When does Keir Starmer become prime minister?

With Keir Starmer's Labour Party set to form its first government since 2010, here's what will happen in the coming hours and days

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 05: Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria pose outside 10 Downing Street after being appointed Britain's 58th prime minister following a landslide general election victory in London, United Kingdom on July 05, 2024. (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Sir Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria pose outside 10 Downing Street. (Getty)

Labour has officially won the general election – with Sir Keir Starmer set to become the UK's next prime minister.

While the UK is now set to have its first Labour government since 2010, due to a number of constitutional quirks and procedures, Starmer is not yet our prime minister.

Here's how the next few hours and days will unfold as Starmer starts to get his feet firmly under the table in No 10.

Outgoing prime minister Rishi Sunak gave a speech at 10.30am before heading to Buckingham Palace to see King Charles, have a short audience with him and formally tender his resignation.

Starmer visited the King at 11am and was officially invited to form a government on the monarch's behalf in a ritual known as "kissing hands" – although these days both parties settle on a handshake.

While the monarch does technically appoint prime ministers – one of the few prerogative powers they still have – this is a largely symbolic process, with the King only using the power to reflect the result of a free election.

Constitutionally the monarch is not supposed to get involved in politics, so if there was no clear majority, political parties would have to put their heads together to find a way forward – such as form a coalition or minority government – without dragging the King into the debate.

TOPSHOT - Britain's Labour Party leader Keir Starmer kisses his wife Victoria during a victory rally at the Tate Modern in London early on July 5, 2024. The UK's Labour Party swept to power after winning the country's general election, crossing the 326-seat threshold for a working majority in the House of Commons. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Keir Starmer kisses his wife Victoria during a victory rally at the Tate Modern in London. (Getty)

Starmer then headed to Number 10 and delivered a victory speech at midday, setting out his priorities as prime minister and vision for the country.

He said the British people had voted “decisively for change” following a landslide Labour victory and the country could “move forward together”.

Starmer will receive a set of day one briefings, according to the Institute for Government, and formal advice from the civil service, including around immediate policy decisions.

The Labour leader will then have to write to the commanders of the four nuclear submarines and will replace Sunak's instructions about what to do in the event of a nuclear strike.

Starmer will start putting together a new cabinet from 2pm to lead the new Labour government in time for the next parliamentary session. This will likely continue over the weekend.

He will also start phoning world leaders as well as be briefed by the security services as to what the key threats facing the country are.

Leeds, UK, 5th July 2024. At the general election count Labour Rachel Reeves wins with a landslide majority in her West Leeds and Pudsey constituency and is on course to become the first ever woman chancellor of the exchequer. Credit: Ernesto Rogata/Alamy Live News.
Rachel Reeves is set to be the first ever female chancellor.

Parliament, which was dissolved over the election period, is set to return on 9 July, according to a recent proclamation by the King made after Sunak called the election.

After a general election, members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are required to take an oath of allegiance to the crown before they take their seats.

Those who object to swearing an oath can make a "solemn affirmation" instead, known as swearing in, but even anti-royalist MPs still have to pledge their allegiance to the monarch in some form.

During this period, the election, or re-election, of the speaker of the House of Commons takes place.

Both houses usually sit for a few days before the state opening of parliament, which is the formal start of the new parliamentary session.

It will see King Charles reading out the new government's agenda for the coming term in parliament, including proposed policy and legislation.

It is the only regular occasion when the three constituent parts of parliament – the sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – all meet at the same time, according to Parliament's own website.

The state opening is the biggest ceremonial event in the parliamentary calendar and a great showcase of British pomp.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2023/11/07: King Charles III travels along Whitehall in a carriage after the the State Opening of Parliament in London. King Charles III and anti monarchy protestors attend the State Opening of Parliament as King Charles III reads out the first King's Speech in over 70 years. (Photo by Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
King Charles travels in a carriage with Queen Camilla after the state opening of parliament in November 2023. (Getty Images)

It will start with the King travelling in a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, escorted by the Household Cavalry.

After arriving at the Sovereign's Entrance, King Charles will proceed to the Robing Room, where he'll put on the imperial state crown and the robe of state.

From there, he and his procession will make their way through the Royal Gallery – watched by a crowd of around 600 guests – to the lavishly decorated Lords Chamber to deliver the King's speech.

Perhaps the quirkiest of all the parliamentary traditions is a routine performed by Black Rod, a senior officer responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House of Lords.

In this ritual, Black Rod is sent to summon the Commons only to have the doors to the elected chamber shut in their face.

This is a tradition dating back to the days of the Civil War, symbolising the Commons' independence from the monarchy.

Black Rod then strikes the door three times before it is opened, with members of the Commons following to the Lords Chamber, standing at the opposite end of the throne to listen to the King's speech.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 7: Sarah Clarke, Black Rod, strikes the door to the House of Commons at the beginning of the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament on November 7, 2023 in London, England. The speech delivered by the monarch but written by the government sets out the government's priorities for the coming year. This session of parliament will lead up to the next general election. (Photo by Hannah McKay - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Sarah Clarke, the current Black Rod, strikes the door to the House of Commons during November's ceremony. She is the first female Black Rod in the 650-year history of the role. (Getty Images)

After the King leaves, a new parliamentary session starts, with members of both houses debating the content of his speech and agreeing on an "address in reply to His Majesty's gracious speech".

Each chamber spends several days debating the planned legislative programme. The King's speech is voted on by the Commons, but rarely the Lords.