LONDON: Britain’s new lawmakers excitedly squeezed into parliament on Tuesday with Labour sitting on the government’s side of the chamber for the first time in 14 years following last week’s landslide win.

More than 400 Labour MPs jostled for space on the ruling side of the green-benched House of Commons, with many having to stand, as parliament returned after being dissolved before Thursday’s vote.

New Prime Minister Keir Starmer addressed the house for the first time as Britain’s leader, vowing to “put an end to a politics that has too often seemed self-serving and self-obsessed”.

“We all have a duty to show that politics can be a force for good,” he added.

According to the House of Commons Library, a record 263 or 40 per cent of the 650 MPs are women, up from 220 in 2019. Some 90 are from minority ethnic backgrounds, an increase from 66 five years ago.

Rishi Sunak — Conservative prime minister until last week — made his first speech as leader of the opposition, and congratulated Starmer on his victory.

He described being an MP as the “greatest honour, privilege and responsibility”, in a congenial session that contrasted with the usual arguing and shouting seen in the chamber.

The session started with lawmakers re-electing Lindsay Hoyle as speaker of the house unopposed.

Tradition dictated that he was physically dragged to the speakers’ chair by colleagues, a custom rooted in the speaker’s original function to communicate the Commons’ opinions to the monarch.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2024

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