Sources close to acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey have told the Sunday Express that the win for the architect of Labour’s pro-Remain policy will lead to the two parties working together closely and could in the longterm end up with a merger. The result also marks the end of a dark chapter in the Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn stepping down as leader after five years of division and accusations of anti-semitism. It was a humiliating end to the Corbyn project with Mr Corbyn’s preferred successor Rebecca Long-Bailey scraping just one in four votes.
Sir Keir won a landslide victory, taking 56.2 per cent in the first round of voting, well ahead of Left-winger Rebecca Long-Bailey on 27.6 per cent and Lisa Nandy on 16.2 per cent.
He signalled he will use his mandate to rip out remaining pockets of anti-semitism and apologised for the grief this has caused.
In a statement released immediately after the result, he said: “Anti-semitism has been a stain on our party. I have seen the grief that it’s brought to so many Jewish communities.
“On behalf of the Labour party, I am sorry. And I will tear out this poison by its roots and judge success by the return of Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”
Responding to Sir Keir’s victory, Sir Ed Davey said: “Liberal Democrats will always work with whoever we can to pursue our liberal values, to fight for action on the climate crisis and to build a more caring and just society.
“In those areas where we share common ground, Liberal Democrats and Labour now have an opportunity to work together, along with other progressive forces.”
An ally of Sir Ed told the Sunday Express that a working relationship between the two men and former Tory rebels was already in place.
The senior party figure said: “They worked well together on the whatsapp group we ran among MPs to try to get a second referendum.
“As long as Ed is confirmed as leader [next year] there is a very real chance of the centre left now coming together in a pro-EU alliance. The two knights in shining white armour as such.
“This gives us the chance to have a sensible centrist alternative to the Brexiteer Tories and could in the long term lead to a merger.”
Former Labour rebel now Lib Dem Chuka Umunna Tweeted: “Whatever your political persuasion, it’s in all our interests to have a competent and effective opposition. It’s also important progressives work together where we can.”
Angela Rayner won the deputy leadership in the third round with 52.6 per cent, beating doctor and Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan who won 26.1 per cent and Corbynite candidate Richard Burgon on 21.3 per cent. In the previous rounds Ian Murray and Dawn Butler were eliminated.
Sir Keir sought to strike a prime ministerial tone in his victory statement, addressing the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “Under my leadership we will engage constructively with the Government, not opposition for opposition’s sake. Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands.
“But with the courage to support where that’s the right thing to do… We will shine a torch on critical issues and where we see mistakes or faltering government or things not happening as quickly as they should we’ll challenge that and call that out.”
Sir Keir won in all three sections of Labour’s electoral college, winning 53.13 per cent of the affiliate vote, 56.07 per cent of members, and a thumping 78.64 per cent of registered supporters.
Opponents of anti-semitism pushed Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, to take bold action.
Ian Austin, a former Labour minister who quit the party last year in protest over its failure to stamp out anti-semitism and now chairs the cross-party campaign group against extremism, Mainstream UK, said: “It is good that Keir Starmer started with an apology, but it will take years, not months, and determined action to root out the extremists, deal with the anti-semitism that has poisoned the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn and to restore its reputation as a decent, mainstream party that shares the values of the British public.”
Luke Akehurst, a former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) said a first move would be “to arrange the departure of the General Secretary, Jennie Formby, who has huge powers over disciplinary cases and staffing” but this was “likely to be achieved through mutual agreement and with warm words, rather than confrontation”.