an added accomplishment.

“His achievement as the first British Asian prime minister of our country, the extra effort that will have required should not be underestimated by anyone. We pay tribute to that today and recognise that dedication and hard work he brought to his leadership,” he said.

While many of his Cabinet colleagues were defeated in the election held on Thursday, Sunak, the country's first British Indian prime minister comfortably held on to his own Richmond and Northallerton seat in northern England with 23,059 votes. The Conservatives were in power for 14 years and the party suffered its worst election defeat in history losing 250 MPs in Thursday's general election.

A sombre-looking Sunak was joined by his wife Akshata Murty as his future as a member of Parliament was decided and chose to use his acceptance speech to also admit his party's defeat in winning another term in government.

"The Labour Party has won this general election and I have called Sir Keir Starmer to congratulate him on his victory," said Sunak, acknowledging the “sobering verdict” handed to his party and taking "responsibility for the loss".

He pledged to “continue to serve” his constituents for the “weeks, months and years ahead” and stressed that the transfer of power at Westminster will take place in a “peaceful and orderly manner with goodwill on all sides”.

In his farewell speech, Sunak was filled with emotion as he apologised to the voters who had delivered the party led by him a hammering at the ballot box. But he stressed that he had given the job everything and also apologised to his Tory colleagues who lost their seats overnight.

Sunak, who assumed charge as UK Prime Minister in October 2022, said he will step down as the leader of the Conservative Party, taking “responsibility” for its debacle in the general election.

“Yours is the only judgment that matters. I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss… Following this result, I will step down as party leader, not immediately, but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place,” he said.

With some of the most prominent ministers and MPs including Sunak's predecessor Liz Truss - whose disastrous mini-budget and short-lived premiership last year is being blamed for much of the Tory debacle. Other key Tory heavyweights to lose their seats on a dismal election night for the Conservatives included Grant Shapps, Penny Mordaunt and Jacob Rees Mogg losing the election, the results being dubbed a “bloodbath” for the Conservatives.

However, among the new Tory MPs included British Indian candidate Shivani Raja who beat Labour's candidate, former deputy mayor of London Rajesh Agrawal, in the closely watched Leicester East constituency. Other British Indian Tories who managed to hold on to their seats included former ministers Priti Patel, Suella Braverman and Claire Coutinho.

On the Labour side, several Indian-origin MPs were re-elected including Preet Kaur Gill and Tan Dhesi and some newcomers made their mark such as Jas Athwal and Kanishka Narayan, who became the first British Indian to represent Wales in Parliament.

Earlier, Starmer won his seat of Holborn and St. Pancras in London with 18,884 votes.

Another major trend that will dominate the discourse in the coming weeks and months will be in Nigel Farage finally being elected as an MP at his eighth attempt and leading his anti-immigration Reform UK to bagging four first-time seats in the Commons. The Reform leader overturned a 25,000 Conservative majority to take Clacton in Essex by more than 8,000 votes, reflective of a wider trend of the party eating into the Tory votes.

Farage, a divisive figure in British politics, dubbed his win as "the first step of something that is going to stun all of you", describing it as the “beginning of the end” of the Conservative Party. PTI