Huge amount of work to do, Starmer tells ministers at first Cabinet meeting

Sir Keir Starmer has told ministers there was a “huge amount of work to do” as he chaired the first meeting of the new Cabinet on his first full day in Downing Street.

The Prime Minister told his top team it had been “the honour and the privilege of my life” to be invited by the King to form the Government after sweeping to a historic victory at the polls.

Sir Keir and ministers looked in high spirits as he gave brief opening remarks at the start of the gathering.

Flanked by his deputy Angela Rayner and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, he said: “Look, colleagues, it is absolutely fantastic to welcome you to the Cabinet, our first meeting.

“And it was the honour and privilege of my life to be invited by the King, His Majesty the King, yesterday to form a Government and to form the Labour Government of 2024.

“And now we hold our first Cabinet meeting. So I welcome you to it.

“We have a huge amount of work to do, so now we get on with our work.”

The remarks were met with loud applause by Cabinet ministers who Sir Keir appointed on Friday and largely mirror his shadow team before the election.

The Prime Minister confirmed Rachel Reeves as the UK’s first female chancellor, Angela Rayner as his deputy and Housing Secretary and Pat McFadden as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer hosts his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London, following the landslide General Election victory for the Labour Party
Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer hosts his first Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London, following the landslide General Election victory for the Labour Party (Chris Eades/The Sun/PA)

David Lammy was named Foreign Secretary, Yvette Cooper Home Secretary, John Healey Defence Secretary, Wes Streeting Health Secretary and Bridget Phillipson Education Secretary.

Shabana Mahmood and Ed Miliband will retain their briefs of justice and energy respectively, but former attorney general Emily Thornberry was replaced by barrister Richard Hermer KC.

As ministers filed in to Number 10 on Saturday morning, a jubilant Mr Miliband, who served in Gordon Brown’s cabinet and was later the Labour leader, told reporters: “It’s good to be back.”

Defence Secretary Mr Healey outlined his mission to “make Britain secure at home and strong abroad” as he addressed the ministry for the first time.

He told armed forces and civilian staff: “We know these are serious times – war in Europe, conflict in the Middle East, growing Russian aggression, increasing global threats. We know there are serious problems – with our armed forces hollowed out and underfunded for 14 years.

“And this Government now is totally committed to 2.5% of defence spending, to Nato, to the nuclear deterrent and to support for Ukraine.

Graphic showing highest number of seats won by Labour at general elections
(PA Graphics)

“The country has new leadership. This ministry has new leadership. Our mission is to make Britain secure at home and strong abroad, with the guiding principle of one defence.”

The Environment Secretary said “it will take years” to tackle the sewage and nature crises.

In welcome remarks, he said: “There is no sugarcoating it: we face a crisis point. Record levels of sewage in our rivers, lakes and seas. Nature is dying. Confidence amongst farmers at the lowest on record.

“It will take years to reverse this damage, but the work of change begins now.”

The Cabinet met in Downing Street with Sir Keir set to face questions from journalists later on Saturday in his first press conference as Prime Minister.

Other ministerial appointments are expected to be announced over the weekend, with Mr McFadden saying Sir Keir will move quickly to allocate responsibilities ahead of the Nato summit.

Sir Keir will make his debut on the international stage as Britain’s premier when he flies to Washington DC for the gathering next week, which is expected to include discussions on support for Ukraine.

He is also due to host the European Political Community summit in the UK on July 18.

Graphic showing General Election 2024 seats after 649 of 650 seats declared
(PA Graphics)

It comes after Sir Keir promised “the work of change begins immediately” after leading Labour to a landslide victory at the General Election on Friday.

Labour won 412 seats and the Tories 121, marking the worst result in Conservative history.

In his first speech in Downing Street, Sir Keir pledged to usher in an era marked by “stability and moderation” as he told voters “My Government will serve you” whether or not they backed his party.

After a low turnout at the polls, he spoke of the need to rebuild trust in the political system after 14 years of Tory rule marred by the partygate scandal and the chaos of Conservative infighting.

Labour’s vote share also suggests the new Government is unlikely to enjoy much of a honeymoon period, with around 34% of the electorate backing the party – less than Jeremy Corbyn secured in 2017.