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UK’s Starmer campaigns in key election battleground Scotland

GLASGOW (AFP) – United Kingdom (UK) Labour leader Keir Starmer visited the key battleground of Scotland on the second day of general election campaigning on Friday, as his party bids to reclaim power for the first time in 14 years.

Starmer, who opinion polls predict will become prime minister after the July 4 vote, launched Scottish Labour’s election campaign in Glasgow with a speech focused on his party’s policy plans and a message of change.

Labour needs to regain some of the dozens of seats lost since 2010 in its former heartlands north of the English border to bolster its chances of forming the next UK government in Westminster.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which replaced it as the dominant force in Scotland, has been mired in crisis and earlier this month appointed its second leader in little more than a year.

“This is an election about change,” Starmer told the rally in Glasgow, a once-staunchly Labour city that has shifted decisively to the SNP in recent general elections.

“Scotland’s voice is absolutely vital and it needs to be a leading voice,” the 61-year-old added, arguing that his Scottish rivals were too narrowly focused on their pro-independence agenda.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Leader of the Scottish Labour Party Anas Sarwar wave at supporters in Glasgow, Scotland. PHOTO: AFP

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ended prolonged speculation about the next general election by announcing the July 4 date on Wednesday, on the back of an improving UK economic picture. The beleaguered UK leader has endured a stuttering start to the campaign following his rain-drenched announcement from outside 10 Downing Street.

During a visit to the area of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the Titanic was built, Sunak was asked by a reporter whether he was “captaining a sinking ship” in the election.

During a visit to Wales on Thursday he asked locals if they were looking forward to the European Championships football. Wales have not qualified.

Sunak has also seen 77 Conservative MPs announce they will not stand for re-election – a post-World War 2 record. The latest was veteran Cabinet minister Michael Gove, a former Johnson ally, who since 2015 has served under four Conservative prime ministers.

The Conservatives have been in power since May 2010, first with David Cameron as prime minister, followed by Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Sunak took the helm after Truss’ disastrous 49-day tenure but has been unable to revive the party’s dwindling fortunes after years of scandals and ideological infighting.

The Tories’ tumultuous time in power has been dominated by Brexit and its chaotic aftermath, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and a cost-of-living crisis. All have dented its public support in recent years.

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