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Keir Starmer Promises To "Fight For You" As He Sets Out Labour's Vision For Renewal

Keir Starmer addresses Labour party conference (Alamy)

6 min read

Labour leader Keir Starmer promised a “decade of renewal” if Labour get into government at the next general election, pledging to build 1.5m homes over the next five years and be a party of “service” rather than “protest”.

As Starmer began to deliver his speech to Labour party conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, he was interrupted by a protester who threw glitter over the party leader’s head.

Once the protester was taken away by security, Starmer – still covered in glitter – went on to say that Labour would prioritise “renewal” over “gesture politics”.

The Labour leader echoed the Prime Minister's conference speech last week pitching his own party as a vehicle for change, addressing voters concerns about the impact of tough economic conditions. But Starmer otherwise struck a significantly different tone. He put building, development of infrastructure, growing business and workers rights at the heart of his pledge for a "mission driven" government if Labour wins the next election, which is due to be called before the end of 2024. 

"I’ve felt the anxiety of a cost of living crisis before, and until your family can see out, I will fight for you,” Starmer promised. 

Labour has set a target of building 1.5m homes over the next five years, which he said would mark a “next generation of Labour new towns”.

“It’s time to get Britain building again, it’s time to build 1.5m new homes across the country,” he said.

“A future with more beautiful cities, prosperous towns.”

Starmer said this would not mean “tearing up the green belt”, and insisted that energy, water and transport infrastructure, schools and health services would be "hardwired into plans".

“No more land banking. No more inertia in the face of resistance. A future must be built: that is the responsibility of serious government," Starmer said.

"We'll get shovels in the ground, cranes in the sky, and build the next generation of Labour new towns."

Starmer suggested he expected Labour to win not just the next general election, but also win another term in government thereafter and oversee a “decade of renewal”.

“That’s the real Britain, millions of people who have looked at the Tory circus and said ‘fine we’ll get on with it ourselves,” he said.

“I say let’s stand with them, give them the government they deserve, turn our backs on never-ending Tory decline with a decade of national renewal.”

Starmer emphasised the need for long term solutions to issues such as declining health and the crumbling NHS.

“The point of the NHS is to be a solution, but the Conservative Party has brought it "to its knees,” he said.

"We have got to get it back on its feet. If all we do is place the NHS on a pedestal then I’m afraid it will remain on life support.

“There’s no option, we must be the government that finally transforms our NHS.”

With the likelihood of inheriting a difficult economic picture, Starmer stressed the need to “make government more dynamic”, adding that “it’s not about size, it’s about capacity, a more powerful engine, not a bigger car”.

The Labour leader urged disillusioned Tory voters to switch to Labour instead, accusing the Tory party of a “descent into the murky waters of populism and conspiracy”.

Starmer insisted the party had “changed” and received a standing ovation for saying Labour had “ripped anti-semitism out by the roots”.

Throughout Labour conference, shadow ministers and the wider membership have expressed the need for the party to explain why voters should turn to them, and set out its vision for what the country would look like under a Labour government. 

After the speech, one shadow minister told PoliticsHome they had wanted Starmer to set out clear "dividing lines" between Labour and the Conservatives, and that they were pleased they felt like this had been achieved.

"When people on the doorsteps are saying 'everything is broken', that means people want a strategic response," they argued, as Starmer's speech largely hinged on announcements that were already public, and instead focused on framing the party as a beacon of stability. 

The shadow minister was pleased in particular with the commitment to building more homes, insisting that in their constituency, residents want more building that meets local needs.

The interruption from the protester, they claimed, actually gave Starmer the opportunity to appear "stoic" and "statesmanlike": "It showed the party has changed."

In advance of the leader's speech, polling company Savanta published the findings of a poll from 2,000 people which found that 'boring' was the most common word used to describe Starmer. 

Speaking to PoliticsHome in the conference hall after the speech, multiple members shared their positive reactions to the speech.

Councillor John Haywood, who sits on New Forest District Council, said he thought Starmer’s speech was “fantastic”. 

“The missions are resonating, it’s something that all of the members can coalesce around to take this forward to the country, and it’s something that really matters to the country,” he said.

Haywood is the only Labour representative on his council, and said that he was “honoured” to be elected in May this year, in the area that has “very little Labour history”.

He said of the Conservatives and people who had voted for him: “A lot of them just had enough, they just felt so let down by this party that they thought was there to protect them and to look after their interests and they just realised that it isn’t.”

20-year-old party member Jacob Cousens thought the speech “really hit the right note on a lot of major issues” and was pleased with how Starmer reacted to the interruption from a protester.

“The amount of skill you need to have to shake off being grabbed in that way by a protester I think is really, really impressive,” he said. 

Cousens said he was most impressed by the party’s ideas on planning, and added:  “I think we really really need to tear up Britain’s planning laws, they’re really holding our country back, there’s a reason why we have not enough housing, not enough suitable modern infrastructure and I think Keir’s really tapping into that quite effectively.”

With Starmer emphasising "renewal" in his speech, the Labour Party has welcomed a record number of businesses to conference this year, with the leadership courting businesses to show they are a party that can be trusted with public finances and to deliver economic growth – a move that has been with some opposition.

After the speech, right-wing think tank the Adam Smith Institute issued a positive response, a few days after its executive director confirmed it would be “expanding its network into the Labour Party much more” and will announce a Labour peer as a patron in the coming weeks.

Reacting to Keir Starmer’s speech, Maxwell Marlow, Director of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said it was a "serious, innovation-focused, positive vision".

"He is right that politics should tread lightly on people’s lives, and we hope that, should he succeed in bringing Labour to power, he holds true to this statement," he said.

Marlow added that he believed Starmer had set out a "sensible, pragmatic approach to our housing crisis".

"He understands the principal problems which have been holding Britain back - planning regulations that shield incumbent homeowners at the expense of young people striving for a secure future, and the inefficient classification of the green belt which has meant that car parks are being prioritised over our much-needed homes," he continued.

"Let’s hope that he continues to stand up for people who dream of owning their home.”

Additional reporting by Caitlin Doherty

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