LONDON — The U.K. Labour Party has a new leader.
Keir Starmer won the race to replace Jeremy Corbyn in the first round with 56.2 percent of the vote, beating rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.
But the next contest will be the harder one. At the next general election in 2024, or possibly sooner, Starmer will need to overturn a Conservative majority of 80 seats, many of them in working-class heartlands that Labour held for decades before losing them in 2019. In a statement released after his victory, he acknowledged he had a “mountain to climb.”
Before that, he needs to work out how to cut through the noise at a time of national crisis.
Boris Johnson is already testing his new opponent over the coronavirus. On the day Starmer was elected, the prime minister wrote to all opposition leaders inviting them to a briefing with himself and medical experts about the pandemic.
His attitude to the EU is founded on deeply internationalist instincts.
“As party leaders, we have a duty to work together at this moment of national emergency,” Johnson wrote. The coming days will present Starmer with a difficult balancing act: Going on the attack over the government’s handling of the crisis might leave Labour looking like a party of protest, but not doing so could see him associated with the government strategy.
That is why, out of 10 things to know about Keir Starmer, the first challenge he faces is the coronavirus.