Sir Keir becomes third Prime Minister of King’s reign

Sir Keir Starmer became the third Prime Minister of the King’s reign following a well choreographed series of meetings ensuring the smooth handover of power.

Charles played a central role during the busy aftermath of the General Election that left the Conservatives reeling following a crushing defeat by the Labour Party, which won by a landslide.

Even the weather played its part, with a downpour drenching Rishi Sunak when he announced six weeks ago that the country would go to the polls.

When Sir Keir arrived at Buckingham Palace, rain clouds parted and the sun shone.

Sir Clive Alderton, Principal Private Secretary to the King and Queen, welcomed Sir Keir Starmer to Buckingham Palace
Sir Clive Alderton, Principal Private Secretary to the King and Queen, welcomed Sir Keir Starmer to Buckingham Palace (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Buckingham Palace said the Labour leader “kissed hands” with the King on his appointment as Prime Minister – but in reality the historic term is believed to refer to a handshake.

Earlier, Mr Sunak was joined by his wife Akshata Murty for his final audience with the King as he resigned as prime minister and recommended the Labour leader be invited to form a new Government.

When he first arrived for the meeting, which lasted around 30 minutes, Mr Sunak exchanged a few words with Sir Clive Alderton, Charles’s most import aide, and appeared to joke about his favourite meal.

He told the King and Queen’s principal private secretary: “I’ve been eating plenty of sandwiches on the road.”

Mr Sunak had told ITV’s This Morning earlier this week: “Well, my favourite meal generally is sandwiches. You know, I’m a big sandwich person.”

General Election 2024
Sir Keir is the third Prime Minister of the King’s reign (Yui Mok/PA)

The politician and his spouse left privately, but waiting outside were dozens of spectators who held up camera phones to record their departure.

Buckingham Palace said later: “The Right Honourable Rishi Sunak MP had an audience of the King this morning and tendered his resignation as prime minister and first lord of the Treasury, which His Majesty was graciously pleased to accept.”

Within the hour, Sir Keir swept into Buckingham Palace just after noon in a chauffeur driven car and was joined by his wife Lady Victoria Starmer, who works in occupational health for the NHS.

The couple were also welcomed by Sir Clive. Also present to greet them was Charles’s equerry, Royal Navy Commander William Thornton.

A heavy shower had fallen just before Sir Keir arrived and as he stepped from his car the sun broke through, and he appeared to reference the turn in the weather as Sir Clive looked to the heavens and replied: “How about that?”

Rishi Sunak and his wife are greeted at Buckingham Palace
Sir Clive (right) and the King’s equerry, Royal Navy Commander William, Thornton, (2nd right) greet Rishi Sunak and his wife (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Their historic meeting saw Sir Keir follow Mr Sunak and Liz Truss to become the head of state’s third prime minister.

Buckingham Palace said: “The King received in audience the Right Honourable Sir Keir Starmer MP today and requested him to form a new administration. Sir Keir accepted His Majesty’s offer and kissed hands upon his appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.”

Lady Starmer joined the two men towards the end of their meeting that lasted around 20 minutes, and at its conclusion the Prime Minister and his wife headed to their new home in Downing Street.

During her more than 70 years on the throne, the late Queen saw 15 prime ministers. After Churchill, she appointed Sir Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.