Keir Starmer sets out vision for a ‘strong economy’ and social justice as he tries to move on from disastrous Corbyn era in-person Labour conference speech – but is HECKLED by hard-Left activists as he speaks movingly about his late mother
Keir Starmer’s conference speech: key points
- Sir Keir attacked Boris Johnson over the haulage shortages threatening to cripple the country. He said the PM was overseeing ‘a fuel crisis, a pay crisis, a goods crisis and a cost-of-living crisis, all at the same time’, telling him: ‘Either get a grip or get out of the way and let us clear up this mess.’
- He basted Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous 2019 election campaign saying he wants to win back voters ‘who thought we were unpatriotic or irresponsible or that we looked down on them’.
- He was heckled over Brexit and the ongoing suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn by sections of the Labour crowd.
- He likened them to the Tories heckling him in the Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions, adding: ‘It doesn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me now.’
- Later he got a standing ovation by telling hecklers: ‘Shouting slogans or changing lives conference? We can chant all day.’
- There was a standing ovation for Jewish ex-MP Dame Louise Ellman, who has rejoined the party, as Sir Keir told her: ‘Welcome home.’
- He mocked the PM in an ad-lib joke not in the printed speech, saying: ‘My dad was a tool maker, although in a way, so was Boris Johnson’s’.
Keir Starmer was repeatedly heckled today as he set out his vision for a ‘strong economy’ and social justice, speakingly movingly about the struggles of his late mother and begging Labour activists to put winning power above left-wing dogma.
In his first in-person conference speech following the pandemic, Sir Keir faced chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn‘ and shouts about his Brexit policy being to blame for the crushing election defeat in 2019.
But he shrugged off the brickbats, saying he got the same treatment from Tories at PMQs every week. ‘It doesn’t bother me then, it won’t bother me now.’
As he was hit with more catcalls, he shot back: ‘Chanting slogans or changing lives!’
He insisted the way to get the party ‘back in business’ is to focus on pragmatic solutions for Britain’s problems.
While a handful of delegates hold up red cards to show their disapproval, others yelled at them to be quiet and let the leader speak.
In one grim section, there were noises off as Sir Keir was talking movingly about his late mother, an NHS nurse who suffered from a crippling a rare form of arthritis.
Sir Keir is confirming that totemic policies such as re-nationalisation of energy and water are being watered down. He also wants to recruit thousands more teachers and boost mental health services.
In a stark message to the Left, he said: ‘To those Labour voters who said their grandparents would turn in their graves, that they couldn’t trust us with high office, to those who reluctantly chose the Tories because they didn’t believe our promises were credible.
‘To the voters who thought we were unpatriotic or irresponsible or that we looked down on them, I say these simple but powerful words. We will never under my leadership go into an election with a manifesto that is not a serious plan for government.
‘It will not take another election defeat for the Labour party to become an alternative government in which you can trust. That’s why it has been so important to get our own house in order this week and we have done that.’
Anger is running high among hard-Left activists following days of squabbling over internal rule changes, the minimum wage, Israel and the military alliance with the US.
Taking to the podium to Fat Boy Slim’s Right Here, Right Now after a video playing up his working-class background and stellar legal career, Sir Keir kicked off by joking that the start of conference had been ‘nerve-wracking’ – but only because his beloved Arsenal were playing Tottenham.
He quickly swiped at the government over the fuel crisis, saying: ‘Level up? You cannot even fuel up.’
Turning to his main theme about the need to move on from the disastrous Corbyn era, he told the audience: ‘Too often in the history of this party our dream of the good society falls foul of the belief that we will not run a strong economy.
‘But you don’t get one without the other. And under my leadership we are committed to both. I can promise you that under my leadership Labour will be back in business.’
In his first in-person conference speech following the pandemic, Sir Keir faced chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn ‘ and shouts about his Brexit policy being to blame for the crushing election defeat in 2019
Sir Keir shrugged off the brickbats, saying he got the same treatment from Tories at PMQs every week. ‘It doesn’t bother me then, it won’t bother me now.’
Deputy leader Angela Rayner, right, was in the front row for Sir Keir’s speech after they clashed over her ‘Tory scum’ comments. Left, shadow chancelllor Rachel Reeves
Sir Keir, who served in Jeremy Corbyn’s (centre) shadow cabinet, said the former Labour leader would not have the party whip reinstated unless he apologised for his claim that the extent of Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis had been overstated
The leadership’s main aim at conference has been to show voters the party has changed since Mr Corbyn – at that time backed by Sir Keir – led it to electoral catastrophe in 2019.
Shadow cabinet members privately accept that SIr Keir has an almost impossible task to overturn Boris Johnson’s 80-strong majority in a single election.
They are already urging him to cling on if he loses the poll, which some believe could come as early as next year, but manages to make significant progress against the ‘popular’ PM.
