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Sir Keir was yesterday confirmed as Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement after seeing off the twin challenges of Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, taking 56.2 percent of the vote. Angela Rayner was elected as his deputy. Analysts have suggested he will need to strike a balance between backing efforts to minimise the impact of the pandemic and holding the Government to account. The 57-year-old, writing in the Sunday Times, struck a conciliatory tone in keeping with his previous remarks, suggesting a possible accommodation could be reached.

Coronavirus is a national emergency. It is also a global emergency

Sir Keir Starmer

He said: “There will be many times when, and there are many issues upon which, I will fundamentally disagree with the Prime Minister.

“However, there will also be times when Labour can – and must – engage constructively with the Government.

“Now is such a time. Coronavirus is a national emergency. It is also a global emergency.

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“Everyone is anxious about what the next few months will bring, but we know we must be resolute in our determination to see this virus defeated, as it will be.

“I want to see the Government succeed in this: to save lives and protect livelihoods.

“This is a national effort and all of us should be asking what more we can do.”

Sir Keir said Labour would “do our bit to offer solutions” but also vowed to “speak for those who have been ignored”, and expose mistakes “to ensure that they are rectified as soon as possible”.

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He added: “And let’s be honest, serious mistakes have been made.

“The public is placing an enormous trust in the Government at the moment: it is vital that that trust is met with openness and transparency about those mistakes and the decisions that have been made.”

Repeating calls for more widespread testing and more readily available PPE, Sir Keir urged the Government to build vaccination centres in towns and cities across the UK to ensure “the minute a vaccine becomes available, we can begin to protect the entire population”.

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He also called for the Government to publish an exit strategy from the measures to defeat coronavirus.

He stressed: “There will be many more difficult days ahead. Great sacrifices must be made because of a crisis that was unimaginable only a few months ago. But Britain is a great country and we will get through this.”

Speaking before the result was announced, Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, told it was hard to envisage Sir Keir not being involved on some level.

He explained: “You know that the Government is going to find it very hard not to involve him, as William Hague is suggested today, in at least explain to him what they’re doing candidly.

“And he’s the kind of person who I think, given he was DPP and held the high public office, the Government and security officials would trust to do that – which I suspect they probably wouldn’t have done with Jeremy Corbyn.”

“Most Conservatives don’t want a national unity government, I don’t think, but there might be a sort of halfway house option whereby they invite the new leader of the opposition in to see what’s going on.”

Ladbrokes rates Mr Starmer’s chances of joining Mr Johnson in an unlikely alliance by the end of 2020 at just 3-1, with spokesman Jessica O’Reilly saying: “Starmer’s been appointed to bring the Labour Party back together.

“However, it’s not out of the realms of possibility he joins a National Unity Government this year and causes even more friction within the party.”

National Governments are unusual in an UK context, but not unheard of.

As Prime Ministers, Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George in World War 1 and Winston Churchill in World War 2 led all-party coalitions which were sometimes referred to as such, although more usually as coalition Governments.

In addition Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, led a national Government comprising members of his own party plus the Conservative Party, Liberals, Liberal Nationals and National Labour, between 1931 and 1935.

Stanley Baldwin (1935-37) and Neville Chamberlain (1937-39) presided over similar coalitions.

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