The mood in Brighton this week has been one of grim resolve as Sir Keir and his allies try to get a grip on the party machine.
But efforts to highlight policies have been largely overshadowed by rows over party rule changes, splits with his deputy Angela Rayner, and the surprise resignation of shadow cabinet minister Andy McDonald, who accused Sir Keir of making the party ‘more divided than ever’.
Trying to turn his fire on the government amid the fuel crisis, Sir Keir described Mr Johnson as ‘lost in the woods’.
The speech has been billed as his most personal to date, with aides saying it will be ‘more optimistic, more focused on the future, more outward looking’ than recent interventions.
‘It will be a clear indication that Labour will never again go into an election with a manifesto that isn’t a serious plan for government,’ one insider added.
Sir Keir was introduced by Baroness Lawrence, whose son Stephen was killed in a racist attack in South East London in 1993. She praised his work as director of public prosecutions.
In a round of interviews this morning, Justice Secretary David Lammy said Sir Keir had proved this week – amid spats with the hard-Left and one resignation from his senior team 0 that he is a ‘fighter’.
‘The road may have been a bit bumpy at points but he has come out, as cool as a cucumber, and as a fighter,’ he told Times Radio.
Sir Keir was someone with ‘compassion and kindness running through him’ and he is ‘in touch with suburban Britain’, he said.
In a series of policy announcements, Sir Keir will say Labour would guarantee access to mental health treatment in less than a month.
The party would create a National Excellence Programme for education, and recruit more teachers to enhance the prospects of the 40 per cent of young people who leave compulsory education without essential qualifications.
Mr Lammy said the party will not make the same ‘mistake’ as Mr Corbyn by endlessly splashing cash without explaining where it is coming from.
‘We will not be making proposals that cannot be costed, the public need to know where the money is coming from.
‘Clearly it was the case at the last general election, we were coming up with policies like free broadband, policies on pensions for women, a four-day week, and the public were saying ‘how much is this going to cost’?
‘It was coming at the last minute, they felt confused and they didn’t feel able to trust us because of some of the issues that were dominating the party.’
He believes voters who had given Mr Johnson the benefit of the doubt are now concerned about his competence.
Sir Keir’s first in-person conference has been overshadowed by rows over party rule changes, splits with his deputy Angela Rayner, and the surprise resignation of shadow cabinet minister Andy McDonald who accused him of making the party ‘more divided than ever’
Rich ‘are magic money tree’
Rich people are the ‘magic money tree’ who must be taxed more heavily to fund a ‘green new deal’, a schoolboy Labour activist has claimed.
Aden Harris’s rebuke to shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves won him a standing ovation at the party conference as she tried to make her party’s economic policies sound more credible than those of the Corbyn era.
Aden, 16, from Bristol, said: ‘There is a money tree. It’s called the top 1 per cent.
‘We will tax them and we will save this planet. And it can be done and we will do it.’
A Labour spokesman said: ‘We know the shine is coming off Boris Johnson, we know that we are in a situation where there are serious questions around the competency of the Government, its ability to deliver.
‘So therefore what we will be using the speech to do is to show that these are serious times that require a serious leader, and that is Keir Starmer.
‘What we will be doing in between now and the next election is making sure that we’re setting out the policies that we’re going to stand on.
‘And when we do so they will be costed, affordable, practical, and that’s the type of party that we’ll have.’
A shadow cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘If you look at history, it’s very rare for one prime minister to be followed by another with a similar character. Voters decide it’s time for a change.’
They added of Mr Johnson. ‘He’s been through a whole list of scandals which would have killed any other politician’s career and I think a tipping point will come when people look at him and decide they don’t like what they see.’
In a round of broadcast interviews last night, Sir Keir shrugged off left-wing agitation.
He told BBC News: ‘My focus is on how we get Labour into a position to win a general election.
‘Two years ago, we were here in Brighton for our Labour Party conference. And within a few short months, we’d crashed to the worst general election results since 1935. I am not prepared to let that happen.
‘And if that means tough decisions, to change our party, then I’m going to take those tough decisions.
‘There will be some people who don’t agree with those changes. I understand that, we’re a broad church in the Labour Party. But I’m not going to be deflected from my central mission, which is to get a Labour government so we can change it live.’
Asked what was more important to him – winning or unity – he replied: ‘Winning. Winning a general election.’
Sir Keir said Mr Corbyn would not have the Labour whip reinstated unless he apologised for his claim that the extent of the party’s anti-Semitism crisis had been overstated.
‘It has been going on for months and the ball is in Jeremy’s court,’ he told BBC News.
‘Jeremy was asked to apologise to take down the post that caused the problem the first place and to work with us.’
Despite his criticism of Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir served in his shadow cabinet and stood on his 2019 election manifesto.
Asked what was more important to him – winning or unity – Sir Keir replied: ‘Winning. Winning a general election.’